The Perils of Promising Too Much 5

Promising more than you can deliver will motivate your customers to tell their friends how you jilted them.

Having a great product that people care enough to talk about is great. Managing those conversations and learning from your customers is an ongoing challenge.

But one of the easiest ways to turn loyal fans into enemies is to consistently fail to live up to your promises. This can tarnish even an otherwise wildly-successful brand. Things go well for you as long as the number of positive zealots greatly outnumber the few heretics that criticize your product – but it can be an ugly balance.

Minecraft – an independent game that allows people to explore a randomly generated world and build structures – has attracted a huge amount of attention lately – not only due to its creativity, but because of the tremendous sales earned despite having what is essentially a one-man team. It’s an example of a sterling brand built over a short period of time with no paid advertising and a high reliance on social media to spread the word.

It’s earned millions of dollars so far, and sales only seem to be accelerating.

But Minecraft has a problem that anyone who has followed the game has become aware of. The complainers who clog the comments of the lead developer’s Tumblr and on associated forums about how the game doesn’t update often enough.

Why do so many demand so much of a one-man shop, when most mainstream software companies have mostly docile companies?

Because Notch – also known as Markus Alexej Persson – created an expectation that he would update the game on most Fridays. Perhaps he could’ve been able to meet those demands, but the success of the game created unforeseen complications – making it impossible to provide updates at that pace.

The psychological relationship between vendor and customer is a relatively simple one. The vendor pitches the virtues of the product to the customer. If the customer trusts the vendor, they purchase the product. If the product meets their expectations, they will be predisposed to buy more and to tell their friends about their good experience.

If expectations are too high, and the product fails to meet them – or the vendor is inconsistent – at least some of the customers are going to become upset. And because of social media, their discontent becomes wildly amplified and permanently archived on the internet.

Whether or not you can deliver on your promises should always be at the forefront of your thinking. It’s not enough just to make the sale.

Pissed-off customers can become a permanent drag on your marketing efforts.

[Photo Credit: bbanauch, Flickr]

About JC Hewitt

JC Hewitt is an independent copywriter and marketing consultant based in New York City. He loves innovative companies of all sizes.