Feedback is the cornerstone of community-oriented, kumbaya-style blogging. Like a beautifully polished mirror, we take our best ideas from the wants, needs, and desires of our readers.
So as we all know, the smartest thing content creators can do is to solicit feedback. If our readers unsubscribe, cancel, or stomp off in a huff, we want to know why so we can make our content better.
Actually, I don’t think so.
I recently found out that the famously cranky marketing writer Dan Kennedy doesn’t give out those “tell me how I can improve” cards when he gives a talk. He’s interested in one thing and one thing only: how much did he sell. (Kennedy long made his living by selling information products on the speaking circuit.)
I find myself agreeing with Kennedy with disturbing frequency these days. Although this bit of behavior goes against what 98% of people will advise you to do, I’m finding that his approach is actually followed by most of the successful business owners I know, especially online.
You tend to move toward what you focus on
I don’t believe in the “Law of Attraction,” but I do believe in a basic tenet of good driving. If you put your focus on a certain point in the road, you tend to steer the car there, consciously or not.
Focus on the wall and you will tend to hit the wall.
Focus on the center of the lane just ahead of that tight little curve and you’re much more likely to nail it gracefully.
When you focus on complaints from people who don’t like you, your natural tendency is to steer your blog (and your business) in a direction that will make it more appealing to them.
Why would you want to do that?
The red velvet rope
Before I started a blog or knew any bloggers, I was a fan of a business writer named Michael Port and his book Book Yourself Solid. Port teaches solopreneurs how to market their businesses without wanting to shoot themselves. I found his ideas very helpful when I was getting started.
In chapter one, Port asks readers to put together a “red velvet rope policy.” In other words, a well-defined understanding of who you want to work with, and just as important, who you don’t want to work with.
Would I rather spend my days working with incredibly amazing, exciting, supercool, awesome people who are both clients and friends, or spend one more agonizing, excruciating minute working with barely tolerable clients who suck the life out of me?
Seems kind of simple when he puts it that way, doesn’t it?
He doesn’t say, “Don’t work with evil people.” It’s not about dividing the world into the Good and the Bad.
It’s more like dividing the world into “good fit for me” and “bad fit for me.” Your repulsive toad may be someone else’s Prince Charming.
So a client I may find “high maintenance” and on the No list could be, in your eyes, “results-oriented with great attention to detail” and be a resounding Yes.
The right kind of feedback
It’s not that I don’t believe that feedback can be helpful. But most people who criticize you aren’t ever going to be a good fit for what you have to offer.
They may not be in the market, at all, for what you’re selling. They may be looking for a very different personality or style. They may love text, when your best medium is audio. They may love audio, when your best medium is text.
If your product is the Blue Man Group of your industry, and you’re talking with a Siegfried and Roy customer, you’re not likely to ever make them happy.
So you might want to ignore their parting feedback about how your site would be a lot better with more glitter, white sequins, and dangerous carnivorous animals.
The very best kind of feedback is along the lines of “I wish you offered this so I could buy it from you.” Also good is “I am so frustrated trying to find a resource meeting this description, do you know where I could find one?” and you realize you’d be the perfect person to build it.
And of course, negative comments from people who are otherwise a great fit are also often very useful. It’s called “constructive criticism.” Just be sure it’s not actually passive aggression in disguise.
“Is this person my customer?”
This is one of the most important questions to ask yourself when you get a negative remark.
If someone’s angry with you for having the audacity to offer a product for sale, it’s productive (and sanity-preserving) to ask yourself, “Is this person my customer?”
If someone quits your email newsletter with a 47-point diatribe on how lame you are, it’s productive to ask yourself, “Is this person my customer?”
If someone leaves a comment about all the reasons they wanted your blog post to be on a different topic entirely, it’s productive to ask yourself, “Is this person my customer?”
There’s a good chance everyone would be happier if they just went back to Siegfried and Roy.