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7 Reasons You Should Pay the Haters

This is a guest contribution from Matt Cumming.

I Messed Up.

Okay, this is embarrassing, but not-so-long ago I signed up for Reddit and without too much thought I dropped a simple attention-grabbing title and link to an article on my website within the first five minutes. Yes, I hear you — bad form — but I wanted to test the platform out. Sure enough, within a few short hours I had a more respectable, long-term member jump on it, click the link, check my site out and then come back and publicly tell me exactly what he thought about my link-bait tactic.

But he didn’t stop at a short rebuke. He didn’t just say “hey, crap tactic” and move on. Instead he took the time to meticulously craft a long, scathing and deeply bitter essay that totally slammed me, the link title (which he referred to as ”[dropping] a turd in the punchbowl”), my book (which he hadn’t actually read), my understanding of marketing and my motives in general. Even if he was a fast-typing genius, it still must have taken at least half an hour of his precious time.

He Tore Me Limb From Limb

“Are you offering genuine illumination… or just dropping cherry bombs in the toilet like a misguided child?”

“…One cannot adequately express the titanic misunderstanding you’re attempting to propagate by screaming shit like, MARKETING IS DEAD on the cover [of your book] in some effort to manufacture sensationalism, as if that isn’t horribly insulting to any of the people who take this shit seriously… And if there’s one thing that irks me to no end, it’s charlatans and hacks who proclaim something that works as dead without actually testing it.”

“…Writing an ill-conceived reductive ass grab… It’s a hackneyed backslide into the shite that kills every good methodology available to the marketer who doesn’t forget the face of his forefathers.”

“…If you’ve never heard that before, you should go back to whatever misguided teacher didn’t disclose such a thing to you and either demand a refund or a complete re-education. Or go back to bed and figure it out.”

Initially I was shocked. Dismayed even. But then it dawned on me… It was a gift. Firstly, I realised that he probably had no sense of humour (the “Marketing Is Dead” text on the cover is quoted from article titles published on the Forbes, HBR and CNBC websites — not a statement I would ever make personally) and I felt sorry for someone who felt compelled to take life so damn seriously.

Secondly, whilst he was in the broader audience I was speaking to (people interested in marketing and branding), he was firmly entrenched in the ‘old school’ marketing philosophy — so he was NOT within my niche target audience. My book, Polarize, is intentionally a light-hearted, easy read for smart startups, small business owners, entrepreneurs and ‘growth hackers’ who want to make their brand more visible and effective in this very crowded marketplace. It’s about an innovative approach marketing (polarization), because the traditional marketing approach can sometimes be slow, expensive and simply not viable for some businesses.

“Traditional marketing wasn’t working. We were spending $300+ to acquire customers for a $99 service.” —DropBox (who then gained 4,000,000 users within 15 months without further ad spend)

Thirdly, his tirade confirmed my belief: that the ‘haters’ (detractors) can offer great value to a brand. This is particularly true when they’re not your ideal prospect (in a psychographic and/or demographic sense).

So I Paid Him

I paid him with my time and attention, I paid him with my thanks and compliments, I paid him with exposure by sharing his essay via social media, I paid him with a free copy of my book and I even paid him with my dollars (gifting him a “gold level” subscription to Reddit).

Should I do this for all detractors? Yes, but not always in the same way. If the complaint was about a specific problem with the actual product or service I’m offering, then I would certainly respond and thank them for alerting me to an issue that clearly needs reviewing, and I might pay them with a discount voucher or even a refund (if they’d purchased), but I would think twice about promoting it or making too much of a big deal about it on public channels. However, if the ‘hater’ was voicing opinions about the ethos of my brand — particularly something to do with the brand personality or psychographic preferences — then I’d be happy to respond, promote and even pay them in some way as a thank-you.

7 Reasons You Should Do the Same

1. They talk a LOT

The more people hear about you and see you, the more they feel like they know you… and consequently trust you. The way our brains work…  It’s the reason we still eat McDonalds (over a lesser-known local restaurant) despite everything we’ve heard and seen. Without trust there’s no sale, so what would you say is the value in that for you? It’s unknowable, but massive nonetheless.

2. They’re often passionate

It’s simple: passion is a sure-fire way together people’s attention. Get people’s attention and they’ll at least have a chance to decide if they want to consider your product or service. Without their attention in the first place, there’s no possibility of conversion. People have become adept at ignoring many forms of traditional marketing. Those people who we assume are ‘on the fence’, may actually be unaware of us — they haven’t had a reason to consciously consider our brands, let alone engage. Passion is a flag that flies high above the millions of humdrum, everyday conversations and interactions that otherwise occur.

3. They tend to be in your market

I’ve noticed that detractors often share a crucial commonality with the brands they’re ‘hating’ on — the target audience. This is particularly true within social media channels. If you can respond appropriately (with respect) to the ‘hater’ statements, you’ll have the opportunity to connect positively with that broader audience. They often provide contrast and clarity to your true niche audience about who you are NOT for (and thus making obvious that you are indeed for them).

4. They give you an open invitation to share

Nobody likes to be ‘sold’ to without permission, that’s clear. But a conversation is totally different. It gives you an opportunity to share the benefits of your product or service in response to a negative statement. In fact, often passionate detractors will voice things that other audience members won’t, so it’s not just the loudest detractor you’re speaking to — it’s all those on the ‘fence’ of indecision.

5. It’s WAY cheaper than advertising

Admittedly it is now possible to have a much higher level of targeting with your ads than in the past, but think about how you typically respond (or, more accurately,don’t respond) when you see a promoted post on Facebook, or a sponsored tweet within the Twitter mobile app? Unfortunately, poorly-targeted ads (which is the vast majority of them) have ruined it for smart marketers who know their real audience intimately. Just like the majority of ads in traditional media, our brains have tagged them as irrelevant and phased them out of our conscious awareness. So, with that in mind, it’s possible that a series of passionate public conversations might bring more genuine exposure and engagement than a ‘big’ ad campaign.

6. They can make you look good

Detractors sometimes make wild, accusatory statements that seem angry or spiteful. But a well-voiced, professional response from your brand contrasts against that ‘hater-speak’ and casts doubt in the readers mind about whether they should even believe what the detractor is saying at all. If you witnessed an argument on the street with one person throwing stones and screaming “You’re a dumb-ass idiot who knows less than nothing about anything!” and the other calmly responding with “I hear what you’re saying and see you feel strongly about that, but I do have a Harvard masters degree, so I’m not sure ‘idiot’ is completely accurate” — who would you believe?

7. They might be highlighting a grievous error

Sometimes detractors are the only ones who will give you honest feedback about an error you may have made. Such was the case for me and my mindless ‘link-bait’ mistake and I was genuinely grateful for such a clear reminder to carefully considerall messages — not just promotional, but casual conversational messages as well.

“The data has shown that brands with plenty of animosity can still succeed in a big way … Very polarizing brands like McDonald’s and Starbucks are far and away outperforming their less polarizing counterparts (perhaps the biggest worry is that people feel nothing when thinking about your brand).” —Gregory Ciotti, HelpScout

Of Course The Real Goal is To Create Tribes, Not Troublemakers

Putting your focus solely on turning people into detractors never a good idea in itself. Extreme differentiation — or polarization — is a better way to look at it. Make your message so sharp you cut through the noise and connect with your ideal prospects immediately. The result of polarizing your audience is that you’ll fast-track the decision your fence-sitters will invariably make at some point — “Should I commit, or should I leave?”.

The idea of speeding up this decision-making process is incredibly valuable to a startup, entrepreneur or small business who doesn’t have huge resources of time, money or patience. Those people ‘on the fence’ of indecision are costing your business in some way or another (unless you’re completely ignoring them of course). Wouldn’t it be simpler if, when people were introduced to your brand, they immediately became a passionate advocate — rather than having to gently romance them over time with the vague hope of getting them to like you enough to buy something?

The assumed downside of polarization is that if they’re not a ‘lover’, it’s likely they’ll become a ‘hater’. But is it really a true downside? Considering the 7 reasons above, I don’t think so.

“Polarizing your brand is a strategy with nothing but upside.” —Erika Napoletano, Brand Strategist.

