What does It Mean to Under Promise and over Deliver? 6 Facts

If you’ve worked in marketing for any length of time, you’ve probably heard the phrase “under-promise and over-deliver.” And although it’s entertaining to use it as a marketing buzzword, how many people actually understand what it means? Or, more significantly, how to take use of it?

What does It Mean to Under Promise and over Deliver?

When a person under promises and over delivers, he or she sets a low standard and then exceeds it.

In a simple example, a delivery business may claim that something would be delivered by noon, so establishing the bar, and then instruct the driver to bring the item by ten in the morning, exceeding the customer’s expectations.

What does It Mean to Under Promise and over Deliver?

By keeping client expectations low and consistently exceeding them, a person or business will establish a positive reputation, according to this philosophy.

When someone makes grand claims and promises and then fails to deliver, buyers typically become upset and believe that misleading advertising has been conducted.

It may be detrimental to a firm’s reputation to consistently fall short of expectations, especially when the company itself sets such goals.

Customers are easily enraged by products that are habitually delivered late, projects that are never completed, and deadlines that are never reached. One method for avoiding this issue is to underpromise and overdeliver.

If, on the other hand, a corporation makes an understated promise, taking into consideration all of the circumstances, and then delivers early or above expectations, customers are left with a positive impression.

Typically, a business will consider the work or project at hand, estimate the amount of time needed to finish it, and then add more time to the customer’s estimate. For instance, a company may state that a project will be finished by Friday when it may be completed by Wednesday.

When a business decides to underpromise and overdeliver, there are several benefits. The first is that when they provide the completed product early, the client is pleased and will talk positively of the firm in the future.

Second, if there is a glitch or hiccup in the process, the organization has a built-in buffer and does not need to panic. In the above scenario, the company may not be able to meet its internal deadline of Wednesday, but the client will receive the project by Friday and not be the wiser.

To retain consumers and improve customer satisfaction, businesses may be urged to make fewer promises and deliver more. Those who want to use this strategy must be cautious, though. It is essential to establish and adhere to internal goals that are more rigorous than those presented to consumers.

It’s All About Perception

Perception is the basis of reality. Another term that you’ve probably heard before. In terms of marketing, this implies that how the public sees your product, service, or organization will have a substantial influence on how well it sells, the number of repeat customers you receive, and how people discuss your company.

People enjoy the sensation of obtaining more than they bargained for. More than what was “purchased.” Therefore, when you exceed people’s expectations, their perceptions begin to shift and a new reality arises. And the beauty of this concept is that it all returns to you, as you provided the product or service.

What does It Mean to Under Promise and over Deliver?

What impression is made if a customer’s credit card is declined? Instead of an advice on how to reduce knee soreness, A receives a guide on proper diet and a free consultation with a physiotherapist.

She feels that your organization deserves high recognition for being truthful, trustworthy, and compassionate. Obviously, you must ensure the quality of your products, but that is a separate issue. This approach can be utilized in a variety of ways.

Some Examples of How to Do It

Just now, we discussed how the under-promise, over-deliver principle causes people to have a favorable impression of you. However, what are some practical applications?

Remember that the objective is to give the impression to your prospects or customers that they are receiving more than they bargained for, and there are various methods to do this.

When you go out of your way to fix a customer’s problem, it creates a huge impression on customers who believe that most businesses are only interested in their own gain.

It might be a difficulty the consumer faced with your product or service, improper usage instructions, or any number of other issues. You must solve the problem as efficiently as possible.

Adding a Personal Touch — We have gotten so accustomed to automated systems that the mere presence of a real person may be perceived as “over-delivering.”

Free Gifts and Extras – Adding extras and free gifts to your offer increases the sense of value and casts a positive image on your brand.

Getting It There Quicker — If you sell tangible goods, something as simple as guaranteeing 5-day delivery and delivering it in 3 days can have a significant impact.

Sometimes, you may generate a favorable impression simply by avoiding exaggerated statements and being honest about your products and services. People dislike feeling “duped,”

So if you state that your fitness product can help them lose 20 pounds in a month or offer a 1,000 percent return on investment, you have generated expectations that are very hard to satisfy.

And what is the consequence of unfulfilled expectations? It’s a feeling you never want your clients to experience in relation to your business: disappointment. If you employ the under-promise and over-deliver tenet in your marketing, you will generate a positive impression of your firm and win the majority of the time.

The Problem with “Underpromise, Overdeliver”

Underpromise and overdeliver: Establish fair expectations and exceed them.

This adage has taken on the status of a mantra when it comes to customer satisfaction; these promises are the result of split-second judgments made while dealing directly with clients. This method has shifted to our internal work, such as when we collaborate with a partner, coworker, or supervisor.

That presents an issue.

