Keep your promises . . . always


A student roundtable on sports sponsorship reveals a guiding principle for all business relationships.

Chick-fil-A Cows

The Chick-fil-A cows clearly communicate the company's values.

Several years ago, I rode shotgun for Chick-fil-A Vice President of Public Relations Don Perry in a seminar at the University of Georgia on sports sponsorships.  Don, who has helped his company invest millions in branding major events, opened the forum as Socrates might have:

“What is the single most important thing my company, as a sponsor, expects event operators to deliver?”

The students suggested many answers, all of which Don said were important, but not of paramount importance.  I did not have the answer, despite running events and representing sponsors for more than a decade.  In my experience, quantifying  the value of events to a company’s profits is nearly impossible.

“I want you to deliver what you say you will deliver,” Don said. “Don’t tell me you have 50,000 tickets sold, then come up short. If we like the event and you can’t sell out, that’s okay, unless you tell me something different.”

Indeed, that guiding principle should apply to every task and event any organization undertakes.

Don’s message pops into my head every time I see a business disappointing its customers. Last weekend a major retailer advertised: “20% Off on All Fishing Rods, $3.99 – $187.” When I arrived, the least expensive rod was $20. I didn’t want a $3.99 rod, but the bait and switch annoyed me. It was stupid and unnecessary.

This is often typical of big companies whose marketing and advertising people are a world apart from those who serve customers. When your hucksters make false promises, you alienate your customers and sabotage your employees.

Companies should make promises to their customers. That is how you differentiate and compete. Make sure your promises are clear and you deliver on them. That is all your customers expect.

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