Every now and then, I stumble upon a timeless concept that remains relevant for years after I first blogged about it. The idea of loving your haters is one of those concepts. So with Valentine’s Day just around the corner and social media guru Jay Baer’s similarly themed Hug Your Haters on shelves in a couple of weeks, I thought this might be the perfect time to revisit a pair of posts I wrote back in 2007 — one for my own (old) blog and one for Drew McLellan’s long-running Drew’s Marketing Minute blog, both titled “Love Your Haters”. These two companion pieces appear here, more or less in their original form, as part of my look back at A Decade in Digital.
LOVE YOUR HATERS (PART 1)
Originally published on June 28, 2007
If some people love your brand, I’ll guarantee that some other people hate it. I don’t care how good you think you are, or even how good you really are. Some people hate you. Some people may even love to hate you.
This is actually a good thing, especially in an age during which most consumers probably don’t devote much brainpower to your brand at all. In fact, your harshest critics are probably one of your best sources for honest feedback and suggestions for positive change.
So what are you doing to get closer to your haters? To listen to them, involve them in your business, to show them that you really do care what they think and that you’re always looking to improve your offering.
Many businesses have gotten reasonably good at loving the people who already love them back — with loyalty programs, exclusive access, insider deals and all sorts of customer relationship management programs. But the smartest marketers will dedicate just as much (if not more) effort and budget to building programs that make the people that hate them “part of the brand family.”
At a minimum, you’ll gather some insights that can directly impact the future of your business. Do it right, and you stand to gain a whole lot more. You may find that your fiercest haters can turn — over time and with the right nurturing — into some of your most loyal, most vocal supporters.
LOVE YOUR HATERS (PART 2)
Originally published on November 20, 2007
I’ve discovered a surefire way to get a room full of marketers to go quiet. Just bring up the notion of reaching out and bonding with the consumers that hate their brand the most. Just a few weeks ago, I suggested this very thing to a client. You could hear a pin drop in that room.
Now, I’ve written about the notion of “loving your haters” before (ed. that’s the post right above this one in this rerun) and to me it seems like a no brainer. You seek out the people who are your most vocal detractors and you listen — and I mean really listen — to all the reasons they don’t like you and how they think you might improve. You engage them directly, show them why you do things the way you do them, and make them full fledged partners in helping you turn around. You actually implement some of the things that they’d like to see.
At a minimum, you get some great ideas for how you can make your business better. Beyond that, you might even earn yourself some new customers, committed fans who feel like they were part of the solution.
After all, isn’t that why people complain in the first place? Not simply to let you know you’ve let them down but also to prod you along the path toward better business. Right?
I admit that I live inside the social media “echo chamber” where any conversation — even disagreement (maybe disagreement most of all) — is good conversation. And I’ll also admit that, out there in the real world, not every detractor has your best interests in mind; some people really do want to see you go down. But if someone has taken the time to let you know that you’ve let them down — by calling your customer support line, by writing a letter, by complaining to their sales rep or (increasingly) by writing a negative blog post, uploading a video to YouTube or starting a negative thread in an online forum — isn’t that exactly the kind of person you should engage?
McDonalds did this very thing earlier this year, when they put together a small panel of health- conscious moms and asked them to provide their unvarnished feedback about the restaurant and its menu choices. Was this a risky move? You bet — after getting a bit of an inside look at McDonalds any one of these moms could have walked away with a worse impression of the brand, and gone on to tell their entire network of (real world and online) friends about it. But one look at the women’s public and (to my knowledge) unedited journals show that the gamble paid off. That’s some pretty powerful marketing, if you ask me.
And here’s the thing — you don’t need to be a Fortune 100 company to do this kind of thing. I’d bet that any business — no matter how small — can find five or six unhappy customers or (even better) former customers who left after a bad experience. Find them. Make contact. Bring them in. Let them know what you’re doing and why. But most importantly, get them to talk about what they would do differently and how they think their recommended changes would benefit your current customers — and win you new ones.
What’s the alternative? Let the feedback get worse and worse until you have a real problem on your hands? Sure, I suppose that could work…
So think about it — what are some of the ways your company can partner with its biggest critics to have real, positive impact on your business? And if anyone out there is already headed down this path, I’d love to hear your stories.