Underpromise/Overdeliver

Everyone knows that if you over-promise and under-deliver, it kills your credibility with clients. But what about the reverse? What if you under-promise and over-deliver — giving them more than they expected or were promised?

Sounds like a good plan, right? But delivering more than what’s promised often comes with it’s own set of issues.

Many people in business like the idea of delivering more than what’s promised to customers.

The idea is that if you deliver more than what they expected or better than what was promised, most clients will be happy. And that’s probably true.

Years ago, when I was in New Orleans, I was introduced to the concept of lagniappe — it’s a small gift given to a customer by a merchant at the time of purchase. It’s like a little extra or bonus. Similar to the idea of a baker’s dozen — where you buy a dozen donuts and the baker throws in an extra one.

When it happens, it’s very nice. It makes you feel good. It makes you feel special. Very endearing.

But if you know in advance that you’re going to be giving your customers more than they expected, or more than they’re paying for, why not let them know that up front so they can make their buying decisions based on all the facts?

In a previous podcast, I talked about the disconnect that often exists between marketing, sales and production, where marketing offers one thing, sales promises something else and production delivers something that doesn’t resemble either of those things.

Imagine if the ads for McDonald’s restaurants encouraged you to come in for gourmet food, the person taking your order then promised you healthy food, and then the counter attendant handed you a Big Mac. It’s a pretty extreme example, but it’s a good illustration of what happens when there’s a disconnect between what’s promised and what’s delivered.

Even if the example were reversed — If they promised you a Big Mac and then delivered a lean, beautifully cooked filet mignon, you might love it, but you might also be thinking, “this is not what we discussed.” You might also be wondering what you should expect the next time you come in and order a Big Mac.

And that’s the problem with delivering anything other than what you promise. It can make them wonder about the disconnect and why you didn’t just tell them what you were going to deliver to them in the first place.

So if you know you’re going to delivering an exceptional experience, why not offer that in your marketing, promise it during the sales process and then have production deliver it?

That creates consistency, which many clients value more than anything else. We need to be able to trust that what we’ll be getting is what we’re promised.

By promising and delivering something great, they can be happy throughout the entire process, rather than potentially being concerned up front and then being pleasantly surprised upon delivery. Or vice-versa.

Also, if you develop a pattern of under-promising and over-delivering, people may come to expect it. Let’s say you promise five day delivery, but consistently deliver in three days. Sounds great, but what if I become used to that? I place my order, now fully expecting it to arrive in three days, but for some reason, it takes four. Now I’m disappointed.

You may say, “but I promised five day delivery, it’s still a day early!”

Maybe. But if you got me used to something else, you may be setting yourself up for trouble.

So in most cases, you are probably better off knowing exactly what you’re going to be delivering, promising it through your marketing, confirming it through sales and then delivering it via production.

Under-promising feels safe, because when we under-promise, we’re confident that we can dramatically outperform the promise, so the customer will feel extremely happy and become loyal to us.

And the first time or two we do that, it may work out great. But if we continue to under-promise and over-deliver, eventually, the inherent dishonesty of the approach may start to become apparent.

I would argue that your first time out — in your marketing, when people are first becoming aware of you — that’s when you really need to lead with the sharpest edge. You need to explain exactly what you offer so your prospects can know what makes you better and different.

If you go out to the market under-promising, and your competitor goes out to the marketing over-promising, who’s likely to get the first time order?

Your competitor, right?

So if you under-promise, you might not get the order, which would then deprive your prospect of what you would have actually delivered them, while also depriving you of the order and driving them into the hands of someone who might deliver less than what was promised.

When you go out to the market, leading with the benefits you actually provide, you will very likely get more business up front, which you will be likely to retain, simply by doing what you said you were going to do right from the beginning.

So ask yourself this, what is the very highest and best promise you can make to your prospects and clients that you know you can deliver consistently?

When you have a great answer to that question, write it down. Then market it loudly, boldly and often to your target market.

If you’re new to the industry and need to get grounded in the essentials of promotional products sales, visit us online at topsecrets.com/gettingstarted. If you need to get clients now with no distractions and no excuses, visit topsecrets.com/tsca. Or, if you’re a smart, focused, independent distributor doing a reasonable volume of sales, join the AIM SmartEQP community today at SmartEQP.com that’s SmartEQP.com.

    8 replies to "The Problem with Under-promise/Over-deliver"

    • Mike Devenport

      Great article! Unfortunately, it won’t print without a lot of overprint destroying the message. I want to use it to share with my sales team in a meeting to make sure they get the message rather than just forwarding it to them via email and hoping they read it.

      • David Blaise

        Mike, you might try highlighting the copy with your cursor, using Ctrl-C to copy it, then Ctrl-V to paste it into an email or text document.

    • MS

      The liar who tops you no matter what you say or do gets the deal.

      And the prospect does not return to you. Thinks you are a liar too, although not as big a one.

      It’s a tough world.

      • David Blaise

        No question, our credibility as an industry suffers as a direct result of the untrained, uneducated and unethical people who operate in it.

        That said, there are many smart, focused and highly ethical people in our industry. I am privileged to call many of these people my clients, and I love working with them to blow the liars, dabblers, hobbyists and bottom-feeders out of the water.

    • Mike Zuber

      Your reasoning sounds good, but we are all at the mercy of the supplier, many of who over promise and under deliver. So be careful of what you promise!

      • David Blaise

        Very true, Mike. Much of the service we provide is entirely dependent upon the suppliers we choose. Without a stable of consistently reliable suppliers, we can’t promise or produce much of anything.

    • Jeffrey Marshall

      What do you say to customer when supplier has 7 business days for process, and lets say you have an art file not they can’t use, or the color of ink customer wanted can not be used? We as the consultant have no control over

      • David Blaise

        As distributors, we have no control over any supplier’s processing time, ability to use a particular art file, or ability to print a particular color.

        One thing we DO have control over, however, is the ability to choose our suppliers.

        Our industry has thousands of different suppliers, offering wildly varying levels of service and quality — ranging from fantastic to awful. Ultimately, our job is to cultivate a relatively small, tested, proven group of go-to suppliers we can count on to produce for us consistently. We can never assume that a supplier we’re usIng for the first time will be able to produce on a par with our best suppliers.

        So when a supplier we choose can’t deliver the goods, we either have to a.) quickly find another supplier who can, b.) troubleshoot the order — fixing the art file, ordering special colors, etc. or c.) tell the client we can’t deliver as ordered.

        Strong argument for choosing suppliers carefully.

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