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When Marketers Should Make BIG Promises

My blog post last week on discoverforce5.com left you with this question:  “How much should a marketer promise about an experience?”  Probably better stated as :

“How do I promise people enough to move them to action without setting them up for disappointment once they make the move?”

I had several conversations about this last week.  It was clear this question hit home to those of us experienced in sales:  “Under-promise; over-deliver.”  I remember every sales manager I've ever had say this and I believe it to be true.  Yes, we must under-promise. Yes, we must over-deliver.  Now, how much is optimal?  It might be the marketing question. I don’t know the full answer, but I am learning some things.  In the marketing world, I am learning that big promises can draw big crowds or get the big sale: 

So, here’s when to make BIG promises:

1) When you absolutely, positively, without-a-doubt personally believe the claim you are making about the experience. 

I believe your authenticity can alter my reality.  I believe that when you believe what you are saying, you actually shape the outcome of my experience. “You will believe a man can fly …” That’s what the people who made Superman said.  I ran home from the theater, tied a tablecloth around my neck and jumped down the staircase.  They believed I would believe … and I did.

2) When your experience is outrageously and radically unique.

I remember the first time I saw Cirque du Soleil .  It was the greatest … I-don’t-know-what-kinda-show-thing I’d ever seen.  Whatever it was, people told me it was the greatest and that I had to see it.  They were right – it was.

When you are that new and that unique, you define not only the experience itself, but the criteria for the quality of the experience - yet another reason to be first to market.

And finally, make BIG promises ...

3) When you must have the sale today, no matter what, and you don't care about your customer or whether they or their friends will ever buy from you again.

If you’re selling snake oil and just passing through town, if you don’t care about actually helping people, or if they will give you repeat business or referrals, make big promises about what the snake oil will do for them.  I mean, people typically want to believe in something too good be true and, at the end of the day, should ultimately be responsible for themselves, right?