Danger: Expectations ahead
One of the most important ways to be a successful marketer is to manage expectations.  How can you do that effectively in your roles as brand manager, director or VP marketing? The following three examples illustrate why you want to be careful what you promise so you can over deliver on value to your organization or clients. These ideas may seem obvious to most but I am always amazed how often this issue of managing expectations pops up.

Your satisfaction is guaranteed
ORGANIZING EVENTS: Take the example that you are organizing a conference within your industry. You are confident that you can bring 50 potential clients to the event and possibly as many as 100.  How do you communicate this internally? Do you brag that you think 100 people will show or 25? It matters if you want to position this as a successful activity. Under sell your expectations and over deliver. Manage the expectations down because although the quality of engagement is what really matters, your senior leadership team may just count heads to assess success or failure. You can have 50 people at the conference and it can appear to be a successful or a failure based on how you managed expectations initially. 

COMPLETING A PROJECT:  Let’s assume you have a huge project you are working to support sales. Imagine that it involves creating a substantial new product brochure, a testimonial video or a redesign of the navigation of your website.  You evaluate the time lines in the project plan and know with confidence that if you start in March it can be completed in August. What do you communicate throughout the sales organization?

Everyone wants it sooner than you can deliver but if you set expectations properly from the start, you can allow yourself time for the unexpected to occur. Someone gets sick, it takes longer to get approvals or perhaps the team gets 2 other big projects that alter the timing. Manage the expectations early on and let people know it will not be ready until October. That way if you deliver in September you are ahead of schedule. This isn't sandbagging. I like to think of it as managing reality by making sure you don’t underestimate how long things take to complete. It always takes longer and costs more than you expect when you start to plan out the project. Learn to be a realist and not a super hero.   

STARTING A SOCIAL MEDIA PROGRAM: You start an active social media program building Facebook, Twitter and a corporate blog. Your CEO or CFO asks you how you evaluate the investment and how you'll know it is working and successful. Setting expectations is critical so you should methodically review your approach, goals and metrics for success. 

But in setting them, do you promise 1,000 likes on Facebook, followers on Twitter or blog readers when you don't really know how many you'll attract? Maybe you need to set expectations not in terms of how many but in the quality of who you'll attract. 50 important relationships could be worth much more than 5,000 likes that are meaningless. The important learning is to be brutally frank and truthful with yourself first. Then share a realistic approach to what success looks like. You will probably need to repeat this often to guarantee that it sinks in. Credibility is marketing currency and license to try cool stuff. You have to earn it internally from management. 

Measure twice and cut once

Why is any of this important?
Within many companies, senior leadership can be very skeptical of marketing. By building a credible and measurable record of delivering on time and on budget, you establish confidence in your work. If you really believe you can complete something in 10 weeks, don’t promise it in 10 weeks because when something out of controls comes up, all people will remember is your failure to deliver not the extenuating circumstances. If you are explaining why you are late, behind or over budget you are losing.

Expectations management is a marketer's BFF.
Proper setting of expectations can be your BFF

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