Ever since my son was a little boy he would watch the weather forecast at night and it would set his mood for the next day. If the weather was expected to be cloudy and drizzly he mentally prepared. On the rare occasion when a cloudy weather forecast turned out to be the perfect day he was elated. Somehow not expecting the sun to shine made its brightness that much better. I don’t blame him. How nice is it to expect an unpleasant day and wake up to bright sunshine and perfect temperatures?
Our marketing messages are similar to the weather forecast in that they set expectations for prospective buyers. When done well expectation setting will not only attract the right buyers, but will help you enchant them.
Take for example a recent search I did on the popular vacation apartment rental site AirBNB. I had a specific set of requirements. I needed to find a place that was on the central train line, had two bedrooms, a kitchen and laundry facilities. Oh, and it had to be in a certain budget range. After entering my search criteria several options popped up as available for the dates I required. I narrowed it down to two that seemed comparable. In one option the apartment description was glowing. They said it had “stellar views” and was “impeccably decorated”. The other was described as “charming” with “plenty of space.” I decided to read client reviews of both places. The first apartment that had been described as “the best” had mediocre reviews. They all said the place was clean and acceptable, but didn’t live up to the expectation set. The second apartments reviews were extremely positive. The reviewers said they were pleasantly surprised by the apartment and couldn’t wait to go back. From the pictures posted, price asked and apartment offerings both were pretty much the same. What was different was how they were advertised. One led to disappointment. The other an exceptional experience. Guess which I booked?
Let’s look at another example. I in my infinite mission to stay connected with my boys swam out to a floating dock at the lake near our cottage. When the boys yelled “come on mom, jump, do a cannon ball”, I enthusiastically joined them. Unfortunately, I forgot I was wearing my prescription sunglasses and no sooner had I hit the water than they were lost forever. The next day I went to For Eyes to order new sunglasses. I was leaving for vacation in one week and really wanted my new shades to be coming with me. I pressed the store to rush my sunglass order. To my disappointment they said they would certainly make the request but couldn’t promise the glasses in time for my trip. I was tempted to go down the road to Lenscrafters which could turn around glasses the same day. The added cost would be worth having them on vacation. But, I had fallen in love with the frames at For Eyes so I took my chances. The staff was really clear the chances were less than 50/50 I’d have them on time. We chatted about my trip, I paid and left the store hoping. Two days later I got a call from the store. The person who had helped me find the frames cheerfully let me know that my glasses were in and I was welcome to pick them up anytime. They arrived with time to spare! I was thrilled and For Eyes got an order for two more pairs of glasses from me!
Both of these examples show that when we set the right expectations and deliver on them we build strong credibility with buyers that not only satisfies but impresses. While we want to attract customers messaging that over-promises leads to mediocre customer satisfaction even when services are delivered well.
For those of you, like myself, who were taught to cheerlead your product to extremes tear up that playbook, find your strengths and set the RIGHT expectations instead. You, and your buyers, will be better off.