Developing the ability to set acceptable expectations is a valuable skill. It is wise to avoid making unfulfillable promises. This demonstrates realism and modesty. But if we continue to treat our coworkers with this UPOD mentality, we are disregarding a dangerous flaw in the trust and psychological safety of our business.

It speaks to a type of organizational dysfunction

Where it is more important to look to be kicking asses than to have reasonable and realistic expectations dialogues. Regarding what we can and cannot accomplish and what is and is not under our power.

I frequently hear “underpromise and overdeliver” as a method to impress management, with the underlying worry that internal stakeholders may take advantage of the team if they overpromise. The team believes that being predictable is preferable to striving for more.

On the other side, there are stakeholders who fear the team will “get comfortable” if they establish reasonable (but more difficult to achieve) targets and are not compelled to surpass them.

An employee will quickly determine if they should game their objectives for self-preservation or whether it is safe to set tough goals.

This pressure pushes teams to be cautious, to “game” the goals, and to establish objectives they are certain of achieving. Whenever you observe this symptom, ask yourself, “What does this tell me about the team’s organization? And what does this tell me about failure risks?”

It is effective to set fair expectations and restrict work in progress. However, a company that prioritizes predictability above outcomes, as well as appearances and success theater, is walking a precarious tightrope.

What does It Mean to Under Promise and over Deliver?

Flipping UPOD on its head

What would it look like if teams vowed to perform their best and management promised to assist them? These commitments are fundamental to the organization’s mission.

Would you want a team’s manager to “underpromise” their support?

Now, a manager might “promise” that she will do her best to eliminate an obstacle, which is distinct from declaring she will do something she may not be able to achieve. The pledge to do her best (while being open and vulnerable) is potent.

Your business should attempt to provide a secure environment where…

  • Team members can set meaningful goals. Without fear of “losing” or “failing” in the eyes of their coworkers, team members are free to establish meaningful, even ambitious, goals. They should not feel the need to game goals to advance in the workplace.
  • Running into roadblocks is okay. In a pull system, new work begins when previous work is completed. There are no “promises” in the sense that individuals commit to move a batch of work through the system within a certain time frame. The guarantee is that the team will work diligently and transparently.

Frequently, I observe a less-experienced developer become enthusiastic about various concepts and make excessive promises. Certainly, this can create unrealistic expectations. Yes, kids eventually learn that making too many commitments (or pledges) will bite them.

However, is it not nice that they are excited? I’d rather have an eager individual who must learn to restrict their work progress than someone who manipulates the system out of fear of taking chances in the existing setting.

The term “realistic” implies that there is variety in the system. By padding goals to provide the idea that the squad often exceeds expectations, “Reality” is not generating a false feeling of predictability.

Teams are more likely to UPOD when they are motivated to “do what they claim they will do.” Is this truly what you wish to encourage? Perhaps the desire for predictability is fundamental to your organization. But if not, would you prefer UPOD and go at a slower pace, or would you rather capitalize on momentum when it arises (and assist teams at the lows)?

Tips for Dealing with Over-Delivery and Under-Promising

At its essence, project management involves establishing objectives and ensuring that they are met. There are several strategies to guarantee that you deliver what you claim, but managing expectations is one of the most critical.

First and foremost, you must comprehend the meaning of expectation management. Simply expressed, expectation management (in the context of project management) entails matching sponsor and stakeholder expectations with the project’s activities and outcomes.

Tom Peters, a business author and speaker, introduced the notion of under-promising and over-delivering to the definition of expectation management in 1987. The principle is straightforward: a pleasant surprise is preferable to an unpleasant one. In other words, stakeholders prefer to learn that their expectations were surpassed rather than not fulfilled. Despite the fact that the concept has become somewhat of a cliché in recent years, the message is still applicable to project managers in the twenty-first century.

If you’ve been missing deadlines or are just wanting to boost the efficiency of your project management, we’ve compiled a list of best practices for under-promising and over-delivering as a manner of managing expectations.

Rethink your relationship with clients

There is frequently underlying hostility between agencies and clients, which can be a big obstacle to the relationship’s success. Much of this is psychological in nature. Consider your clients as coworkers, business partners, or even friends as opposed to cash flow organizations.

When you view your clients as an extension of yourself, their successes will feel like your own and vice versa. Additionally, this eliminates the problematic mentality of “agency right, client wrong,” allowing for a more collaborative partnership. While your firm may have more creative intuition, the client has a deeper understanding of its business and target audience.

What does It Mean to Under Promise and over Deliver?

Because your interests will be aligned, a partnership-based approach to project management will guarantee that you exceed expectations. In addition, when you feel like you’re on the same side, it’s easier to sympathize with the disappointment of a broken promise, which allows you to make more cautious projections.

Create boundaries

To prevent the issue of overpromising and setting up stakeholders for disappointment, you must establish clear boundaries with your customers.

