Exceed Expectations

Under-promise and over-deliver–this is a key business rule. It means that you should 1) never promise more than you can make good on and 2) surpass any expectations. In other words, wow your patrons, curators, administrators, and gallerists with speed, efficiency, and quality.

Carole R. Moore, Contemplations. Acrylic, 36 x 72 inches. ©The Artist
Carole R. Moore, Contemplations. Acrylic, 36 x 72 inches. ©The Artist

Here are ten ways to exceed expectations.

1. Offer to deliver any artwork personally to your buyers and install it in place.
2. Tell people they can live with your work for a week while deciding whether or not to buy it. In order to do this, you must have proper paperwork (e.g. a loan agreement) and insurance in place, but it can be done.
3. Provide gift wrapping. For my book sale in December, I attached a bow and a small card to the books I knew were purchased as gifts and being sent directly to the lucky recipients. I didn’t offer this as an option at the time of sale, but added it as a surprise.
4. If you have a commission you think will take you six weeks, tell your patrons it will take ten weeks. When they get it in six, they’ll be happy as a clam!
5. Be early for your appointments. This gives you time to catch your breath and get organized before the other person arrives.
6. If you’ve been asked to submit a proposal, tell the recipients they’ll have it by the end of the week. Then get it to them the next day.
7. Allow your buyers to trade in their previous purchases for new choices (of equal value) for a certain period of time. Make sure you have this in writing and that terms are understood upon sale.
8. Depending on the work you do and your circumstances, offer to make any repairs for a reasonable period of time. Many artists offer lifetime repairs free of charge.
9. If you don’t have or can’t deliver the goods, refer people to another artist who might be able to help. This is great karma! Both the customer (who knows lots of people) and the referred artist (who also knows lots of people) will be grateful. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
10. Present your highest bid, and then come in under-budget.
FINAL WORD: Exceed and succeed! No one ever got ahead by breaking promises or simply meeting expectations.


The podcast is an audio version of this post.

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7 thoughts on “Exceed Expectations”

  1. Nice post, Alyson! I do some of this, but not all. One more to add to the list: Always send thank you notes. Some of my artist friends laugh when I send them to EVERY buyer… and I must confess, I fell down on this the past year. But I resolve to do better, and keep up with the thank-you notes this year. Handwritten, not emailed or printed en masse.

  2. I just found this site thanks to Joanne Mattera (http://joannemattera.blogspot.com/). I love the advice, sometimes we forget to under-promise and over deliver as a way to give great customer service and give ourselves some wiggle room for problems. If we have the time we won’t have the problems and then we can over deliver easily.

  3. Alyson Stanfield

    Jim: I appreciate that reminder. I’ve written so often about sending handwritten Thank You notes that I decided to leave it off this list. But that doesn’t mean you can neglect it. Good work!
    Lori: Joanne has a fabulous blog. I’m very grateful you came our way.

  4. Oh yes, handwritten notes are the best to let your collectors know you have remembered they are human beings. There is a connection that is both respect and personal that a handwritten thank you note imparts that is incomparable.
    I also do try to do more than what’s simply expected. Not everything on Alyson’s list is viable for me but there are always things that can make a difference and let us stand out to our clients.

  5. Pingback: The importance of doing what you say…. « MINDS EYE : c a s e y . m a t t h e w s

  6. Pingback: Submit a Solid Art Proposal — Art Biz Blog

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