Startups get this wrong, a lot.
I’ve been guilty of it, for sure. It’s a mistake that I’ll likely make again, no matter how large my ventures become. Because it’s tempting to say you can do things that you can’t.
Overpromise, and underdeliver.
Startups tend to make this mistake for a couple reasons.
First, it’s for the sale.
There’s plenty of pressure to onboard new customers and clients. Also, startups have to be flexible, especially when they’re in the earliest stages. Startups in the earliest stages often bend to “what the market demands.” It’d be different in an ideal world, but founders need to eat. To eat, they need money. Money comes from clients and customers.
That’s the nature of the beast.
The second reason startups tend to overpromise is potentially more harmful in the long term: hubris.
Overpromising stems from desperation or overconfidence. Startup founders tend to be overconfident more than they tend to be desperate. Little goes right when an outsized ego is driving the decision.
One thing you can do to give your startup a fighting chance.
Say what you can do, and then do what you said you’d do.
Most unhappy customers don’t say anything. They just leave and never come back. You’ve already wasted their time, and they don’t feel like wasting more time by offering you constructive feedback.
Of the ones who leave without saying much, many of them left because you didn’t meet their expectations.
It’s easy to write those customers off by claiming it’s the client’s fault for having unrealistic expectations. Don’t do it. Blaming the customer is the easy way out. The truth is that clients have the wrong expectation of us because we set the wrong expectation.
Work as hard as you can to set the correct expectations early and often.
Your customers will thank you for it.
Photo: Flickr/Jonathan Werve