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Don’t Break Your Promises!

“Don’t Break Your Promises!”

— points out the importance of keeping the promises made in advertising, telemarketing, and product literature.

Some businesses bank on advertising, and some invest in top sales talent. Others compete on size, price or location. Yet, all too many neglect a valuable marketing tool available to everyone: kept promises.These begin with advertising claims. Copywriting experts warn against using superlatives like fastest, best, and freshest: they’re difficult to back up consistently. And don’t brag about your efficient staff if you’re shorthanded, or if people on your front line struggle with English.If your ads promise to rush product literature upon inquiry, act now, or forever hold your peace. Don’t use the reader response device in a trade publication, unless you’re certain all inquiries will be faxed to you immediately upon receipt. In fact, ads promoting literature faxed now, via touch-tone phone, can be far more effective in snaring the serious prospect.

Another issue is returning calls on time. Whether you promised to call the customer at two, or a co-worker said you’d be at your desk by then, back it up! If something interferes, make sure someone calls to apologize for your unavoidable delay, and to indicate specifically when you’ll follow through.

I can’t stress this enough: most service sequence flowcharts reveal a fumbled ball here. Phone messages are typically thrown in labeled cubbyholes or on desks; or transferred to recipients’ E-mail or voice mail. If a recipient gets tied up, nothing happens, since nobody is responsible for monitoring others’ time-sensitive messages.

Speaking of phone calls, many direct mail firms could stand some improvement in the promise department. These days, many mailers typically romance the prospect with, “all orders shipped within 24 hours!” but alas…a week after the customer service representative confirms a phone order, a back-ordered postcard lurks in the customer’s mailbox. Meanwhile, Mom’s birthday is tomorrow.

Emergencies demand even greater promise integrity. I won’t soon forget the plumbing firm who vowed to meet my crisis by three, but didn’t show till five. Meanwhile, I was desperately scouring the garage for my husband’s waders.

And don’t overlook personal promises made after hours. A friend new to his community was recently invited to a neighbor’s cocktail party. There he met an interior designer who was also a newcomer, and who had miraculously found the ultimate baby-sitter. Sympathetically, she handed my friend her card, offering to provide the sitter’s number on request. Three days later, she still hadn’t returned his calls. Little does she know he’s just bought a new home that needs decorating.

Blown credibility during volunteer activities can also erode sales. It’s amazing how many “up-and-comers” pledge their time for a community project then conveniently fade when it’s sleeve-rolling time. Remember the little red hen fable? Although kitchen help was nowhere in sight, everyone magically appeared at first scent of fresh bread.

Probably the greatest test of promise integrity is meeting one’s financial commitments. Every firm’s number one rule should be paying all bills on time. During lean times, this may mean borrowing money or selling an asset. But never expect creditors to share your sudden fiscal problems…they have enough of their own.

Besides, consistently satisfied vendors are far more accommodating when asked for special favors, like rush jobs. More important, few disgruntled creditors are likely to become customers, or to refer business.

It all boils down to long-term thinking. Never allow a momentary crisis to interfere with your vision for the future. A well-run business can always hire temporary help, borrow quick cash via an established credit line, or make a few concessions to keep the ship on course.

This includes keeping commitments made to employees. All too often, bootstraps renege on their time-off promises. Poor morale and high turnover are far more expensive in the long run, than hiring a temporary replacement for a receptionist promised a long weekend with visiting parents.

Writer: Vicki L. Clift. This article was originally published in the 5th Anniversary Edition of Entrepreneurial Edge.

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