February 3, 2022

How do you get someone else to tell you what they really think about something

Caesar (according to Shakespeare) was particularly upset that his mate Brutus also stuck the knife in. Never was there a better example of a relationship that was one thing on the surface but something very different underneath.

I am not going to be talking about pollical murder today, unless you consider inflicting dodgy marketing on your customers as a form of extreme violence.

I want to discuss the issue of feedback. How do you get someone else to ell you what they really think about something. And this is a concern that is crucial to marketing. If you are developing marketing ideas for your business, chances are you will show them around for people to comment to help support (or challenge) your thinking. Your motivation is to make sure your idea is going to work, as best you can.

But there are at least three reasons why that feedback may be far less useful than you imagine. Even if some of these people are people you like and respect (your own Brutuses, or is it Bruti?)

First, if they are alongside you in your business they may share the factor I mentioned in my last blog [Link] in that they also know what you are trying to say, and thus can’t judge the idea from an outside world perspective. They know all about your product and might miss crucial “gaps” in your messaging. Gaps that are central to any meaning you want your customers to get.

Second, if you are the boss, they will want to please you. To make you happier. You control their future career so there is little benefit in being honest to the point of causing offence. It may be they think you came up with the idea (or at least have partially approved it) and so if they take a contrary view, you may find that frustrating or even annoying. Confirmation bias is a well known human trait, and it means that if you yourself already hold a view you may be unwilling to change it. They may judge simply that its safer for them to go with the flow of what you seem to want.

Third, at its most simple people want to be “nice”. Friends and family are prone to this – why upset a perfectly cordial relationship by stepping into a debate that may prove controversial? They wont view the success of your marketing as worth harming the relationship for. Any criticism may be dressed up in positives, and you may be listening so hard to these you miss the negative that snuck in among them.

How do you get better feedback? On anything. Including marketing ideas?

First you need to ask for explicitly for honesty and show (over time) that you value it and appreciate it. Second, do it through a third party. It may be better you ask someone else far more junior to show it around for opinions. Third, curate a network of peers who you can turn to for down to earth and direct feedback. People who are not likely to prioritise other concerns when asked for an opinion. Perhaps do this on a reciprocal basis.

These are the underlying thoughts behind Sensecheck.com. A ready to use panel of peers from whom you can get an honest second opinion. Members are screened for their business experience but give you feedback anonymously to avoid any barriers to the truth as they see it. For sure they are not too close to your product, and can judge the message from an outsiders perspective.

Don’t get caught out like our old friend Julius and suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune and hope for the best in your marketing activity? Oops. I may have mixed my Shakepeare plays there, sorry.

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