In this week’s video module, I’m sharing a few offline examples of companies that exceed customer’s expectations as well as how I put these principles into practice for the launch and and ongoing sales of my own ebooks:
We’ll get into the nitty gritty of how to write an ebook with module 4, but first I want to stop and talk about the idea of exceeding customer expectations and putting your best foot forward in every product you release. You’ll notice that I’m quoting a few of my favorite marketing gurus a lot in this module because I’ve been learning from them for years and there’s no point in trying to rehash what they’ve worded so well to start!
On the other hand, there is a different breed of internet marketer who is writing blog posts and ebooks and maybe even courses like this one but with promises such as “Publish an ebook in a week” or, worse, “Write an ebook in an hour.” Honestly, if that’s the kind of advice you’re looking for here, you’re going to be very disappointed (email me now, and I’ll be happy to refund your money!).
I’m not saying that throwing an ebook together doesn’t ever work. Add a pretty cover and a catchy title, and you might just be able to capture enough sales on Amazon to make your book a “success”. But in the process, you’re killing your brand. And frankly, you’re hurting the ebook industry as a whole.
In The Book of Business Awesome, Scott Stratten says: “Just like creating a great poster for a crappy movie doesn’t make the movie any better; fantastic advertising for a horrible product won’t change how people react once they use it…Every point of contact with your market is an opportunity to show them just how great your business really is.”
Exceeding customer expectations is about establishing a brand and reputation that will lead to repeat customers and word-of-mouth marketing from those happy customers. That might mean offering your reader an exceptional value – providing info they would pay more for at a lower price. Or it might mean offering bonuses on top of the ebook itself – things like podcasts, interviews with other experts, printables, etc. Or it may have to do with intangibles such as customer service once they buy or the community you build around your product.
There are a few ways this idea of expectations can play out:
You can disappoint your customers by failing to meet their expectations (resulting in negative feelings and the kind of word-of-mouth marketing you want to avoid); you can just meet your customer’s expectations (and become forgettable); or you can exceed their expectations (and watch them market your products for you).
My favorite section in Michael Hyatt’s book, Platform, is called Start with Wow. In these first 7 chapters, he focuses on this idea of exceeding expectations and how you can do it. He sums it up in these two sentences: “If you create outstanding products, everything else becomes much easier. Apple spends a fortune on product development. But relatively speaking, it doesn’t spend much on marketing.”
That’s what we’re after!
Manage Customer Expectations
The first key, then, is to manage expectations in the first place. If someone buys my ebook, Easy Homemade, expecting gourmet recipes from a trained chef with step-by-step photos and links to videos of each recipe, they are going to be disappointed. Not because I didn’t put my best into the ebook, but because that’s simply not what Easy Homemade offers. However, if I tell them upfront that I am a kitchen dunce who has learned to make these simple recipes, then they walk away excited about all that the book contains. That’s not necessarily setting the bar low; it’s just being realistic about what the ebook offers and who our target market is.
Similarly, Amy Lynn Andrew’s ebook, Tell Your Time, is an example of a short ebook that has done really well because this idea of exceeding expectations really isn’t about length; it’s about quality.
Because Amy clearly sets the expectations of potential purchasers early in the sales process: “It’s short and to the point. No fluff or filler. Time management books should be short, don’t you think?”, readers are pleasantly surprised by the quality of the ebook and not at all disappointed by the length.
That’s not to say that simply telling potential purchasers upfront that your ebook is short is enough to justify a short ebook, though; it has to actually deliver on its promise and more.
In talking about ads that make lofty promises to potential customers, Seth Godin says: “The problem is this: ads [can] actually decrease user satisfaction. If the ad leads [us] to expect one thing and we don’t get it, we’re more disappointed than if we had gone in with no real expectations at all.”
On the other hand, when you wow your customers, they can’t help but talk about the experience, and that word-of-mouth marketing is more valuable than any ad you could ever buy.
But you’ve got to get them in the door in the first place, which means you can’t skip the part about promising them that a product will solve a problem or meet a need just to set low expectations and make your job easier. Examining this dichotomy between setting high or low expectations, Seth says: “Word of mouth comes directly from expectations… Broadway shows. Apple products. Expensive consulting services. Promise big and deliver bigger seems to be the only reliable strategy.”
