3 Types Of 'Tough Feedback' To Grow Your Business Faster
Newborns are harder than hard work
The hardest thing that my wife and I ever did was becoming parents to our first child. The first few weeks felt like running a daily marathon mixed with sleep deprivation, hourly baby feeding and nappy changing.
Quickly, we had to work out why our daughter was crying.
Was it food, illness, or just because she felt like letting off steam? Even though it was hard at first, something surprising happened: we grew a lot tougher in a short space of time. We didn’t worry so much. We worked out why she was crying. We even started to enjoy it.
So how did we get through it?
We listened and responded to our baby's feedback
Just like growing a baby, when we grow our own business, it’s a good idea to seek more, regular feedback. That might seem obvious to say, but the reality is that many of us can be reluctant to seek the depth of feedback that we need.
Hiding away is easier
It feels easier to not ask for feedback. We don’t want to feel criticised. We don’t want to change things because it means slowing down. Just the thought of re-doing our website or re-developing that new app fills us with dread. We just want to get on and get customers buying, right?
It’s not just startups and small businesses that feel this
I have worked for large businesses who said things like “we don’t have time”, “we don’t have money”, “we know our customer already”. It was no surprise that some of their marketing turned out to be pretty unmemorable.
Yet the reality is that slowing down speeds up business
When we take a little time out to fix a problem, the sales process is smoother, and customers buy from us quicker.
That’s why we'll explore three types of feedback
(There will be an article about nonverbal feedback and behaviour, but that’s for another day.) For today though, let’s look at why these three sources of feedback are so important:
1. Feedback from outsiders (like friends and family)
2. Feedback from your target audience
3. Feedback from experts
Firstly, let’s look at feedback from a surprising, yet invaluable source:
Feedback from outsiders
Outsiders are people who aren’t your customers. They're people like your mum, your wife, a close friend – anybody who is never going to buy your product. Yet, why is feedback from outsiders so important if they’re never going to buy from you?
The wisdom of ignorance is a powerful thing
If you can show a tagline, a pitch proposal or a new product to someone who doesn’t know much about what you do, and they can understand exactly what you are trying to say, then you have reached a very good place.
Your marketing doesn’t just work for your audience
Instead, your marketing becomes simple enough for any human to understand immediately. And in marketing, that can be a rare thing.
Recently, my mother-in-law gave me some feedback
Before I launched my website, she said: “The white font on a yellow background is hard to read”. My father said, "There are too many bullet points on your homepage, I don’t have time to read all of them.” Neither is going to be a customer, but they were right. And my website looked better for it.
Yet, outsiders can only help you so much
That’s why you need a deeper level of feedback. And that comes from customers. They are undoubtedly the most important source of feedback. Any decent marketer worth their salt will tell you this. If you can’t say it to customers simply, then you’ll struggle to acquire new ones at the speed you need.
Start with at least 3 customers
Even 3 customers can tell you whether your new product or marketing is going to resonate. I like meeting them in a cafe face-to-face, but surveys, emails or the phone work fine too. Without doing this basic level of research, you're just taking a gamble. And when it's your business, gambling is not a healthy strategy.
Yet, there is one way of thinking that stops us from listening to feedback. And that is how personally we take feedback.
The dangers of taking feedback personally
I used to hate taking feedback on things I’d worked hard on. When people said things like “I kind of get it”, “I think I see what you’re saying” or “it’s not for me." Or worst of all: “I just don’t understand”. I’d often need to go for a walk just to calm down, and nurse my pummelled ego.
Feedback is a gift wrapped in pain
Today, my mindset is different. I see feedback as ‘corrective’, not personal. I see feedback dispassionately. I see my work like an app that needs updating. Yes, it is inevitable to take feedback a little personally, but the more you get used to learning from feedback, the better your work becomes.
It’s tempting to think that you know better
Thinking that you know better is dangerous. Let me give you an example. When I moderated focus groups on advertising campaigns, I remember one or two instances when clients laughed at their own customers from behind a one-way screen. Not only was it offensive to laugh (yes, some customers did hear them), it showed that their advertising needed improving.
Yet, sometimes feedback can leave us scratching our heads
However hard we listen, sometimes we don’t know exactly what to change, or how literally we should take feedback. And what if some of the feedback doesn’t feel quite right deep down in our gut? That’s when we need to turn to our final source of feedback.
Feedback from experts
The reason I buy Apple computers is that if anything goes wrong, Apple has a team of experts who are there 24/7 to help sort things out (and they really know their stuff). And when it comes to improving our marketing of a new product or service, we need experts to add clarity.
(And by experts, I mean marketing experts in web design, user experience, copywriting, marketing strategy, or graphic design. It really depends on what you are creating.)
However, their feedback will tell you precisely what to change
They’ll explain why customers don’t like something. They can tell you which phrases of our sales page to change and what to change them to. And they will give you the confidence that you need to make those changes.
Yet, not everybody knows a marketing expert
And that's why it is important to hustle! Ask friends and friends of friends if they know anybody who works in marketing. Offer them of a coffee and a slice of cake, or even an Amazon voucher. It’s worth going out of your way and even paying for a little advice. A little expert advice can take your marketing a loooong way.
Fortunately, we live in a small world
Over seven billion people live on this planet and marketing is an incredibly popular profession. Every business has somebody who has experience in marketing. Friends and family might also know somebody who works in marketing. All you need to do is call, direct message, or text. Just remember: hustle, hustle, hustle.
So that’s it, right?
Outsiders, customers, experts: 3 sources of feedback to improve our marketing. Well not quite. There’s one thing to watch out for…
Feedback fatigue is when you ask the same people too often to help you out too much. You can tell that you’re doing this because they don’t reply quickly to your emails (or in some cases not at all).
In some cases, they are too busy (aren’t we all)
In other cases, your burning desire for feedback is someone else’s lowest priority. And sometimes you push your luck and end up annoying people by asking for too much.
I leave one- two months between asking for help
We need to create space when we ask for feedback because it shows that we respect people’s time. Not only this, it forces you to find new people, who won’t be fatigued by what want to share with them. And that's a good thing.
New people are always good
If you ask the same people too often, they get to know you too well, and their feedback can feel a little predictable (even a little stale). Mixing it up with fresh faces gives you fertile feedback. A bit like adding fresh compost to your flowerbed.
Fertile Feedback is easy to spot
You just know when you have good quality, fertile feedback. You’ll see it in the words people use: lovely emotive words, and long juicy descriptions about what they like or don’t like. And you’ll probably even feel a little bit disappointed when they don’t like it. And you’ll rejoice when they do.
Infertile feedback is easy to spot too
If you get short one liners without emotion or a flat tone of voice like a moody teenager, your feedback is not fertile enough. If it doesn’t challenge you, toughen you up or make you feel anxious (like the sounds of a newborn), you probably need to talk to someone else.
So, what’s the next thing we can do?
Firstly, I’d read the Spartan Research free eBook that you get when you sign up to the newsletter. This report goes into depth about who to talk to, the questions to ask and how to do it for little-to-no money. It’s a lot of thinking, simplified into 21 pages.
Then get your fertile feedback from outsiders, customers, and experts
Talk to your Nan, a marketing expert, and especially talk to your customers. Try not to take it personally – feedback sharpens your marketing and toughens us all. If anything, getting feedback becomes a little addictive the more you ask for it.
Well, that’s it for now.
Over and out, tally ho and toodle pip :o)
Simon | The Chief Brain