coffeeI went for a cup of coffee this morning. Nothing unusual in that. I also ordered a piece of gluten free banana bread, took my table number, sat down and began tapping away on my iPad, writing some posts for the coming week. My coffee came – a large mug of morning kickstarter – and I continued writing. I was about halfway through the mug when a waitress walked by and picked up my table number, which was when it clicked – my banana bread hadn’t arrived. The waitress apologized profusely, I assured her it was okay and she bustled off to the kitchen. I returned to writing. A few minutes later the waitress returned with my banana bread and a card for a free cup of coffee. “Nobody should have to wait for their banana bread,” She told me!

At that very moment the service in this cafe stood out. I hadn’t really noticed my banana bread was a long time coming and I totally didn’t expect any more than I had asked and paid for. But in the simple gesture of a free coffee and a witty apology, they had given me something extra. I love these moments when I am out and about – the pleasure of getting something more than you expected is a great pick-up, and helps to improve your outlook, even for a short while.

under promise over deliverWhen thinking about this in terms of my own business development and practices I guess it relates to the old marketing adage “under promise and over deliver”. Thomas J. Peters first said this in 1982 where he was talking about the problem of businesses failing to deliver on their big promises. While making great big promises is a good way to drive traffic to your website, things will eventually go pear shaped if you can’t actually deliver on them!

What does “under promise and over deliver” actually mean, though? I don’t like the idea of underselling my skills, or what I have to offer the world which I know is one interpretation of “under promise”. So, to me it means “Don’t offer more than you can actually do, then do your very best to exceed your customer’s expectations.” This can be applied to every part of your life. As a high school teacher I get kids shuffling into my room every day, shoulders slumped and minds braced for another “exciting” lesson (that’s sarcasm – all the kids are doing it). My goal is to ensure they leave with more than what they expected. They arrived expecting to be taught something, perhaps even learn something, but I also work hard to ensure they have fun on the way.

[pullquote-left]But how does this relate to blogging, online businesses and you specifically?[/pullquote-left]But how does this relate to blogging, online businesses and you specifically? It’s about consistency, setting up reader or client’s expectations and working at meeting them and then going a little bit further. It’s about always doing your best to make the reader or client’s life better in some way. If you post every Thursday, or have a link-up every Monday, the expectation is that when someone visits your site or checks their email, they will see that regular post. If you have offered something that you can deliver on, then you have probably organised your writing schedule to make sure you can get that post done and you do it. Your readers arrive expecting to see your latest, exciting blog post (or special offer, or product if you are a business).

The “value add”, the “something extra” that helps you over deliver on what a reader or client expected can come in many forms. On a blog this might manifest as an extra long post, a freebie of some kind (it doesn’t have to be a prize or competition – lots of people do “downloadables” of one kind or another) or a link to something awesome. It doesn’t even have to happen every time you create new content – an occasional re-tweet of a reader’s comment, an unsolicited thank you email, an up-dated freebie, some sweet content that has been popular in the past, or a sidebar widget with awesome instagram pics (aren’t they all awesome?).

under promise and over deliver

My “under promise and over deliver” cheat sheet

My favourite kind of value added content, however, is the relationship you build with readers. It is one thing to see a regular post is up, it is another thing to see that you have personally responded to every single comment on the post. It doesn’t matter how many blogs I go to or how many comments I leave, it is always a thrill to have the writer acknowledge my contribution to their story by responding. In business it is more than just good customer service – you aren’t just responding to a query or request, but actually engaging with your customer. In blogging, it is the same thing.

What is your most memorable “under promise and over deliver”¬†experience, where you got more than you were expecting and were delighted by the outcome?