In Platform, Michael Hyatt also outlines several obstacles to creating a wow experience for customers. For ebooks, the most obvious and pervasive is simply rushing a product to print. We rush the writing/editing/design process rather than taking time with each aspect, and the end result is a disappointing ebook.
He hits the nail on the head when he says, “How often have you rushed something to market with a sigh and a collective, “Well, I guess that will have to do. It’s not great, but it’s good enough”? Sadly, we don’t start with a lofty vision. I’m afraid we have become content with mediocrity; we aim low and execute even lower.”
Now, to be clear, I am one of those people who thrives under a deadline, and Tsh Oxenreider of Simple Mom says she spends a dedicated two weeks writing her ebooks rather than spreading it out over a longer period (click here to read her full case study). The issue is not your method or the exact amount of time your ebook takes you to write; it’s deciding, “I’m going to hit publish on this now even though I know it’s not good enough.”
Michael Hyatt adds: “The truth is, mediocrity is natural. You don’t have to do anything to drift there. It just happens.” You have to decide that you’re going to strive for excellence instead and then push back against the urge to declare something “good enough” when it really isn’t.
- How do you want your customers to feel after they buy your product?
- What expectations do they typically bring to the table?
- What does failing to meet their expectations look like for your product? (sloppy writing, recipes that don’t work, slow product delivery)
- What does exceeding the customer’s expectations look like? (a short ebook that really does solve a problem, tools and printables to help them put the ideas into practice)
Let’s look at some practical ideas for exceeding expectations specifically when publishing an ebook:
1. Quality Content
Anyone can throw words together on a page, but taking the time to really flesh out your thoughts, write and rewrite and then edit and edit some more offers your readers quality content that gets straight to the point and they enjoy reading.
While pulling posts from a series into an ebook is a popular strategy (and one that works really well in some cases, as evidenced by Darren Rowse’s 31 Days to Build a Better Blog), it’s important that the content be high quality and not come across as just posts thrown together. That often means adding additional fresh content, reworking the transitions between posts, and focusing the efforts you would have spent writing the content on editing instead.
A popular way to add value to an ebook and exceed customer expectations is to offer high-quality bonuses to go along with each purchase. Bonus offers often include podcasts or videos, printables, bonus booklets, or coupon codes for other products or services (although you want to be careful that these don’t come across purely as upsells, which means the content in your ebook needs to be able to stand alone even if the reader doesn’t take advantage of the bonus offer).
As your writing, think about digital tools that will help your reader put your ebook into action and how you can offer those as bonuses. Keep a list of ideas and then decide which are realistic and offer the most value to customers.
You can also exceed a customer’s expectations simply based on the length of your ebook, either by writing a longer book than they expect (as long as that length reflects actual content and not just fluff!) — for example, by adding more recipes to a cookbook — or by taking the opposite approach and solving their problem in as few pages as possible.
Depending on the niche, the design of your ebook can actually play a part in exceeding customer expectations as well. A hard-to-read, hard-to-navigate ebook can be frustrating, and no matter how useful the information itself may be, if the reader does not enjoy reading or using your ebook, that content is going to be secondary.
On the other hand, a beautifully formatted ebook (which is much easier to do with PDF ebooks than Kindle versions) draws readers in and almost becomes a bonus in and of itself.
5. Customer service
And finally, your customer service policies play an important role as well. When someone emails you a question or suggestion about your ebook, how quickly do you respond? When someone has a complaint or technical difficulties, what is your policy on refunding their purchase? The way you react to each individual customer service opportunity really does create loyalty among customers (even, often, among those who had a complaint to start with), and you should look at them as opportunities rather than frustrations.
However, there’s a big difference between excellence and perfection. The goal is to hit the first while acknowledging that perfection simply isn’t possible.
Seth Godin gives a new definition of perfection that addresses both issues: “Perfect doesn’t mean flawless. Perfect means it does exactly what I need it to do…Stop polishing and ship instead. Polished perfect isn’t better than perfect, it’s merely shinier. And late.”
Instead of worrying about perfection, then, focus on the aspects you do have control over – the quality of your content, having a third-party review and edit it, using a clear and easy-to-read design and offering customers more for their money.