I cannot for the life of me understand why people suggest that intentionally under promising and over delivering is a good way to manage client or customer expectations. Stephan Spencer is one of many who has recently offered this level of advice and suggested that it is good advice for those selling in the SEO business. I however want to call shenanigans on this type of advice.
While I believe managing expectations is ultimately extremely important, appearing highly competent by doing what you say you are going to do within the time frame you say it will happen is also just as important, even in a business like SEO where you don’t have 100% control of the outcome.
One of the primary issues with selling a service like SEO is that the seller should be a subject matter expert or at the very least have one that they are working with. When that expert fails to be in the ballpark on the expectations that they set, it begins to erode the confidence of their customer by showing that they really don’t have a grasp on when and how things should come together. Sooner isn’t always better, especially for many small businesses.
Let me use an example. If an SEO expert tells a business that it should take six to eight weeks to begin seeing search traffic from an SEO campaign, but knows in actuality that it may only take as little as two or three weeks that expert is doing their client a disservice.
As a service provider it is the expert’s responsibility to advise a business on all of the potential new issues an SEO campaign can create be they positive or negative. Because SEO campaigns can sometimes take an extended period of time to reach maturity, businesses often plan accordingly and use their “SEO quiet time” to address other things.
Again back to the example, if a business plans their staffing schedule around a timeline that is many weeks longer than what was predicted how does that really help the business? When they don’t have the staff available to answer the phone calls or ship the products, all the over deliver has done is either damage the reputation of the business in the eyes of its customers by not being able to service them at a level they expect or force the company to unnecessarily expend some of the profits from their sales to cover for the failed planning.
A lot but not all of this failure in planning has to be placed on the expectations that the SEO expert helped set with the business when they under promised. This is just one example of why intentionally under promising and over delivering is not a good idea.
SEO is more than just making traffic appear at a website. Truly being an SEO expert also means when you really understand what aspects of a campaign should look like you communicate them in such a way as to help a business plan accordingly.
No matter what the subject of the expectation is. When a service provider does what they say they are going to do, within the timelines they give, that is what makes them a real expert.
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