As a business owner, you want to put your best foot forward all the time.  You want happy customers, consistent sales, and to be proud of your work.  However, the reality of having your own business is that you are treading an uncharted path.  As you continue to define what your business is, how you serve, and who you want to serve, you will be dealing with not only your own analysis of what works, but also the feedback of others.  Positive feedback feels good, but let’s not forget about the value of critiques.  Critiques can be a great way to understand and build your brand.

In the past I have talked about how to handle negative reviews for your business in a way that is on brand.  That subject is really about the technique of responding in a way that follows good Communications/PR principles (read here if you want to know more).  This tip goes straight to the core of your business, instead.  This is about allowing feedback to help you become clearer about the fundamental truths of your brand and your business.

When you get a critique, think about the moment as an opportunity to make decisions about your brand.  You know that whoever is giving you feedback is looking at your business through their own lens.  What do you know about that lens?  Can you put a quick label on the perspective they may be bringing you?  Framing it in this way may help you to decide what relevance it has.

Whoever is giving you feedback is looking at your #business through their own lens. #smallbusiness #smallbiz #smb #customerservice #brand Click To Tweet

I have found in my own business that assessing why a critique is or is not worth implementing has helped me continue to get to the root of my brand.   These are moments when I have to think about who I am serving, who I want to be serving, and exactly what I want to provide for them.  It also helps me clarify how I want to come across.  It can do the same for you.  Critiques show how your brand is coming across and activate your gut instinct on how you want it to come across.

Critiques show how your #brand is coming across and activate your gut instinct on how you want it to come across. #business #smb Click To Tweet

When you hear critiques about your business, the question to ask yourself is whether they raise a good point that you need to look at or whether the issue raised is not one you should own.  You might not be able to answer that question in one sitting.  You may need to hear similar critiques a few more times before you can establish a pattern.  Perhaps you need to do some research.

If you can take the ego out of it – which can be difficult to do, and I’ll be the first to admit that – and you see that the critique is something you need to take on board, this is a chance for you to look into it further.  What did it tell you about how your brand is coming across?  And what message do you want to send instead?

When an issue is raised and you know it’s worth addressing, put your business owner hat on.  Grounding yourself in thinking like a business owner may take the defensiveness away so you can think about how to implement change.  Think about how you want to address that concern in way that matches your brand.  Through all of this, let yourself be guided by the new revelations you have had about what you want your brand to achieve.

The other scenario is that the critique you were given actually is not a good change to make in your business.  Maybe you have gone down that road before, run the numbers, or at one point tried that solution in the past.  For whatever reason, the recommendation that was made to you – solicited or not – isn’t in the best interest of your business to implement.

I have found in my own business that assessing why a critique is not worth implementing has been very important to defining my brand.  Here’s one example.  A contact of mine secured a new client that was a mid sized company needing. Along the way he found that the client needed event marketing support.  He called a meeting with me and the client, which was essentially a prospecting meeting for me and a lovely favor he did to make that referral.  The meeting went well, but ultimately it wasn’t the right fit.  Afterwards, my contact passed along feedback that the client had gone to my website and noted that it seemed to be geared towards small businesses and nonprofits.  He suggested I change it.

That feedback didn’t make sense for me.  I serve small businesses, not mid-sized businesses.  This process helped me clarify that I don’t aspire to serve clients like the one he was suggesting.  I don’t need to change my website.  I just need to be thoughtful about managing expectations and not taking a meeting like that next time unless I feel especially driven to do so.

In another case, I did a project with a client who gave me feedback afterwards about what her expectations had been and that I had fallen short.  And yet almost all of the feedback she raised as a concern was actually the intended impact of the project.  It was confusing, because I had never heard any of this feedback framed negatively before – only positively!  I myself actually thought of all of her concerns as positive effects of the work we did.

I dug into this further.  When I gave it more thought I realized that she had a totally different personality type and level of organization than every other person and group I had done that project with in the past.  So I asked myself some questions:

  • Did I want to work with clients like her? The answer is yes.
  • Knowing what I know about her personality type, would I suggest the same project to her? Maybe.
  • What would I do differently: With someone like her, I need to be extremely specific about exactly what the end result of that project would look like, how the information would be delivered, and what my intention was for her to do with it. Manage expectations, and if it’s still the right project, great! If not, there may be a better way to work together.

All of this information is important. It clarifies the business, the brand, and the ideal clients.   Critiques – and what you learn from them – are part of refining the sales messages you give to different personality types (read here if you want to get an overview on selling to different social styles).  As I take a deeper look at my ideal clients, the business will keep refining, the marketing approach and the sales message will refine with it.

Critiques - and what you learn from them - are part of refining the #sales messages you give to different personality types. #business #smallbiz #smb #smallbusiness Click To Tweet

So, how can you apply this to your own business?  You can expect critiques to happen.  They do for everyone.  How you handle them is entirely up to you.

Whether what you are hearing is a one-time comment or becoming a trend, you can learn a lot about what is driving you and your brand by taking a closer look at critiques.

And if you are early on in your business and still trying to get a picture of what your brand is, who your target markets are, and what you need to be saying in your marketing messaging to attract those who would be the right match for your offerings, there is work you can do to put clarity around this.  If you don’t know, neither do your customers!  Read here to learn about A Step-by-Step Guide to Building Your Brand and Reaching Your Target Market.