In business, the common reaction to any of your detractors is to combat them or disengage with them. Many see them as the “enemy”. When trying to build credibility within your brand, you must resist these urges and embrace them. The same people who are critical of you can become your greatest source of honest insights. A brand can not please everyone, but they can stay engaged with everyone. Here are a few benefits of this approach:
• Shows respect – Almost everyone is looking for respect and to be heard. By being combative or ignoring your detractors, shows a great lack of respect. The danger is, often they are your customers and by treating your customers like this, is a sure way of damaging your brand. Respect is not about always agreeing, but about honest listening and seeing the valid points that are brought up. Instead of reacting in a defensive posture, be open and show respect for their viewpoints. A very wise person who is head of a global company keeps a piece of paper in his pocket at all times. It reads, “What if they’re right?”. This reminds him that in any given situation, he could be wrong and to be humble enough to learn from them.
• Shows candor – By allowing the opposition to voice their opinion, you in turn, are free to state your case. With today’s social media, it’s dangerous to ignore a trend or a group that is critical of your brand. “Silence means consent” is more true now than ever. This doesn’t mean you go on the attack. Remember, these are either your customers or they are listening in on the conversation and are judging you accordingly. No one likes a bully in person or in business. This doesn’t mean you are a doormat either. Instead of telling them why they are wrong, your approach should be one of clarifying what you are trying to do and it may not have been executed or communicated perfectly. Dialog is encouraged instead of arguing. You are able to learn as well as stand for what you believe in and find common ground.
• Shows heart – What I mean by this is, your heart is in the right place. By embracing your detractors, your brand proves that it is all about the customer and trying to fulfill a mission to serve them better. It doesn’t mean perfect or that you’ll agree on everything, but even your harshest critics will have to admit that your intentions and efforts are genuine and you’re not out just to exploit them to make money. People and customers want to know that your brand is more than just money. Today’s brand needs to have their core purpose be soul deep and to be about making life better.
One of the hidden blessings of customers and critics pointing out something they dislike is at least they care enough to say something. This means they care enough about your brand to point out an area of improvement. If they didn’t care about your brand or industry, they would just quietly walk away and buy somewhere else and you would not even know they left or why. With enough of these “silent” detractors leaving your brand, eventually, you’re out of business or become irrelevant. So my recommendation is to reach out, hug your critics and engage in dialog with them. They will become your best R&D and marketing department you’ve ever had.