Businesses are always looking for an easy “silver bullet” to success.

For most things, one doesn’t exist.

But if you want to always have happy customers and clients who see your relationship as a successful one and refer you to their friends, there is one thing you can and must do.

That one thing?

Meeting expectations.

People are always talking about exceeding expectations, and that’s a very good thing, but the reality is that simply by meeting expectations, you’ll be far, far ahead of the pack.

And the reason that meeting expectations is so easy is simple: it’s your job to set those expectations.

What’s Your Promise?

One of the most common complaints that I hear about apps, tools and just about any other product is: “it doesn’t do what it says it does.”

Overpromising and under delivering are hallmarks of young startups, desperate to get new customers and willing to bend the truth to get them through the front door.

But this only hurts you and damages the little trust that people have in you.

It’s so, so important to think about what you’re actually promising on your website, in your pitches, at sales meetings and every time you talk about your company.

Your promise is your opportunity to define success. If a customer signs up based on your promise, and you live up to that promise, then you’ve succeeded in their eyes.

If you don’t, then you’ve failed.

In 2011, the Color app was released to the iOS store, after lots of hype-building and more than $41 million in venture funding.

The company promised users that the app would “change the way we communicate with each other,” a lofty goal that sets an extremely high expectation.

Color Headline

Obviously, the app did no such thing; it was a photo sharing app, and it fell far short of changing the way we communicate. The company was dissolved within a year.

Would things have been different if Color promised less to its first users?

Maybe, maybe not.

But setting sky-high expectations, and being unable to deliver on them, certainly brought on plenty of well-deserved criticism, poor App Store ratings and a rapid decline in downloads immediately after the app launched.

This goes for both product companies and agencies.

Whether you’re outlining the benefits of your product or presenting a project scope, you’re setting the promise. You’re letting the customer know exactly what success looks like.

But then, you have to deliver.

Delivering On Your Promise: A Double-Edged Sword

There are two important things to realize when thinking about delivering on your promise:

  1. You have a massive advantage, since you’re the one who created the promise in the first place.

  2. For the same reason, you have no excuse not to deliver.

Too often, companies don’t think nearly hard enough about delivery when they make their promise.

Overpromising is an epidemic in both the agency and product worlds.

Tragically few businesses have perfect alignment between their promise and their product.

Which is what makes it such an easy win for those of us that do.