Expectations Are A Funny Thing

Posted by Bonnie Malone on

Expectations are a funny thing. We talk a lot about paving the way to engagement with subscribers by setting clear expectations at the beginning of the relationship. And, generally, that’s solid, tried-and-true advice. But, recently I’ve began to wonder if that strategy is the best approach. Because setting a clear and detailed expectation upfront means that the marketer or experience must live up to it, or risk negative backlash. Hear me out.

People are fickle. Anyone with a small child at home knows this. Ask that child if she wants apple slices for a snack, and she’ll likely reply with an adamant and resounding no (she wants cookies!). Wrap those same apple slices in a McDonald’s bag and suddenly, she’s clamoring to the table. Why? Because advertising has left her with the impression that anything from McDonald’s will be more tasty and more fun than the same food at home.

Similar people can have complete different perspectives. Recently, (and with a guilty conscience) I gushed to a girlfriend of mine that I splurged on a fabulous pair of leather boots. She insisted that I wear them to meet her for lunch the next day, and I happily obliged. However, the excitement was quickly squelched when I arrived to receive her disdainful response when she saw they were western boots, not the sleek modern boots she had imagined (or wanted for herself).

Not knowing can be exhilarating. Or maybe that’s just me. (The Type-A, control freak, planning every last detail person that I am.) Sometimes it’s nice to leave the planning to someone else, or not to plan at all and just go with the flow. The best surprises and some of my happiest memories have happened because I don’t know exactly what’s next – and I don’t have a high expectation that may not be met. Having no expectation has, personally, been my pathway to happiness.

Yes, it’s all about expectations. When it comes to email marketing, and that crucial point of subscribe, we often advise clients to give as much information about their email program to the potential new subscriber as possible. My question to you is how much is too much? Or is there no need to worry? On one hand, if the subscriber knows what to expect, they are more likely to sign up for the program and anticipate the forthcoming message stream. On the other hand, having a general understanding of what your company offers via email might be enough to drive interest without setting the bar too high and risking disappointment (along with complaints or unsubscribes early in the process).


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About Bonnie Malone

Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and TotalRetail.

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