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Why You Must Exceed User Expectations

Water_smileApple has an automatic pause of the track when the iPod is playing and your headphone plug comes out of the jack. The first few times this happened to me the pause was unexpected, but I was psyched each time I plugged back in and didn’t miss a beat. In fact, it didn’t really occur to me that this was a feature until the third or fourth time it happened. Apple understands meeting expectations is not merely enough anymore. Exceeding them is the difference maker.

Exceeding expectation creates an immediate and lasting bond between your product or service and the user. Yes, that’s branding 101 but it’s also sage advice for the direct marketer and maybe most importantly the word-of-mouth marketer. For the digital marketer of every stripe the payoffs are huge. Exceeding expectations leads to higher conversion rates, more new and (especially) return visitors and customers. The strategy transcends genres, vertical and mediums. Yet it is often a marketing strategy left on the table because just meeting expectations is hard enough.

The payoffs are huge. Those that are successful with exceeding expectations will tell you it’s all worth it. In fact some companies like Google, Intuit, Build-A-Bear and Netflix build their organizations around it. It’s the reason why Apple spent almost 3 years developing the iPhone.

Where’s the payoff? Think about how the companies mentioned above grew. Exceeded expectations are quite talked about. It’s something you talk about with your friends, email your parents about, and blog. So if exceeding expectations is the core of what I call experience socialization, then that also makes it the de facto driver of social media optimization. This is an important and much neglected aspect to SMO and one that unfortunately did not make the 16 Rules of SMO, though I would argue certainly for businesses it is the foundation of it.

So what are the keys to exceeding user expectations? It all starts with knowing what those user expectations are and what is needed to meet them. Understanding the primary goal, secondary goal and latent goals of each segment is key. Exceeding expectations usually rests in those secondary and latent goals, though an amazing experience in achieving a primary goal can accomplish it.

For more I’d refer you to some earlier posts on these particular subjects:

Insight from my second blog post on how 2.0 is about exceeding expectations.
More on high impact segments .

More on user goal stages.

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Comments

Sometimes users don't know what they want until you show them. In your Apple example, you might not have even known that the pause feature was a possibility, but their foresight to include it introduces that new expectation. Now people might have higher expectations for competing products, and when they are not met, they will come back to the company that can satisfy them. As if to say to other companies, "what, your device doesn't pause when the headphones pull out?!"

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