I’ll probably catch some flack from this post, but after 20 years in business I can tell you that one of the worst things you can do is break a promise. Once an expectation is set, no matter how absurd or trivial, failing to meet it is damaging to your business reputation.
The flip side of this lesson, however, is that consistently outperforming expectations, no matter how absurd or trivial, is a great way to build a business reputation.
Underpromising what you can actually deliver may sound a bit slacker driven, but you can also think of it terms of being realistic about what you can, in fact deliver. An eager sales person can easily fall prey to the customer demanding, for no apparent reason, same day delivery. If you can’t do it, say so, your reputation for honesty will go a long way towards landing the next order!
Underpromising can be a powerful alley when it’s combined with overdelivering. I once had two separate clients who had ordered some printed brochures. Both claimed they were in no particular hurry, but wondered when to expect delivery. For one client I casually suggested to expect them by Wednesday. For the next, I thought better and said Friday. Both print orders were shipped on Thursday. Even though both stated they were in no particular hurry – one client was angry, one thrilled.
Don’t take this to mean that shouldn’t set and meet demanding expectionation. Just take your marketing promises up to edge of the overdeliver cliff and take a realistic step back. Chances are you will still outperform most, you will overdeliver on expectations, but you won’t get caught failing to meet your promises.