The other day I had an interesting conversation with an entrepreneur about user ‘feedback’.
Feedback is an odd part of business marketing, because so often people assume that it’s necessary without really understanding how it works, or even why it’s useful.
(If I was to get a little political for once, I might suggest that makes it sound a bit like Brexit…
Hoo-ha! Topical comedy shows, here I come!)
Anyway, my upcoming (non-)appearances on SNL and Have I Got News For You aside, feedback is a weird one.
You hear marketing folks talk about it all the time like it’s a currency, like you could replace the word ‘feedback’ with ‘gold’ or ‘bling’:
“We have literally tons of feedback…”
“The feedback is in and it looks gooooooooood…”
“We need to hold off on this round of changes until we get feedback from our users…”
But what… actually… is this wonderful feedback you speak of?
It’s kind of become a sacred cow in marketing. People are afraid not to have it, even if they don’t completely understand why they need it.
I’m not saying feedback is useless, it’s just misunderstood…
(Insert your own political gag here, I’ve reached my quota.)
It’s too easy to assume all feedback is important by default – and if there’s one thing businesses should be wary of, it’s easy answers.
A few questions to help us understand feedback better:
Is all feedback equal, or does it vary wildly?
Where do you go for useful feedback?
How do you ask for it in an effective way?
What the heckins do you even DO with it once you have it?
My conversation was with the co-founder of a brand-spanking new startup in the art ownership market.
He’s hoping to get feedback through engaging a marketing agency to ask questions of some beta users of his new service.
They’re looking for test customers to experience their service for the first time, so the agency can record their ‘feedback’ and turn it into marketing.
Questions would be asked of these beta users once they’ve tried it – things like “what did you think of the service?”
Sounds sensible, right?
But here’s the tricky part:
They weren’t yet 100% sure about how exactly any ‘feedback’ they receive should be used…
For instance, it could be used to help better develop the service into something people want.
It could also be used as a way of getting testimonials to advertise the service to other users.
And it could be used to help the co-founders decide if there’s enough interest in the service to go ahead with a full-scale launch.
But I wondered about what their audience wanted right now…
What problems do they want the service to solve? (When it comes down to it, almost all product marketing is about problems and solutions.)
What is going on out in their world at this very moment that means they’ll click the button that brings them closer to this service?
What is it they’re looking to achieve that actually qualifies them as a potential customer in the first place, paying or otherwise?
Important questions that ‘feedback’ alone wouldn’t help with.
The takeaway for your biz:
When I work with clients, a big driving force behind the work we do to develop or improve their sales messaging is the simple question:
“Why would someone need this?”
That’s a question based on what happens before the product or service is in their hands…
So it’s very different to the ‘feedback’ question that happens later.
Both approaches are useful, in different ways…
One helps you understand your potential audience better, and to create convincing messaging that appeals to others.
The other helps you understand what’s good or
bad improvable about your product right now.
But you have to be careful about how you interpret ‘feedback’…
When you ask someone “what did you think about X?” you’ll get an answer based on thinking.
An opinion, essentially. And opinions come with a lot of baggage…
You’re getting an intellectual answer, often determined by what the respondent thinks you expect of them.
However, if you ask someone “what was the problem or challenge that brought you to X?” you get an answer based on feeling.
They’ll tell you what was wrong, where it hurt, how that felt, and what exactly they wanted to fix.
Responses based on feeling can be used to create more empathetic messaging that attracts others.
If you’re looking to get ‘feedback’ for your biz, you MUST first decide if you want to understand what people like about it, and how that information will serve you…
…OR if you actually want to know what appeals to them about your offer.
That’s not asking for feedback, that’s asking for insight.
They’re two very different things.
For feedback that helps you understand how people feel about using your products/services, get in touch with your past clients and customers. I’m all for feedback, used in the right way.
For insights that help you attract more of the right people in future, head here.