I was three weeks into my first business the first time someone asked for a refund.
Why?, I asked.
You didn't do what you said you would, she responded.
I promised we would do better. I begged for another chance. Then I refunded her money because I knew I sold her on hype.
Running a business will quickly teach you to set expectations. Customers buy things from you with certain expectations, and if you don't deliver, then they don't deliver checks. I've learned that the hard way. There's such a temptation towards hype – especially in the early days. Some people are ready to buy and you feel like that little extra oomph will push them over the edge and convince them to pull out their checkbooks. A few months later, they are no longer your customer and you wasted all that time and investment.
If you don't believe me, a new UGA study has some interesting results along the same lines.
In a study published in the March issue of the Journal of Consumer Research, a team led by UGA Terry College of Business assistant professor Vanessa Patrick finds that people take notice when they feel worse than they thought they would, but-oddly-not when they feel better than expected. The message for marketers, Patrick said, is that too much hype can hurt a company when people realize that their expectations haven't been met.
"A number of marketers hype their product by using words like, 'best ever' or 'the ultimate experience,' to get customers to buy," Patrick said. "But you don't survive with a customer buying something once-satisfaction, repeat purchases and positive word of mouth are very important. Our study suggests that too much hype can be detrimental."
One of my old partners lived by the mantra "underpromise and overdeliver." Keep that in mind when you position your product. Extradorinary claims require extraordinary evidence to back them up.