On Promises

38592537 - a mother and her child hooking their fingers to make a promise, vintage style

The purpose of marketing is to make promises.

The purpose of your business is to keep them.

Most traditional cultures in the world are overflowing with proverbs around the importance of keeping your word and doing what you say you will do.

It’s certainly true for my own Scottish and Celtic ancestry.

“If I break faith, may the skies fall upon me, may the seas drown me, may the earth rise up and swallow me.” – ancient Gaulish oath of the elements

“We of the Fianna never told a lie. Falsehood was never attributed to them. But by truth and the strength of our hands, we came safe out of every combat.” – Ladaoidh Chunaic an Air, anon. Irish Poem

And the following Scottish Gaelic seanfhaclan (literally ‘old words’ or proverbs)…

B’fheàrr gun tòiseachadh na sguir gun chrìochnachadh.
(Better not to begin than stop without finishing).

Am fear as mò a gheallas, ‘s e as lugha cho-gheallas.
(He that promises the most will perform the least).

Gealladh gun a’choimhghealladh, is miosa sin na dhiùltadh
(Promising but not fulfilling, is worse than refusing).

Am fear a tha grad gu gealladh, ‘s tric leis mealladh.
(Quick to promise often deceives).

Chan eil fealladh ann cho mòr ris an gealladh gun choimhlionadh.
(There is no deceit/fraud so great as the promise unfullfilled).

My guess is that, if you looked to your own ancestry, you’d find similar things. Without the ability to trust the words of others, there is no capacity for culture.

There are four levels of relating to your promises:

  1. You over-promise and under-deliver. This is the worst. It creates disappointment and a terrible reputation.
  2. You promise and deliver. This is solid and will get you a fine reputation as someone who is reliable. This is the bare minimum for being in business.
  3. You under-promise and over-deliver. This is rare. This will earn you rave reviews and endless word of mouth.
  4. You don’t promise at all. You just deliver value for the joy of it. Imagine the utter delight of your clients to get something from you that they didn’t even expect. 

Your reputation, and thus the amount of word of mouth you receive, will be largely be determined by the degree to which you are able to deliver (or over-deliver) on your promises.

What are you promising people? Is this clear?

And what level are you at right now in terms of your delivering?

Additional Reading: 

Are you marketing the journey or the boat?

The Art of Relevance

About Tad

  • Karen Lee

    Excellent. Brings clarity and reality to this issue which I was not conscious of.