A few months ago I saw this wicked trailer. It looked like it was possibly a documentary about a US occupation in a foreign country. The interviewees all had accents. The locale looked economically depressed. The people interviewed talked about all the money being spent to keep “them” here. That “they” were not wanted. There were shots of military personnel and vehicles going about. And in between the shots of these people were titles that matched the sentiment: they are not…welcome; they are not…accepted. Then about half way through the trailer you’re hit with the surprise title. They are not…HUMAN. Whoa!
What I thought for sure was a trailer for the next Michael Moore propaganda documentary about the evils of America turned out instead to be a very intriguing preview of the highly anticipated feature from first time feature-film director Neil Blomkamp (presented by Peter Jackson). I could hardly wait for this film.
When the film came out, it immediately started trending on Twitter. People were saying how awesome it was. I then tweeted a question on my Twitter asking for people’s opinion about what movie I should see: District 9, or Quentin Tarantino’s “Inglourious Bastards.” Overwhelmingly D9 was the choice. Again, there were comments like “This movie was AWESOME!” So, I enthusiastically headed out one late night to see D9.
As I watched it, I kept waiting to be blown away. Don’t get me wrong, I liked the story set up, the pacing, and eventually I DID like the movie. But, I thought it was just “OK.” I was disappointed because I was never completely blown away. Not even partially blown away. Not even slightly knocked over. If the trailer was all I had ever seen leading up to this film, I think my eventual reaction to seeing it would have been different.
THE IMPORTANCE OF SETTING EXPECTATIONS
As is par for the course for me, I turned my movie-going experience into a valuable business lesson and blog topic. The expectations you set for your customers/clients will have a huge impact on how they perceive your services and what they say about you. If they expect one thing and you deliver another, even if what you deliver is indeed an excellent product or service, you’ll disappoint. Scott Bourne made a great analogy about this at Skip’s Summer School regarding the information you tweet about in your Twitter stream. If your Twitter followers expect 7-up and you give them root beer, they’re going to spit it out.
Three suggestions for managing expectation:
- Give ’em what you showed ’em: your clients hired you based on the portfolio of work you showed them when they were shopping for a vendor. When it comes time to create their project, make sure the style and quality is on par with what you showed them. If you’re a traditional pose and portrait style photographer and someone hired you based on that, then prior to shooting their wedding you decide to go all Denis Reggie and be a pure photojournalist, you need to give those clients who hired you, pose and portrait work. If your portfolio of videos is stylized and MTV like with steadicam shots when a client hires you, don’t go Neil Blomkamp on them and shoot their project hand held cinema verite because you think that’s the new “black.”
- Spell it out in your contract: I know there are varying schools of thought about how much you should put in a contract. I tend towards being conservative. As much as possible, spell out exactly what you plan to deliver, and WHEN. But even then some clients tend to skip over the important parts, sign it, then get mad at you when their video/album isn’t ready two weeks after the event when your contract clearly says the turn around time is three months. So, I’ve added initial boxes next to key paragraphs like turn around time, copyright usage, etc. Just like when you have to initial an asbestos paragraph on a rental agreement, make sure your clients have seen and read those more provocative points in your contract.
- Under-promise, over-deliver: finally, deliver more to your client than what you promised. If you promised them 5 DVDs, give them ten, etc. A video or album promised in 8 weeks but delivered in 6 will have a significantly greater positive impact than one promised in 4 weeks and delivered in those same 6.
I thought “District 9″ was a very good movie. Well-acted. Creative. Poignant message about how we treat those who are different from us. But, my enjoyment of it was very much affected by what I expected going in. Make sure when you’re servicing your clients, you’re doing it in such a way they all come out saying “YOU’RE AWESOME!” If you’re not careful, you just may get root beer spat in your face.