Breaking promises

There’s never a great time to break a promise to someone who’s paid you money, but…

To do it to EVERYONE on day one of my first ever course? 

That probably ranks as one of the worst.

Still, I had to do it.

Even worse, I was going back on one of the main “features” of the course – personal written feedback.

Turns out, I’d underestimated how long writing even a short personalised email would take.

(“How the hell was that ten minutes? Did I pass out?”)

How could I not realise this? I write emails for a sodding living!

Still, it was clear right from the off I couldn’t go on.

So I emailed all the lovely people who paid their £40 to let them know I would no longer be able to give them tailored written feedback.

I didn’t even offer them a refund!


What happened? Outcry? Complaints? Threats against my beloved Tunnocks?

None of that.

No one complained or even mentioned it.

In fact, my students are delighted!

(it feels weird typing the word “students” but at least it justifies my purchase of a tweed jacket)


You see, what I didn’t tell you was that, instead of written feedback, I started shooting screen capture videos of me talking through their work.

Not only was this easier on me and my delicate digits, the free-flowing nature of video means I’m able to offer even more insight to them on how to improve.

So, while the feature may have changed, the benefit didn’t.

Or, as I put it in lesson one of “Sent.”

People don’t buy THINGS, they buy TRANSFORMATIONS.

Students on my course bought “personal feedback”, not “typed words communicated via electronic mail”.

This is important.

It’s the same reason teenage boys didn’t stop watching Baywatch when the narrative dwindled… because that’s not why they watch it.

(Turns out they’re suckers for Hasselhoff-centric, coastline-based drama series. Who knew?)

It’s OK to make changes – even to paid offers – as long as the offer remains the same.

Not only does switching the feedback from “email” to “video” not change the offer of “Sent.”…

It makes it even BETTER.

Also, it makes it even more of a bloody bargain too. I usually charge £20 for a single video critique and they’ll get FIFTEEN of the bloody things… for only £40.

(And I’m not even including the value of all the lessons and video walkthroughs! OMG – what was I thinking?)

(You wish you’d joined now, don’t you?)

Running my first ever course was always going to be a work in progress, but that’s the power of having a clear transformation in your offer – it’s a snug safety blanket that allows you to switch things up if you need to.

Breaking my promise turned out to be a “win-win”. But only because I knew what mattered.

If I’d have said, “I’m no longer giving written feedback but, to make up for it, I’ll clean your fish tank for a month”, I’m pretty sure I’d have had complaints from the (probably) mostly non-aquarist crowd.

“I’ll teach you how to write an email that sounds like you” might be the worst boast in marketing, but it’s clear enough that, when I need to make a change, it allows me to come up with an alternative that keeps people happy.

The lesson?

Things change and, for the most part, people are OK with that.

As long as you keep your transformation in mind and clearly show how the change makes their life better or, at the very least not any worse, you’re ticking the “Am I doing the right thing?” box.

Because you’re focusing on your customers.

Hope that’s useful,

John Holt