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By Joshua Snape | 02/05/2018 9:30

Whether we are dealing with content marketing or customer service, expectation management is a vital component of the long-term success of our brand.

As Doug Kessler puts it in his excellent and wittily titled article, Managing expectations in content marketing: a pretty good guide, “the single biggest reason for abandoning a piece of content is disappointment: not getting what you were led to believe you would get.”

The old adage “under promise and over deliver” is a good rule of thumb. However, it’s not that simple. When it comes to our content marketing if we don’t build expectations at all, if we under promise too much, then nobody is going to navigate to and engage with your content.

This under promising according to Kessler would mean that our message would sit firmly in the “apathy zone” for our target audience. We need to promise something and generate a certain level of positive expectation in order to push our target across the essential, “threshold of action.”

While Kessler explains that this is an oversimplified formula of expectations management, the balance of under promise and over promise can be depicted by an expectation spectrum.

As you can see from the graphic above it clearly represents failure if you set customer expectations too low with your content marketing. However, if you look to the right of the graphic, it is a far worse scenario if you build expectations too much and cross the threshold of over-promise as this leads to disappointment.

Kessler reasons that since those who actually make the effort to engage with your content are very likely to be the limited percentile of the population that are your precious target group, it would be better not to engage with them at all than to disappoint them. This could be disastrous for your brand.

Already you can see that the expression “under promise and over deliver,” needs tweaking. “Promise lots and deliver more,” would be better advice.

To illustrate this further, if you were to under promise and send out invitations to friends inviting them over to enjoy sharing a plate of soggy nacho chips I doubt you’d have many take you up on that invitation. Even if you a had in mind to over deliver and actually serve prime rib, the problem with that is your plan would have failed at the under promise stage.

The greater evil though is disappointed expectations, as Kessler mentions in the introduction of his article, “we’ve all experienced the horrible sense of disappointment when a piece of content that promised a delicious banquet ended up delivering a soggy nacho chip.”

The Trick to Balancing Expectations

Charlotte Blank, in her article on Consumer Psychology, points out that the trick is to, “build excitement without over hyping or disappointing.”

Note that you do have to build excitement, that is an essential part of the equation of success and this requires both effort and skill.

Bank asserts that humans are by nature optimistic and she supports that with the fact that most startups don’t expect that their small business will fail even though statistically, 50% do.

This spells danger for marketers because as Bank explains, disappointed audiences tend to complain and they can now do so on an abundance of rating and review apps.

In conclusion, the expression, “under promise and over deliver” is useful in that it helps us appreciate that the reality of your offering must outweigh any expectation that you have created. We can also say that it is too simplistic because it fails to address the important aspect of building the necessary level of excitement and anticipation that will attract your target audience in the first place.

To help you get this delicate balance right in your content marketing, connect with Strategis Consulting today!

Featured image source: Mac Collective

Josh SnapeJoshua is an accomplished writer, blogger and marketing consultant. His successful track record includes sales and marketing across four continents—Europe, N. America, the Middle East and Africa. Josh is also a successful entrepreneur and established his own marketing consultancy in Cyprus, which serviced clients throughout the Middle East.  He now enjoys living and working in Vancouver for part of the year, and spends the rest of his time in the Turkish Riviera working remotely to assist clients communicate effectively in a wired world.  Connect with Josh at: