Most companies want to be loved: they want passionate customers, enthusiastic vendors, devoted partners and loyal employees. Yet in reality, few companies are loved. Most companies are tolerated at best and at worst, ignored. Why? Most companies are too forgettable to be loved. They’re too boring to spark a reaction—any reaction. If you want your company to have passionately devoted customers, partners and employees, you must first inspire strong responses. Only then can you convince people to love your company and become raving fans of your brand. As you attract fans, you’ll also get the opposite: the critics, naysayers or “Haters.”
Haters add negative energy to your brand. They might post unpleasantries online or write nasty letters. They’re passionate, yeah, but in the opposite way that you’d like. Yet, in the quest to attract Lovers, we’re bound to also get a few of their counterpart, the Haters. As we learned in physics: Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction. You can’t have Lovers without a few Haters too. Let me say something rather shocking: it’s okay to have a few people hate your brand. In fact, it’s necessary. If you’re not eliciting a negative response from someone, then you’re probably not very compelling to anyone.
An innovative idea feels unfamiliar, even uncomfortable. Not everyone will like it. Most companies spend too much time fretting over damage control for the Haters. Or worse, they never get up the nerve to be extraordinary in the first place. (See Electronic Arts.)
Rabblerousers and critics are the price of entry to being extraordinary. You can deal with them directly or even coax them to change, but do not let them stop you. Accept their presence and move on with your mojo intact.
Crazy-excited fans may be a small slice of your overall base, but they’re the single most powerful force in your marketing mix. These Lovers not only purchase your product, but also tolerate price increases and occasional glitches or errors. They’re not just buying you for price or utility.The competition tempts them with coupons but they stay loyal. They’ll invest in your stock, attend your conferences and refer you to their peers. Lovers also have a delightful habit of doing your marketing work for you for free. They create content around your products, glorify your service in online reviews, and even re-post your content online. In every aspect of your company, Lovers will reward you with new business, higher sales and better talent.
So on one side, we have the Lovers. On the other side, we have the Haters. Between them is a no man’s land filled with dead-ends and languishing sales. This, my friends, is where you’ll find the customers in the middle: Lukewarm lollygaggers who suck up your marketing budget but give little loyalty or value in return. I call these customers the “Middlers.”
In a brutally competitive environment, you can’t afford to waste your time talking to people who don’t care. Apathetic consumers won’t buy your product unless it’s the cheapest or most convenient option—which is a terrible spot to be in right now, because it’s a brand position by default, one that only succeeds until your competitors offers something cheaper or more convenient.
Unlike Lovers, who are devoted to you, these consumers are gigolos, switching to the most attractive offering. So in addition to being unreliable, Middlers are also expensive. You waste your marketing budget trying to recruit them without ever amortizing your investment over multiple sales. Yet consumers aren’t the only ones loitering in the middle and damaging your business.
Employees in the middle don’t care about doing much other than killing time at the office. Clients in the middle don’t really care about loyalty if your competitor offers a better price. Stockholders in the middle don’t care about sticking with you in a downturn.
In a competitive environment, the middle position is death. Not caring is not buying. Not caring is inaction. Not caring is goodbye. There are too many options on the shelves, too many ways to shut out your advertising message, too many competitors who are more than happy to take your best clients and distributors and salespeople away if “don’t care” is the best you can do.
How could you get people out of the middle? Once people stop being in the middle, they stop roaming aimlessly, and start actively choosing you and your brand. That’s when good things like sales and retention and leadership happen. If your company wants to influence purchase decisions, you must provoke strong and immediate emotional reactions. The goal isn’t to avoid controversy, but to avoid creating legions of people who simply don’t care.
Stop letting the Haters slow you down.
Start rewarding and keeping the Lovers.