 

As for the hater who tore me limb from limb? Well, he gave me a platform and an audience, then disappeared like vapour. It’s often the way… Perhaps he’s too busy reading my book to get back to me right now, or — having read it — he has decided to stay quiet just to spite me!

Matt Cumming, author of “POLARIZE: Fast-Track Marketing For Growth Hackers”, has over 15 years experience working with startups and businesses of all sizes as a designer, brand manager, web developer and startup consultant. See www.Polarize.cc for further details.

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Comments

  1. Wonderful idea to pay the haters.

    Do you think it might also work on lovers?

    :)

    • Matt says:

      Hey Warren… I had to laugh a little when I read that. The article WAS a little one-sided in that it just focussed on the more “controversial” idea of paying the haters, but for the record, YES, I try to find ways to “pay” the lovers too of course for similar reasons :)

  2. JR John says:

    Nothing like ready about someone else getting chewed up early in the morning!

    Cheers,
    JR John

    • Matt says:

      Yes JR, part of me wishes I could be in your enviable position of just reading about it, rather than being the one being chewed up…. But it was a valuable lesson for me anyway, so I can’t complain too much! ;)

  3. Richard says:

    Constructive criticism has its place in the market place where you can improve customer relationships.
    However negative vibes ALWAYS produces positive outcomes.

  4. This is really true. If someone talks more or have contacts frequently to followers then followers or information seekers understand and believe. Such connection gives lot of benefits in future to both.

    Thanks for advice.

  5. BHM Labs says:

    Haters pay a very important role in our success. They continue to hate us which force us to do better than them.,
    By the way its a very nice article.

    • Matt says:

      Yes, this is true. I really do see great value in the “haters”. Thanks for the compliment too!

  6. wonderful ideas you can defeat the hater. thanks for shairing this knowledge with us.

  7. Hi Matt

    What was the result of paying the Danegeld to your hater did he come over to your point of view or is he still opposed to it.

    I read you article with interest but still feel disregarding haters and spending my valuable and finite time on finding lovers for my work more valuable.

    • Matt says:

      Hi Neil… I love your use of “danegeld” there … there’s certainly an aspect of that to it ;)

      I honestly don’t know what the outcome was — he never responded despite a few attempts to connect from my side of things.

      You’re right of course — the ultimate goal is not about gaining haters, but gaining and appreciating the lovers. I guess the real point is that sometimes, to gain the lovers, we might end up doing something that also gains some opposition. I certainly don’t spend my finite time specifically “looking” for the attention of haters, but when it happens, it happens. This article is about being okay with that eventuality … actually, being grateful (for the reasons listed)!

  8. Jayashree says:

    Hello Matt,

    I always get annoyed when I have haters. Now I know how to handle them.Great inputs on how to manage them. Thanks for sharing these tips with us

  9. Jeffrey says:

    Hi Matt,

    You paid haters so that more people will know you better. That’s a very good marketing strategy. I guess i need to try this tactic to gain more brand mileage and recognition.

    Thumbs up for this wonderful insight of branding.

    • Matt says:

      Cheers Jeffrey! … To be honest, I’m surprised how much people are open to the various facets of the polarize approach to branding/marketing, but I’ve just seen too many examples of it in practice (with great results) to keep it to myself! haha

  10. It’s happened to me too. The internet is new with different rules than traditional media. Mistakes get made. You’ve done well. You didn’t get defensive. You’ve learned from your mistake.
    I love comments, even negative ones. It means people are reading.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Keith… Yes, I believe everything in life is a chance to learn something. This was certainly one of those painfully memorable learning moments! ;)

  11. Kelli says:

    Hey Matt
    This was a great post. While it is sometimes tough to hear someone rip into us, particularly when the treatises are particularly long and detailed, there is always something to learn from the comments. And, it helps us grow a thicker skin!

  12. I have found that people on reddit are particularly picky with what gets posted on there and when people post online they feel they have the right to go into a rant which is a shame when you are only trying to help people. You’re right though negative comments can turn into positives like the inspiration for this guest post for example :)

    • Matt says:

      Yes, absolutely John… Even though I was trying to share a post I felt was useful to people, he was still within his rights to point out the error of my approach of course. They clearly have a certain culture there at Reddit, and that’s fantastic — I clearly just didn’t understand the rules! haha … and yes, good inspiration for this guest post too ;)

  13. Thad James says:

    Some of the best changes I’ve made in my business have come from criticisms. A good, positive response to a complaint can build more loyalty than a compliment. Never shy away from a lunatic with a bullhorn. Sometimes there is some good truth in all that bombastic bellowing. Thanks for the great article.

