Keeping Promises

When it comes to children promises are a sacred pact accompanied with elaborate rituals. This is not something that ends as a child grows up. Adults might not have the obvious elaborate rituals when accepting or giving a promise but they do go through rituals even though it may be more subtle.

The catalyst for this post was an argument i witnessed, where the act of putting a date and time in her blackberry was so sacred to a lady that she was genuinely upset that the other person was late. This may seem like an over reaction but in some shape and form we all mimic this behavior. In fact the english language has a specific word to signify an accidentally broken promise, ‘misunderstood’. Misunderstandings are a part of life be it about a place to meet or a course of action.

Promises become extremely vital in the service industry because there is no tangible product. Marketing is making a promise, about making a promise to get a desired outcome. Simply the product in service marketing is to ‘sell a promise.’ This makes it crucial that the marketing message keep its promise.

I know that was a lot of abstract so here is an example. In Prof. T.J. Olney‘s personal selling class I had the opportunity to meet a team from Boeing that was then involved with selling a fleet of the new 777 jets to South African Airways. Though this may seem like marketing a product i soon learnt this was far from it. Boeing does not sell the aircraft to airlines (they do, but to holding companies), they sell the promise of service which involves a great flight record, quality workmanship, customizing for uniqueness and above all else its people. The team we met had worked with members of the South African government, its airlines and local contractors over a year and a half to get to the budget stage of the selling process (approximately 10 months of work still left). The sale process included everything from regular phone calls to to knowing names of each others family members. Every time a Boeing team member, ever since first contact with the clients made promises (like i will call you in 2 days) and they kept it, building the level of trust required for a multimillion dollar deal.

Marketing lesson: Expectation vs. Delivery mismatch is something we have all experienced in life. When ‘selling a promise’ it is crucial that the marketing not over promise, its about creating value while not promising fort knox. The message medium is also crucial for the message to be really heard and internalized resulting in trust (the currency of marketing.)

Until next time,



One thought on “Keeping Promises

  1. Pingback: A 360 Perspective « MarketWala

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