What did you expect?

The other day my son called. A meeting for which he had very high expectations hadn’t gone as well as he had hoped. He was bummed.

We talked … mainly about how we all have a tendency to create expectations for ourselves and then judge what happens by how it compares to that standard. No matter how realistic/likely/well-grounded (or unrealistic/unlikely/ungrounded) that standard might be.

In thinking about this later, I was struck by how much it applies to marketing as well.

We start by defining expectations: what do we want to deliver? How do we want our clients or key constituencies to think of us ... What do we want them to expect?

Then we set about creating those expectations: what do we offer people and why should they care? How do we communicate our promise?

The rubber meets the road when we have to fulfill the expectations we’ve created: how do we deliver on the promises we made? How do we ensure we provide satisfaction…or at least minimize the risk of dissatisfaction?

Finally, we refine expectations: how did we do? Did we meet our objectives? What is the likelihood this customer will come back? What would/could/should we do differently?

The key is to make a conscious and consistent effort to link these four steps together (also known as branding). Do our promises reflect our strengths? Do they focus on what we really deliver, or does our definition need to change? Are we systematically evaluating our efforts?

When we can do that, I expect the chances for success to increase considerably!