Is It A Bad Idea To Build Anticipation?

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The wait is killing me…

There’s a software company that I love, but that has been a little frustrating the last few years.

Maybe it’s only been a couple years.

Maybe even a year.

But definitely about 5-6 times over a period they’ve sent little notices about:

  • New upgrade coming soon…
  • Big changes coming…
  • These changes will make your life better…

I guess they have succeeding in getting my attention, but now it’s getting to a weird place. It’s not so much attention and anticipating, but frustrating and fear.

It’s frustrating that they’re building and building and the result isn’t coming.

And fear because now I’m afraid that the “big changes” have become so convoluted that the new product will be worse than the existing product.

Why We Build Anticipation

I can’t pinpoint exactly why we build anticipating. I guess to make the payoff bigger?

I’m thinking about two industries where anticipation seems to be really important:

  • Movies
  • Music

The focus in those industries right now, at least it seems so for the big events, is to build anticipation so that first week sales are as big as possible.

Then kind of see how it goes.

And I get that. You want to blow the doors off with as many sales as you can. And when anticipation is high you’ll likely get a lot of sales.

It’s kind of like Christmas for kids. The anticipation builds and they finally get what they want. There’s a huge emotional reaction and that makes parents feel pretty good.

How Anticipation Works Today

In the movie industry it seems that the trailer is released a couple months before the debut of the movie. Then as the debut gets closer the stars go out and make the press rounds.

It’s pretty similar for the music industry. A single is released a few months before the album. That singles builds until it’s right at about #1 on the charts for the debut of the album.

And after the single starts hitting a little bit the singer goes on a tour with the press. They hit all the late night shows. Then maybe even a week or two before the album comes out they release two more songs to all the streaming channels and maybe a video or two.

They have it down to a science. All for the reason of selling as many albums as possible that first week or first few weeks.

Why Anticipation Might Fail Today

But I think there is a trick to building anticipation today.

It can’t go on for too long.

And it seems like things are pretty much done and ready to go before the anticipation building begins.

Back to  that software company. I know they started building anticipation before the project was done.

Why would they do that?

They were probably excited. Lots of great ideas for changes. They got the ball rolling. They were bursting at the seams to share their excitement so they shot off a few emails to their clients. Maybe even shared a few things on social media.

That’s where anticipation can go wrong. Software, design and just about everything like that can take a long time to finish. We usually are wrong about the timelines. Then we jump the gun with anticipation and people get frustrated.

And that’s not to mention the fact that we feel more impatient than ever.

If you tell me something big is coming it better be coming soon. Don’t say it’s coming then never get back to me. Don’t leave me with no details.

With anticipation you also run the risk of letting people down.

There is something to be said about a slow burner. Some of the best selling movies have been slow burners. Same with albums and even singles.

Same with many businesses.

Three Cheers For Continuous Change!

I’m a fan for continuous change.

Let’s just focus on that software company for a second. Instead of talking about big changes and setting themselves up to frustrate people and then let them down they could just focus on always being in change mode. Always making little changes.

They can still have big ideas, but they can implement them over time. Not all at once. Just continuous change. Then they can gather feedback. They can tweak. The customer won’t be blindsided. They’ll have time to adapt to the change and won’t freak out.

It’s the same with web design. If you go for a big change you run the risk of losing the good you have now. You’ll do more harm than good. And you’ll get into the mindset that the site is “done”. And that’s never really the case with web design.


Are you thinking of building anticipation for something? I totally get it. You’re probably excited about an idea. You want to share that excitement. But unless you’re done with the thing you’re building anticipation for then it’s a good idea to hold off.

That’s kind of the other side. When that “thing” we have is done we want to share it right away. That’s when the time for patience comes. Get it done. Then wait and build anticipation. There’s less chance for frustration. It’s done so no delays.

Anticipation is a good thing, but only when done correctly.

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