It is simple to fall prey to the “putting out flames” method of client interactions. When handling clients, you will encounter problems. To placate the client, ineffective leaders will instruct their staff to solve these issues promptly.

Not only is this an enormous time waste, but it also creates unhelpful client expectations. This method also assures that you do not treat your clients equally, but instead prioritize the most challenging ones.

By establishing limits with your clients, you may more effectively manage their expectations. Inform customers up front, for instance, that you have a 24-hour window to answer to their concerns.

If they contact you with a complaint, inform them that you’ve received it and that you’ll respond with a resolution within a day. Set aside time each day to address customer complaints, so that they do not consume your whole workday.

The Art of Managing Expectations

Under ineffective management, it’s easy to prioritize acquiring new clients above retaining existing ones. At the end of the day, the objective is not to win over a new customer with grandiose promises that you cannot keep, but to consistently amaze the clients you already have.

Using specific metrics throughout your organization is a smart method to determine what your team can realistically accomplish within a certain time frame. If you were able to complete X action items in X amount of time in the past, you may utilize that knowledge as a starting point when developing plans for customers.

A decent rule of thumb is to examine your past performance and make promises that are somewhat less than your track record in order to accommodate for any glitches.

If you frequently miss deadlines or don’t provide what you’ve promised, your clients will grow skeptical, more difficult to work with, and possibly seek out a competitor.

On the other side, if you don’t attain the moon and stars, but at least are upfront about your methods and progress, people will feel secure working with a trustworthy partner.

Honesty is the best policy

Now that you understand the meaning of managing expectations and a few golden guidelines for under-promising and over-delivering, you are prepared to plan. Integrity with oneself and clients is paramount in any situation.

A project management software is a terrific tool to track your company’s capabilities, allowing you to appropriately prepare for the scope of work for your next customer. Set up a live demonstration of Clarizen now to see how it may aid you.

What would “Keep Promises and Deliver” look like?

It’s about creating and keeping promises. It’s about stating “we’ll do our best on this” rather than “we’ll amaze you with this minor task.” Imagine a typical meeting. Consider all the “promises” that often emerge from the process. “I’ll follow up,” “I’ll investigate,” and “Oh, that’s a great idea.” Our coworkers have expectations. We are making obligations to one another, and we should honor those agreements.What does It Mean to Under Promise and over Deliver?

So, make lesser commitments. Perhaps you should down-promise, which is distinct from suggesting you should under-promise. And agree to learn based on the promises made.

The commitment is that we would be upfront with our work, do our best, support our people, and “work small.” Small batches are a natural method to underpromise, if we adhere to them. Delivering an increment to clients within one week is a pledge to “do your best” and “work small.”

When we adopt the attitude of “underpromise and overdeliver,” we tend to lose touch with the true meaning of a promise. We have a tendency to take commitments lightly.

You commit to concentrating, taking pride in your work, and learning.

We tend to lose touch with the significance of a commitment when we UPOD. We have a tendency to take commitments lightly. We tend to make too many promises, which leads to a decline in performance.

The promise to do the right thing must come from the top down. This will fail if your senior executives do not uphold their commitments to support, lead, and do the right thing. None of this will carry any weight.

“Keep Promises and Deliver” is about creating respect and faith in our coworkers’ ability to accomplish their best job by agreeing to focus and helping each other focus. Each of us is held accountable for learning.


Under promise and over deliver relates to providing more than what was first promised. Unfortunately, humans being people, some appear to believe that this entails promising a poor experience while providing a satisfactory one.

If you expect mediocrity and receive mediocrity that is somewhat less mediocre than you anticipated, it is not exactly a memorable experience.

Underpromise and overdeliver does not preclude you from promoting your firm and blowing your own trumpet. It does not imply that you must minimize successes or conceal rewards.

It simply implies that you are employing an age-old psychological tactic to make your consumers, clients, and prospects believe you are even greater than you actually are.


Delivering what you say you’re going to deliver impacts your personal credibility. And bonuses are given to people that over deliver. Putting all three together leads you to under promising and over delivering at the right level to enable the business, strengthen your personal brand and maximize your bonus.
To deliver in excess of a norm, standard, or requirement.
4 ways to avoid over-promising and under-delivering
  1. Pre-frame your promises. …
  2. Add a disclaimer. …
  3. If you are absolutely certain about the outcomes for your client, why not offer a money-back guarantee? …
  4. Another option is to offer to work until you get the promised results, if that’s sustainable for your business.
How to ‘overdeliver’ to your customers
  1. Think before you speak. Try not to get nervous about making the sale and let rhetoric override reason. …
  2. Cut yourself some slack. …
  3. Define success. …
  4. Communicate promises. …
  5. Make sure the customer knows that you have surpassed what you promised to do.
5/5 - (1 vote)
Pat Moriarty
Follow me

Leave a Comment