    • Matt says:

      Thanks Thad … It’s not “fun” — it’s really uncomfortable — and so most people don’t want to listen to the haters. But there’s certainly value in it. Cheers.

  14. Sunday says:

    If you ask me, the best way to deal with haters is to ignore them. Well, if you suggest we reward them, then I guess its pretty helpful to see better reasons for doing so.

    I love the craft of this piece and the delivery intended. I guess the tips discussed are pretty helpful if we are to attract the detractors and make them change their opinion.

    I have left the above comment in kingged.com where this post was shared and kingged for Internet marketers.

    Sunday – kingged.com contributor

    http://kingged.com/7-reasons-you-should-pay-the-haters/

    • Matt says:

      Hi Sunday…. Sure, it’s not an approach for everyone — in fact, it may not suit you, your brand or your business at all. Beyond “tactics” and approaches like this, I always encourage my clients to firstly stay true to themselves and their brand, and then consider ideas like this second. I’m glad you liked the delivery/craft of the post though :)

  15. Matt, Reddit users are notoriously troll-like! You have some good ones and a few nasty ones, and the nasty ones are very infatuated with themselves lol! Ran into the bridge dwelling crew the other day. I checked out a Reddit comment in response to one of my posts; snarky as can be. I got a little annoyed, had some fun with him but the best thing to do is to ignore them, because they are nobody of note and certainly no person you’d like to give more than 2 seconds of your time. Waiting in the shadows, in their own filth ;)

    RB

    • Matt says:

      LOL Ryan — “bridge-dwelling trolls” — that’s a very funny descriptive of people who lurk around forums waiting to jump on someone and eat them alive in the comment box! ;) … I think I’d like your posts (I’m heading off to read some right now!).

  16. Jessica says:

    This is interesting. I had a similar thing happen to me but never though to spin it and take advantage. It is certainly hard to just ignore, but using the hate to your advantage sounds good!

  17. Tomas says:

    Great article but I don’t think I would feel OK praising haters like you do. I’m not disagreeing but it doesn’t feel encouraging them.

  18. Matt says:

    Hey Jessica :) … I think, if for no other reason, it’s good to keep this sort of idea in mind so that the haters don’t ruin your day! These days I’m grateful (or at least neutral) when it happens, but before my realisations about haters, this sort of thing would have REALLY upset me (I’m a sensitive soul! haha).

  19. Daniel says:

    Great ways to pay someone… to be frank I don’t have a REDDIT account, yet.

  20. Jon Myers says:

    Hold on a second.

    Yes, the “haters” response was excessive.

    However, what do you expect when you do the equivalent of being a new person walking into a room and screaming “look at me”.

    THIS is marketing 101.

    Further, it’s not that “he/ she” just “wasn’t the audience” – bull – nobody is the audience for the man in the trenchcoat with fake Rolexes underneath barking at them.

  21. “Sometimes detractors are the only ones who will give you honest feedback about an error you may have made.”
    Yes, you are right. In fact, I want critique from readers of my blog more than compliments.

  22. sarajay140 says:

    fabulous idea and blog. thanks for sheraing.

  23. Hi Matt,
    It had happened to me too. And Really thanks for the great advice….

  24. Hi Matt,

    Sometimes I feel it would be easier to just ignore the haters, especially those that are a bit more extreme and agitated like the one in your scenario. I applauded your open-mind and patience in handling the issues.

    Cheers,
    GoodSalesPerson

    • Matt says:

      Hi *GoodSalesPerson* ;) … Yes, it’s definitely EASIER to ignore the haters. That’s true. But I just believe that if someone is doing something that, in SOME way, helps me (either to learn from my mistakes or to promote me in some way), then it’s appropriate to thank them — right?

  25. kidspace says:

    Great content but I do not think I would feel OE praising haters like you do. Therefore i’m not arguing but it does not feel motivating them.