Set yourself up for a winIf you’re already producing excellent content (you are aren’t you?), then managing the expectations of your audience – closing the gap between expectation and experience – is the next-most-important thing. The two variables in the ‘expectations/experience’ relationship – what people expect and what you deliver – are both under your control. But if we fix content quality as a constant, we see that: The exact same piece can either delight or disappoint the same audience depending on what they expected from it – what you led them to expect. For all of us, the single biggest reason for abandoning a piece of content is disappointment: not getting what you hoped for; what you were led to believe would be delivered. Not a good feeling — and one we can work to avoid.
The expectations target zoneAn over-simplified calculus of expectations management reduces it to achieving a balance between under-promise and over-promise. Kinda like this: If you under-promise, you’re in the Apathy Zone – Your audience won’t respond to your content offer. You’re not offering enough value, so you never even get a chance to delight or disappoint. If you over-promise, you’re in the Disappointment Zone – You’ll attract your audience but most likely let them down. Of these two evils, it might sound like Apathy is the greater. But the opposite is true: you pay a far worse penalty when you over-promise than when you under-promise. Here’s why: The people who come to consume your content are a tiny, highly selected and hugely valuable subset of your addressable universe. These are the very few people who actually responded to all your signals – and decided that they want your content. They’ve been seduced by your offer and are willing to invest their limited time to get the experience you promised them. Two conclusions follow from that:
- These people are VIPs – They are far more likely to be your ideal prospects. They matter more than anyone else.
- Letting them down is a very bad idea – Disappointment is not a neutral experience, it’s a negative one. Your VIPs will leave the page thinking less of you. All the effort and talent and energy and money and time and resources you invested to get people to invest in your content has backfired. You’ve used your budget to turn people off.