Setting unrealistic expectations for your business guarantees unhappy clients

Chris Esh

The worst thing that small business owners do to shoot themselves in the foot is to overpromise on their websites and other marketing materials. For some reason, many business owners think they need to act like they’re the very best at everything they do, but it’s a risky strategy.

When our expectations are sky high and reality shows up slightly lower, we’re disappointed. That gap between our expectations and our reality is the source of great misery in life.

So if you’re a business owner, and you spend all of your time marketing yourself as the most amazing plumber/designer/dentist/restaurant but it turns out you’re just solidly good, many people will feel let down.

Once on a trip to Mexico with my family, we got this Airbnb on an island. We were like so pumped, it was this crazy cool modular house on a tiny island with some of the most beautiful beaches. But we get there and it’s right in the middle of the island, not close to any beaches, on a super noisy street, and the house was really, really tiny. Basically a studio apartment for my wife and two kids to share with me for a week.

We eventually got over it and had a good time, but for the first few days we felt shitty because we were picturing this amazing thing and instead we got this other thing. It’s not that we were in distress or in danger. It was a reasonable cool house. The problem was that we built up this vacation for months, and we had to adjust to a lesser outcome.

Don’t do this to your clients. Don’t set the expectations sky-high before the project if you aren’t prepared to actually meet and exceed those expectations every time.

Take a moment to go review your website, brochures, proposal templates, and any other marketing materials and see what you’re promising. Make sure they are in line with what you actually deliver for clients in the vast majority of cases. Speak well of yourself, of course, but it’s always better to set reasonable expectations and then exceed them, rather than over-promising and under-delivering.


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