Most small businesses realize the importance of meeting and exceeding client expectations. But when we strive to do this, it’s based on the expectation that we, as a business, have established. 

How do you react to clients who have expectations that you weren’t aware of, or expectations that seem unreasonable? Where do clients get these expectations?

In my experience, these types of client expectations come from four sources:

  1. The market norm
  2. The client’s first exposure to the type of product or service you offer
  3. Confusion caused by your business’ complicated structures
  4. Poor communication between you and the client
During my next series of blog posts, I will share these sources with you, show you how to contend with unknown expectations, and outline how you can stop perceiving your clients as difficult, irrational, or crazy. Win-win! Today, we start with the first source of potential client confusion – the market norm.

Part 1: Contending with the Market Norm:

When enough businesses in a similar market perform and offer similar services or products (in a similar way), it becomes the norm and clients establish expectations based on this norm.

Example: A bride-to-be is meeting and comparing four different photographers. Three of the photographers include the digital image files (digital negatives) with their standard coverage fee. You charge an additional fee for digital image files. Now, you have not met the client’s expectation and she is disappointed in your business.

How can you contend with the  market norm?

First, know what other businesses in your market are doing and consider evolving. If you find that the majority of businesses similar to yours are doing something a certain way, or offering something you don’t offer, you should consider offering that product or service as well.

The bride-to-be in the example here would probably be happy purchasing the digital images separately from the coverage, if you were the only photographer she met with. Since she thinks receiving digital files as part of her photography package is the norm, your ability to book her as a client is compromised. It’s still possible to book this bride, but it’s going to be more challenging since you unintentionally disappointed her.

I don’t believe all businesses in a market should be identical or commoditized, but you need to understand what clients consider “norms.” Set yourself apart by focusing on parts of your business that do not need to fit into a norm. And accept items that are the norm, rather than investing your energy in resisting them.

Your other option, to escape market norms, is to be completely abnormal. Create your own market, so clients can’t compare you to anyone else. Then, the only expectations they’ll have are the ones that you set for them.

About the Author

Peter Carlson’s outgoing, laid back, quirky personality is the main reason both brides and photographers love working with him. Through photography, he and his wife Whitney focus on the unique personalities of every couple as well as the joy and happy emotions that are felt on each wedding day. Photographers find their classes fun, inspirational, and easy to implement. Peter & Whitney run their own studio, Dove Wedding Photography, as well as The Collection and The Nashville Photography Class.

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