Recently, a client of mine was on a roll.
She was serving oodles of ideal clients. Doing the work she loved. Feeling so passionate, inspired and totally turned on.
And then: the wind was knocked out of her sails.
All it took was few snide comments about her business.
One from a family member.
One from an industry peer.
One from a friend of a friend.
She was crushed. She’s a strong, confident woman but these comments really hurt. She began to wonder, “Am I just kidding myself? Am I delusional? These are smart people saying these things to me. Could they be right?”
It’s amazing how one cruel comment (even if the person saying it doesn’t intend to be cruel) can wreck your whole week.
It’s like I could write the book on “things to never say to an entrepreneur.” Or to a human. Ever.
But – as I reassured my heartbroken client – there’s one common thread among these snide-comment-making folks. And it’s this:
None of them were her ideal clients.
And in the famed words of RuPaul: “Unless they gonna pay your bills, pay them no mind.”
If your “dream client” is, say, for example, a middle school teacher looking for a way to make extra money through a creative side business over the summer holiday, and several middle school teachers who fit that description say to you, “Sorry, uh, I just don’t ‘get’ your website design. It doesn’t speak to me. We don’t use that kind of terminology in the school system…” – then THAT is “criticism” that you can actually use. THAT is feedback you should listen to and respond to. Because it’s coming from the people you are actively trying to reach: Your ideal customers!
But if your stepdad, a 65-year old divorce attorney, says, “Your website is too bright and colorful” or “Your business idea doesn’t sound like it will make you any money” or anything else, that is NOT feedback that’s particularly helpful to you.
Feedback coming from someone who is NOT your ideal customer is just static noise. You’ve got to tune it out and brush it off.
But I know that, in the heat of the moment, when your ego feels bruised, it can be tough to just brush things away.
So here’s a simple script you can use the next time someone doesn’t support you:
Thanks for your feedback.
I’m very clear about who I intend to serve through my business: [describe that kind of person].
It sounds like you don’t like my [whatever they don’t like] but the thing is, you are not the type of client / customer that I am trying to reach.
My ideal customer is someone who loves ____ and wants ____.
I know this because I’m doing tons of research to find out exactly what they desire and tailoring my business accordingly.
I am having an absolute blast running my business. I’m grateful you’re in my life as a [peer/cousin/friend/grandma/whatever], and I know that you’re offering feedback because you want to help me.
But, if you really want to help out, the most valuable thing you could do would be to put me in touch with someone who [reiterate your ideal customer] so that I can pick their brain, get their opinions, and tweak my business to serve their needs and preferences even better. If you know someone like that, let me know!
I’ve used variations of this script many, many times and it always shuts down the conversation immediately and spins it into something more appropriate and helpful (unless the person criticizing you is bat shit crazy, in which you’ll want to excuse yourself to the bathroom, immediately. 🙂
I hope this helps out the next time you’re hit with an unsupportive comment from someone in your life.
Just be direct, confident, and let them know the real deal.
You got this.