Strategic Over-delivery: When more is more

Strategic Over-delivery: When more is more

Hi there!

Have you ever found yourself over-servicing a client?

I bet you did. As did I, and most of our industry peers.

Let's roll ahead.

Deadline met.

You worked your ass off to deliver above and beyond.

Your team is strained.

Profit margin - largely gone.

But hey, aren’t we're investing in our future — the client relationship and the reel?

And now the best part:

For some reason your client ins’t fully satisfied, and didn't fully recognize you going an extra mile…

"what an ungrateful bastard…", you'll think.

The resentment builds.

But you'll repeat.

Burnout in 5, 4, 3…

A recent client conversation inspired the first part of this insight, a couple episodes back. But it's definitely worth digging deeper — because that's one of the make or break joints of your venture.

Let's choose precision over profusion, learn to deliver adding value, not volume, and getting it recognized.

Let's choose precision over profusion, and learn to deliver adding value, not volume, and getting that noticed.

Time to challenge some of the unspoken creative industry truths:

  1. Over-delivering is good! And often necessary to retain clients.

  2. We consider exceeding expectations as a direct path to client satisfaction and increased referrals.

  3. Over-delivery leads to long-term client relationships and more business.

  4. Over-servicing is our competitive advantage

  5. Clients appreciate and always recognize the extra effort that goes into overdelivering.

Sounds familiar.

But is it really true?

Sounds familiar. But is it really true?

In fact, over-servicing your clients often does exactly the opposite:

  1. It does not provide real value to the client or comes across unrecognized

  2. Strains yourself and your team relationship

  3. Hurts profitability

  4. Diminishes your value

  5. Deteriorates your relationship with the client, by setting unsustainable expectations.

This points to a few reasons we over-service:

  1. Unquestioned assumptions that it's the right thing to do

  2. It's because of our drive for excellence. Not a bad thing, huh? And it feels good after all.

  3. Often, it's fear of rejection, rather than ambition

  4. It's poor service design, and substandard communication. Specifically — the expectation-delivery dynamics.

When more is more — delivering strategically

Now, don’t get me wrong—overdelivering can be a smart move when done strategically.

"Over-deliver by design, not by default."

Over-deliver by design, not by default.

In order to exceed expectations, and do so in a way that's good for you and the client, a few things must happen:

1 — Excess isn’t excellence.

Identify what client values. Value is subjective. You can't force it down the client's throat. You can only uncover it (shoutout to Blair Enns, who's decent note exactly about this topic hit my mailbox today. No sparring, all agreed). And you better do it well — without it, you're blind. In reality, clients may value precise fulfillment of their needs over additional, unrequested services.

2 — Exceed expectations, not your budget.

Is $1000 a lot?

Who knows. Without context nobody can tell.

In sales, we have anchoring. And even though we all know about it, still it works. Why don't we apply the same to service design?

Set clear expectations—this is where real client satisfaction begins. If the scope is unclear, the boundaries are unset, and everything is as volatile as a quantum soup, you can work your ass off, and set yourself on a path for failure. Only clarity around these things can serve as a reference for the client to recognize you going an extra mile, towards where they want to go.

3 — Expectations set, expectations met.

Communicate effectively about where we all are in the process, budget and in relationship to expectations. Then, obviously ship your stuff, and overdeliver on the things that value to the client, just by a reasonable bit, and gracefully bring it up.

4 — Exceed Precisely.

The best finding? When the value is crystal clear, it can turn out exceeding expectations may cost you but a penny. When it isn't — you'll burn the budget, the team, and some relationships.

Exceed Precisely.

OK, now your mind is probably blown — as it should be.

Next time you're tempted to throw in the kitchen sink, remember — smarter, not harder.

Did we fully explore the subject?
By no means! I have a feeling we’re just scratching the surface.

Think none of your peers need to hear this? Think again.

Think about one person that may find it insightful and actually benefit from this insight. Because I didn't invent it. It's coming from observations of the industry and large chunk from my own experience running a studio. I wish I knew some of these things much earlier in the path.


Keep crafting the future, but do it wisely!

Stay prolific and till the next one.

Thinking bigger, seeing farther, making impact. Insights into building and evolving creative businesses and B2B brands. Coming at you from "the fast thinker", Patrick Kizny. #b2b #branding #marketing #creative