Should You Under Promise & Over Deliver?

“Under promise and over deliver” is a common sales concept that most people have heard of but what does it really mean?  And is it something you should aspire to?

As defined by McGraw-Hill, “under promise and over deliver” is a service strategy in which service providers strive for excellent customer service and satisfaction by doing more than they say they will for the customer or exceeding customer expectations.

Is This a Good Idea?


At first, this strategy seems to have merit. Over-delivering on customer expectations would raise customer satisfaction and be good for business. But when you delve deeper, there are two main reasons why this is not a good business practice.

  • To under promise and over deliver, you must first under promise. This means that through your advertising mix you are communicating a lower level of service or product benefits. Right off the bat, this will reduce the number of customers your business is attracting. Potential clients don’t know that your plan is to over deliver on your promises, how would they? This, in turn, also dramatically increases your customer acquisition costs.
  • Customers’ expectations are not static. Think about it. Say you order a pizza from your local pizza place. They promise to have your pizza to you in 45 minutes, but it comes to you in 30 minutes. You’re really happy with this outcome, and you’re motivated to order again. When you order again, the same thing happens. Now your expectations evolve and rise. With your next and all future orders, you’re going to expect your pizza in 30 minutes based on prior experience, even though they promise it in 45. You’ll quickly go from being highly satisfied with their service to simply satisfied or possibly dissatisfied when your new expectations are not met, even though they’ve technically “over-delivered” with every order.

There are no long-term benefits of under-promising and over-delivering. It is a strategy that limits customer growth and provides only short-term customer satisfaction benefits.

If you believe in the merits of the product you are selling or the service you deliver, then expound on the capabilities of the product or the advantages of the service. To keep customers highly satisfied, you must continue to deliver more value because their expectations will keep increasing. If you set the tone from the start of under-promising and over-delivering, then your customer is going to expect that same experience of getting more than promised with every interaction.  You are setting yourself up to fail and for your customer to be disappointed. A better method might be to deliver on your promises.

Don’t make a promise you can’t keep and keep the ones you make.

Marketing Plan Creation 101

The simplest way to create a marketing plan is to segment the population into categories and demographics.  The categories define what you are selling.  Then simply create marketing/ad campaigns that for each demographic within each category.

Separate campaigns should be created for digital and traditional markets.  Although there is overlap between the two, the materials you create will need to be modified to work for both markets.

Below is sample of a marketing plan for a fine dining restaurant that serves only dinner Tuesday – Saturday.  It is available to rent privately for dinner on Sundays.

Marketing by Category

Digital Marketing

  • Email Marketing
  • Review Management – You need to be the first to know what conversations are occurring about you online.  If you get a bad review you want to respond to it as quickly as possible.
  • Social Media Campaigns
  • Website
  • Specialized Directories – You need to be listed and the directories will need to be optimized

Traditional Marketing

  • Brochure
  • Coupon Concepts
  • Detail Rep (see more below)- Trained to visit establishments and present marketing material.  They can often be paid a percentage of the events that they book.
    • Professional Offices
    • Hotels/Inns
    • Theaters
    • Identify Additional Venues
    • Events
      • Identify key events to attend
        • Bridal Expo
        • Charity Events
        • Fundraisers
        • Community Sponsored Events
    • Schedule events
    • Prepare for the event
    • Track the results of the event
    • Newspaper Ads
      • Define market area
      • Obtain rate cards
      • Negotiate rates
      • Theme Nights

Marketing by Demographic

Gen Y

    • 1980 – 2000
    • Ages 14 – 34
    • Market for:
      • Special Occasions
      • Baby Showers
      • Bridal Showers
      • Engagement Parties

Gen X

      • 1965 – 1979
      • Ages 35 – 48
      • Market for:
        • Celebrate special occasions (Anniversary, Birthday, Engagement)
        • Work lunches
        • Surprise Parties

Baby Boomers

      • 1946 – 1964
      • Ages 49 – 68
      • Market for:
        • Work Events
        • Work Lunches
        • Dinner (Regulars)
        • Bridal Showers
        • Baby Showers

– Also see our blog on marketing to Baby Boomers.


      • Age 69+
      • Market for:
        • Pre-fixe menus
        • Lunch
        • Group Meetings

Working Professionals

    • Pharmaceutical Reps
    • Allied Healthcare Professionals
    • Market for:
      • Lunch
      • Hosted Lunch Events

Detail Marketer

If you have staff responsible for marketing then monitoring should be based on the function. For example: If you have someone who is responsible for increasing the number of baby/bridal showers they should provide you with a report of:

  • Who they are planning on contacting
  • When the contact took place
  • Who they talked to
  • What was discussed?
  • What follow-up is needed by when?
  • Your tracking system should also be able to determine if the marketing activity is increasing the amount of showers the restaurant is booking.
  • What was the investment in time?
  • What was the investment in revenue?
  • What was the outcome in terms of return on investment?

Without a marketing plan and a system to track the return on investment of every piece of marketing/advertising piece produced you are bound to miss opportunities, waste marketing dollars and generate significantly less revenue.  Will your business fail?  I can’t answer that question.  But considering that 80% – 90% of restaurants fail in the few years, I’d suggest you leave no stone unturned.