Marketing a Real Promise vs. an Implied Promise

How to Get Attention

When you buy a product or service you want to know you’re going to get what the marketing says you’re going to get.

That’s how trust is established.

When a customer gets the promised outcome, they’re more likely to purchase from that seller again, refer their friends, provide a testimonial, and even rave about the product or service on social media.

When a customer does not get the promised outcome, they can feel duped. They may resent the seller for making what they perceive to be an exaggerated promise. Or, even feel stupid for buying into the promise in the first place.

But one thing’s for sure… the chance they’ll make a repeat purchase from that seller goes way down. The adage “Fool me once, shame on you… fool me twice shame on me” comes to mind.

So how does this apply to service professionals?

I always recommend that coaches and consultants identify what their promise is. What do they feel confident every client will get when they choose to hire them or buy their product, service, training program, information product, or course?

What do I mean by “promise”?

You’ve likely heard about marketing the features of your product or service. And if you have, you’ve probably also heard that’s really not the most effective way to market.

Instead you should market benefits.

Benefits are what your clients will get when they purchase your product or service. Benefits are about them whereas features are about your product or service. People buy based on what’s in it for them.

A promise takes a benefit one step further and shows how that benefit manifests in your ideal clients’ life. It makes the benefit real. It helps them see what they will be able to be, do, or have, after they purchase and use your product or service. Not just what the outcome is, but how the outcome looks in their life.

Promise marketing is extremely powerful, but you need to be careful.

I tell my clients that while they can definitely market a promise, they need to be careful what they promise.

If you’re wellness coach you can’t promise someone will lose 20 pounds (or 5 pounds or 100 pounds). But you can probably promise they’ll learn how to eat and enjoy healthier foods so they get off the diet rollercoaster. That they’ll feel better about themselves and more confident.  That they can stop constantly obsessing about what they eat and begin enjoying food again.

As The Business Stylist® I promise my clients will learn how to effectively package their services, brand their business, and market and sell their services so they can create a more profitable and enjoyable business.

I do not promise my clients they’ll make any specific amount of money. In fact, I don’t even like saying “I made six figures in my business by doing this and so can you.” Because maybe they can and maybe they can’t. There are too many other factors at work. As there are for any consultants’ or coaches’ clients.

And quite frankly, any coach or consultant who has been in business for any length of time knows this. They’ve worked with clients who wouldn’t do what was necessary or couldn’t for one reason or another. Or clients who despite all their hard work just couldn’t get the same results in their industry or marketplace with their clientele.

Therein lies my beef with what I call “The Implied Promise”

The implied promise runs rampant in online marketing.

Here are some real headlines pulled right off the web…

How to (Really) Make $1,000,000 Selling E-Books

How to make over $90,000 teaching an online course

Double Your Income. Double Your Time Off.

Build a multi-million dollar coaching business

“How I [insert DO SOMETHING HERE] ..And you can too!”

Give Me X Days – And I’ll Give You the Secrets to X (fill in any number of days and any promise – I’ve seen this headline recycled many times)

Would You Like Me To Personally Double, Triple, or Even  Quadruple Your Business…For Free? (I’ve also seen this one with Income instead of Business)

An Internet Millionaire’s Secret Formula To Sell Almost Anything Online

5 Steps to Financial Freedom

All of these headlines imply: Do This, Get These Results

I’ll admit I’ve bought into these promises in the past (being hopeful I suppose). Every single time I’ve been disappointed. There was also a point in my business (I talk about it quite openly in my book Breaking the Spell) when I hired mentors who taught this type of marketing and I started doing it myself because I thought that’s what I had to do. My venture into that type of marketing was short-lived because it felt totally out of integrity. I also quickly lost faith and respect for those mentors.

Success is NEVER that simple.

The reason is that while someone can teach you the exact steps they took to make big bucks, and while you can even follow those same steps yourself, you are not them, your business is not theirs, your clientele is not their clientele, your market or industry is not the same as theirs, your timing is not their timing… I could go on but I think you get the idea.

There are so many other factors that come into play when you’re building and marketing a business that it never (and I repeat NEVER) comes down to only following a few simple steps.

Will those steps help you become more successful or attract more clients or make more money than you might if you don’t follow those steps? Perhaps. But the idea that you can get the exact same results is not guaranteed (and these headlines imply it is).

Why do marketers make these implied, and sometimes overt, promises?

Because plain and simple, they sell. And they not only sell, they sell well!

People want to believe it’s that easy. They want shortcuts. They want to make millions (or at least a lot more money than they’re currently making). So they buy into the hope they can shortcut their path to the big time and big bucks. They may learn a lot and improve their business, but it still takes time, energy, dedication, and usually a few mistakes to hit the big-time (unless you get really lucky).

Most of the people making those big promises didn’t get their overnight. They had plenty of failures along the way. They just don’t usually talk about them. Although, I have seen many versions of the following headline, which I suppose is an effort to make their promise seem even more like anyone can do it:


Another reason marketers make these promises is they actually believe them.

They attribute their uber-success to the simple steps they’re teaching. They did it, so why can’t anyone? And I do believe they genuinely want to help others. But as I’ve already said, there are always other factors at play.

(For some additional perspective on this you may want to read my blog post, If I Can Do It, Anyone Can)

So while this marketing strategy may get you more clients and make you more money in the short term, I have to question whether it’s a viable long-term success strategy.

If your goal is long-term success, I question whether leaving clients disappointed really supports that. At some point clients begin to feel like the promises are not realistic and they’ll stop buying. And, they won’t feel good about you as a mentor. So, contrary to the image at the top of this post, I don’t recommend implied promises as a way to get attention and sales.

Better in my opinion to promise something you can deliver.

I admit, it’s a fine line. You want to let prospective clients know what’s possible. That’s what gets them to buy. That’s why it’s so important to spend the time to uncover your promise (something I teach in my course, How to Market Yourself as a Coach or Consultant).

And yes, promised results are usually contingent on the client actually taking the steps or doing the work you recommend. After all, if the client does nothing they shouldn’t expect to get the results. As I often quip, I can guarantee if you do nothing you won’t get the results!

While realistic promises may not be as alluring, in my experience they attract better quality clients. Because very often those wanting the quick results don’t have realistic expectations and aren’t willing to do what’s required to create that six-figure or million-dollar business (it looks a lot easier on paper than it is in the real world).

Realistic promises help you build raving fans, repeat customers, word-of-mouth referrals, respect as a reputable coach or consultant, and ultimately a business you can enjoy for years to come.

About Debbie

Debbie worked in marketing for 32 years and ran a successful coaching and consulting business for 19. Now she helps people find greater happiness and success by learning how to Follow Inspiration.

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