Make Them Love You… or Hate You

angry-babyLet’s face it, not everyone can love you. I am one of those personality types that tries to please everyone, so it usually bothers me if someone has a bone to pick with me or my ideas. However, I’ve gradually learned that detractors can be as valuable as fans.

If you are doing something truly great, unique, or exciting in your small business – there are bound to be people who will have a problem with it. When someone takes a shot at you or your brand in a public/online space, you quickly learn who your evangelists are as they jump to your defense.

Consider this: whether they love you or hate you, they’re talking about you. So why play it safe and shoot for the middle?

There’s nothing that convinces the undecided like passionate supporters, and these fans are key to spreading your message.

I recently heard a story about the owner of a small pizza parlor long ago. This owner, let’s call him Hank, had a very small budget compared with the large Pizza Huts and Dominos of his neighbourhood.

This happened years ago, when businesses still advertised in phone books. The big chains, of course, could afford huge, full page ads which Hank could not compete with. He decided instead to run a small promotion of his own: for every competitors’ ad that customers ripped out of the phone book and brought to his store, Hank would give away an order of wings.

The customers came swarming, and Hank quickly saw that the cost of the wing giveaway was more than absorbed by the increased spike in business. His competitors understandably hated what he was doing: complaining, cajoling and even leaving him threats. However, his customers understood a great offer when they saw one, spread the word, and Hank’s business boomed because of his somewhat controversial move.

So the takeaway is this: don’t be afraid to polarize people. Ask yourself how you can stick your thumb in your competitors’ eye. Chances are, it will make your customers love you even more.

What moves could you make in your business that might tick off a few competitors?

For more, one of Apple’s original marketers, Guy Kawasaki wrote an excellent post on innovation.