When you’re starting or changing aspects of your business, it is natural to want to get opinions from other people. Whether it’s your website, logo or social media styling, it’s understandable to look for validation so you feel you’re not making a mistake or risking damaging your business or brand.

BUT this comes with a very large health warning. Inviting the opinions of multiple people from all aspects of your life: your mum, Facebook groups, your partner, a friend or your accountant, can be problematic! What you’re doing is creating a committee and trying to interpret and action all of their opinions, no matter how diverse. Not only are you setting yourself an impossible task, it’s also dangerous! But why? And does that mean you can’t get anyone’s opinion?

Well first, no it doesn’t mean you should avoid canvasing opinions. However, I strongly caveat that by saying, getting in touch with your own intuition around your brand is essential and extremely powerful. In addition, inviting input from the right people, in the right way is valuable. Which just means you should do it in a managed way and be very aware of the pitfalls…

 

1. Opinions are like a@#eholes!

When people give a conscious opinion, they do it rationally, but when they make a purchase decision, they do it emotionally. Or at least that is a leading factor. The issue with asking for input is people have time to consider. Not only do the feel compelled to respond, they often see if as their duty to offer ‘constructive’ feedback. That is to say the helpfully point out the areas where they see ‘opportunities for improvement’. For example, you share your logo in a group of 100K+ Facebook users and…. the font is hard to read, it’s too small, it doesn’t say EXACTLY what you do! Maybe it doesn’t but it doesn’t need to either, because it will almost never be seen out of context and isolated like this in the ‘real world’.

But what qualifies them to make these comments? Do they reflect your ‘ideal client’ profile, are they an expert in communications or design or branding? To try and answer these questions I suggest a few things to qualify the answers:

  • Be wary of asking for feedback in a ‘contrived’ out of context setting. And if you do, include some information about the type of person you want to answer and who your product or service is for.
  • Don’t asked close ended questions; get people to explain their response so you can understand what’s driving it.
  • Be specific about what you want to know – a ‘like or dislike’ question just turns into a beauty parade with no substance.

 

2. Are you my people?

Every business and brand has a target market, audience, ideal client, avatar, whatever you prefer to call it. This group of people share certain traits, they are motivated by and care about similar things. That’s who your brand is for and everything about your presentation has been designed to talk to them. If you don’t then get feedback from them then you’re getting feedback from someone the brand was never intended for in the first place. There’s a very good chance said feedback will be negative and will be skewed as a result.

And it’s not just about ‘stay-at-home mums’, ‘men over 30’ or ‘women in business’. Your ideal client profile should run deeper than that into their psychographic profile: what worries them, what motivates them, how they want to project themselves in the world, their values? If you know who that person is, you can make sure you ask for their feedback specifically to ensure you’re speaking to them appropriately.

 

3. This camel’s got the hump

When you get lots of quantitative feedback, especially from people whose opinion isn’t necessarily relevant, the temptation is to try to incorporate all the feedback into one solution. I like to call the resulting design schmozzle a camel, aka a horse that was designed by a committee. Something that could and should have been quite beautiful tries to do too many things and incorporate to many conflicting opinions, needs and desires. The results is some really unattractive features i.e. 2 humps and a pretty unaccommodating temperament!

The rule of thumb here is you can’t please all of the people all of the time, less is more.

 

4. Tread carefully when it comes to naysayers

Market research indicated that consumers would never buy Sony’s Walkman cassette player. They thought it would bomb because it didn’t have the capacity to record and users would be irritated by the use of earphones. The Walkman went on to sell 330 million units. There is a similar urban myth about early Dyson prototypes, consumers just couldn’t see the benefit!! Turns out there’s nothing that people love more than SEEING the dirt their vacuum cleaner sucks up from their carpet!

So, what is the cautionary tale here? Essentially, people will generally reach for the familiar, the safe, the subjective, particularly when presented with something new, out of the ordinary or challenging. What that means is you can’t ask most consumers to innovate and you can’t necessarily accept their negative response as a reason not to do something.

So, remember, not all research is good research, not all research outcomes are definitive, and innovation is not born out of the status quo neither does it ALWAYS require validation from others. Most often it comes from ingenuity, outside the square thinking and the self-confidence to trust your intuition.

 

5. (S)He who shouts loudest

He who shouts loudest gets the most attention, or in this case he or she who expresses their opinion most forcefully and with the most self-assurance wins the day. But the most valiantly defended opinion isn’t necessarily the most relevant or rational. What these types of strong opinions do, fought for with such passion, is plant seeds of self-doubt. The ‘opinionator’ has taken the opportunity to drive their own agenda and jump on their own soap box, and all they actually do is drown out other equally if not more valid opinions and throw you off focus and off track.

So, to recap… understand who you want to talk to, invite and gauge their opinions specifically, BUT even then, don’t take EVERYTHING as GOSPEL. Get clear on your own brand story, where you want to take your visual and trust in that.

Good luck. And may camels only be found in the desert from this day forwards!