You may have heard that every marketing message is a promise. From one perspective this is true – you had better have your products available and your discounts ready to process. But there is another type of business promise: the straightforward guarantees you give your clients and potential clients when first coming to an agreement.
These are the promises that will make or break your company, and frequently the hardest types of promises to keep, especially if you aim too high or do not understand your own business model. Hard percentages, figures, and revenues are both impressive and dangerous. So when forming your client guarantees, do not forget to manage expectations properly while still attracting new customers. All clients will take your figures literally. Fail to deliver on your promise model, and your reputation fails. When preparing to be honest with others, begin by being honest with yourself.
Facing the Facts
Hold a meeting of employees (or business partners/advisors). What promises are you currently making to draw in clients? “Buy one, get one free” is easy to deliver on. “Cut your costs by 10% in three months” is a tricky statement asking for trouble. What costs? Cut how? What if you fail in making this promise?
Facts make for good marketing, but numbers do not. Avoid putting numbers in your promise model – unexpected events can make numbers impossible to meet, and even if you have no control over the situation you will still get the blame because your promise was broken. Client guarantees work best when they focus on active value statements.
What does an active value statement look like? Combine your mission statement with a direct claim. “This is what we do, and we WILL do it for you.” By focusing on the activity your business can deliver – fixing cars, providing local jams and jellies, giving the latest TQM training – you avoid the problem of promising unreliable numbers.
Cards on the Table
Rebranding can help reinvent a product, but keep it realistic. If a product is not truly new, do not slap “New!” on your packaging. Customers will notice immediately and lose all respect for you. Describe updates, renovations, and reinventions accurately. Do not exaggerate your changes. Stay honest and conversational with consumers at all times.
The same is true when it comes to the old “underpromise and overdeliver” strategy. This is a slippery slope best avoided. Underpromising your value to clients will impress them when you overdeliver…at least the first time. But for consumers who are deciding on a contract or company, underpromising can drive opportunities away. It is far better, especially for long term strategy, to merely promise and then deliver, rather than trying to control customer expectation. Do not play games.
Some businesses are unavoidably results-oriented. Fitness businesses are based around results they need to prove. Contractors must guarantee they can finish projects within budget and on time, or lose their clients. Some marketing consultants do engage in risky percentage-promises to stay competitive. These promise models are viable, but require immense quality control efforts.
Begin every budget by examining your revenues, projecting costs as accurately as possible into the future, then finding what promises you will be able to keep, no matter what. Depending on the nature of your company, this may require strong cashflows, exceptional trust in your employees, or complete confidence in your program (with back-ups in case you are wrong).
Promise Model Checklist
When creating your promise model, create a checklist at the same time. If your client guarantee says that every employee has a certain level of certification, put it on the list. If your website says you offer 5 different payment options, put that on the list, too. From one end of the workflow process to the other, put all promises on the checklist. You may even want to create separate lists for payment, customer service, and product features. Every month, check the list and either update your business or change your promise model.
Neal Lacey spends his professional time working as a virtual receptionist and live order taker for UnitedCall Center
. During his spare time he enjoys writing and sharing his telemarketing expertise.