Underpromise/overdeliver in your art business

Today’s Art Marketing Action newsletter encourages you to break away from large groups of artists by distinguishing yourself and your work. I was reminded last week how important it is to exceed expectations when I went to have new tires put on my car.

The guys at Discount Tire are as nice and accommodating as they can be. But someone in management has it all wrong. And I believe it does comes from the top, so I don’t mind mentioning them by name.

I was told that my car would be ready in 45 minutes. After being there 35 minutes and not seeing my car move out of its parking place, I returned to the desk and asked if I should be worried. Another nice gentleman said, “Oh, we’re sorry. Can you wait just 15 more minutes. Your car is next.” Of course, I’m happy to do that. I was told the tires would be on the car in 15 minutes.

Thirty minutes later, they came out and said they needed the tire key to unlock my tires. I went out and found it for them. Add on another 30 minutes and I was still waiting.

In all, I was there 2 hours. I would have happily waited 2 hours if that’s what they told me it would be. In fact, I was pretty good at 90 minutes. But after an hour and 45 minutes, I was getting frustrated and upset.

Lesson: ALWAYS remember to underpromise and overdeliver. This should be the mantra of everyone in business.

For the artist . . .

  • If you have a commission and think it will take you six weeks, tell them ten weeks. When they get it in six, they’ll be happy as a clam!
  • Be early for your appointments.
  • If you need to get a proposal to someone, tell them they’ll have it by the end of the week. Then get it to them the next day.
  • No one ever got ahead by breaking promises or meeting expectations. People get ahead by exceeding expectations.

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10 thoughts on “Underpromise/overdeliver in your art business”

  1. Katherine Greene

    Alyson: Did you write a follow up letter to Discount Tires and tell them of your experience? It’s one thing to tell them while you are there but a follow up letter gives it more importance and perhaps incentive to change. Katherine

  2. Katherine Greene

    Alyson: I really liked the Peloton metaphor – it gave me a great visual as it relates to being an artist. “Jump at Opportunities: recognize the difference between a good opportunity and a time-waster.” It is challenging to determne which is which. Is this where having a Marketing/Business Plan comes in? Katherine

  3. Oh boy, this is terrific advice! Quality service of any kind seems like a rare bird these days. This point has been driven to the forefront since buying my house. I have never seen such an array of incompetance and frustration provoking poor service. Now, I write letters (both pro and con) and shop with those businesses who treat me with respect, honesty, and a great job. Artists need to hone those same skills. Thanks for pointing this out! Sheree Rensel

  4. David Castle Art

    In my business plan, I have a section for “business values” and “business rules” and this appears in both. In practice however, I’ve found it surprisingly difficult to take my “feelings/emotions” out of the equation when over-delivering. I found myself looking for some type of acknowledgement from my clients whenever I over-delivered. I was disappointed to discover that I rarely receive any acknowledgement at all (and I’m talking about all kinds of over-delivering, from simply delivering a project early, to including a small free gift of art with a purchase). I’ll keep over-delivering, but have to get better at being happy with doing it for my own reasons.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experience with your readers. I have recently had 2 down right ugly experiences with customer service at 2 large retail chains, and I remember thinking to myself “wow – what do these front line people think they’re doing?” I left without doing anything about it or even asking for a supervisor – but made a mental note to not shop there anymore. The experience also reminded me to review my own art business and how I interact with people interested in my work. It really is all about communication (and then following up), isn’t it?

  6. Alyson B. Stanfield

    Katherine: Yep, this is where a plan comes in handy. When you have an end goal in mind, it’s easier to see what might stand in the way. It also helps to listen to your heart or, in my case, tummy. When I just get a bad feeling at the start, I know it’s not a good thing. Sheree: I like your reminder to write the letters to businesses that treat you well. So often, we write to complain. (As I did with Discount Tire.) David: It’s hard to keep overdelivering without acknowledgment. We all need validation. I think it’s probably noticed more than you realize. After all, you have a lot of repeat customers, do you not? Cynthia: I think you should tell someone at those companies. Give them a chance to win back your loyalty.

  7. Great advice. I have started doing this in the past and, although coming through early has not gotten me any verbal response, I know how I feel when I’m pleasantly surprised in that way (I, too, don’t always verbalize my feelings). It leaves an impression, and maybe another way to look at it is that it has not left a negative feeling. Neutral is better than negative. I recently sold several framed prints to a couple and they encouraged me so much by their enthusiasm for my work that I let them pick out 2 more prints. They were so happy, and I felt so glad to do it. Keep it up – going the extra mile is worth it!

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