Have you ever surveyed your clients for opinions on your brand? Or asked a group to help you choose your new logo? You may have been shooting yourself in the foot.
Everyone has an opinion about everything, but that doesn't mean it's valuable to hear it (click to tweet). And in these situations specifically we ask the opinions of others because we are scared to make the wrong decision. The problem is, not all opinions are created equal. And by asking a novice, who might not be your target market, might not have any taste, or might not know the first thing about what your business should be trying to communicate, what you are really doing it trying to take the responsibility of making the wrong decision off of yourself and onto someone else.
So when should you ask for it, when should you listen to it, and when should you ignore it and go with your own ideas instead?
Here's when requesting opinions in these situations is a bad idea:
People asked to give feedback are in a different mindset than potential buyers, even if they are your ideal clients.
Opinions in the abstract just aren't the same as real-world action.
I once took a program where group feedback was solicited often. In one exercise we all came up with names for a paid workshop we might host. After the initial brainstorming, a few people would share their workshop-naming options and the room, with a show of hands, would share whether they would pay to attend these workshops, based on the names. Dozens of hands would shoot up for one or the other, resulting in the business owner feeling confident that many people would pay to attend a “Find Your Passion Matrix” workshop, for example.
But when the business owner actually hosted the workshop, none of the people who supposedly really wanted to attend were willing to pay for it. They had a hard time filling the event.
When you are asked for your opinion, you are either in a critical mindset or a supportive mindset, depending on the relationship. When I was a real estate agent in New York years ago, I noticed a clear pattern: the friend that the client brought along to view apartments was usually much more critical of the spaces, I assume because they felt it was their job to find the flaws. In group environments I’ve found the opposite: few people want to stand out as critical, so there is often a lot of group encouragement that may actually push someone in the wrong directions.
In neither situation is the critic in the actual position of a buyer. When you are actually making a decision to part with your funds, you are in a self-centered mindset. How is this going to help me? Does this address my needs? Does it solve my problem enough that I’m willing to part with my hard-earned dollars to get it? It’s difficult to manufacture these primal feelings, much like it’s hard to play poker without actual cash on the line.
Any feedback solicited from people who are not your ideal client is not only worthless, it can actually be a hindrance
Let’s say you are a coach or a consultant for women business owners, and your husband doesn’t like your name/logo/message. Why did even you ask him?! I don’t care if he hates the name: He is not your target client, and therefore his opinion is worth less than nothing to the conversation.
If you ask for feedback from people whose opinions you respect, either you are unsure about your own feelings, you need their approval, or both. When your spouse, sibling, or friend then tells you that they don’t like what you’ve presented, it is that much harder to move forward with confidence and power—even if they are not anything close to your ideal client. You brand needs your 100 percent commitment to blossom in the world. A business that doesn’t have your confidence to back it up is going to struggle to find its footing.
But if you take the feedback, you are likely to end up with a watered-down version of what your brand wants to be. Adjust to make your spouse happy and you may put your target client to sleep.
Group feedback waters down bold brands
When you are building a highly differentiated brand, the goal is to attract die-hard fans. As we say on our homepage, “Being loved by some means being misunderstood, and even disliked, by others.” When you ask for feedback from the crowd, you are essentially looking for ways to make your brand palatable to the masses[/tweet_quote] , which is the opposite of a highly differentiated brand that stands out from the crowd.
Take it from me, a partner at Worstofall Design. When we first started I was pitching my services in networking groups full of lawyers and insurance salespeople. I got a lot of confused looks and questions about the validity of our company. And we were first starting out, so we really didn't have it all together yet.
But if I had taken into account the (unsolicited) feedback we received, we may have renamed our company Best of All Design! Instead we stuck to our vision, and the value of our name actually grew over time. Our brand was never meant to appeal to everyone, and that should never be the goal of any small business owner. Instead, we want to inspire curiosity, excitement, anger—anything that will create an emotion that is memorable and will inspire action. The committee may not have understood the name, but in the real world the brand magnetically attracts the exact kind of clients we want: clients who see their boldness in our brand and are inspired to be bolder by seeing what we’ve done.
Feedback, focus grouping, and testing are useful steps to take when you are about to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars ordering products or advertising on a large scale. Small service businesses, which need only a few high-paying clients to do very well and live the life they want, do not need outside opinions to build a brand. You need to look inside and trust yourself and your expertise. If you don’t, how will those high-paying clients ever trust you? (click to tweet)