How to keep the feedback loop from spiraling out of control.

It used to drive me crazy when clients would tell me, “I showed your ideas to my spouse, and…” Or “Let me get back to you, I just want to show the ideas around and see what people think.”

I’ve kind of come to grips with the fact that a lot of clients are going to show the work around and there’s nothing I can do about it. Truth is, having recently been in the position of being a client on my new website, I empathize with clients’ need to get 2nd, 3rd and even 10th opinions.

But copywriting, designs and creative work in general are fragile matter. When you bend deas to compromise to the crowd, they can lose their edge and become less effective. And conversely, when you skew it to satisfy an extreme opinion, it can end up missing the mark.

That said, I believe that there have to be some ground rules, or guidelines for showing the work around and reviewing the feedback—for the sake of the work, and everyone’s sanity. Here’s what I’ve learned from being on both sides of the fence:

Ask strategically.
Try to ask people in your market, or who at least understand your market. I mean, most of my friends would have a hard time telling the difference between a good ad for a productivity software or business service and a bad one. So make sure the people you ask know who you’re speaking to in the ad and what the ad is meant to accomplish.

Know when to say when.
Go on and get lots of opinions, but set an internal deadline for when you’ll put the pencil down. And try and define expectations by letting people know you’re asking lots of people. Do what my wife and I did when we were deciding on a name for our daughter: Say, “Yes, we’d love to hear all your suggestions, and we’ll carefully consider them with all the rest we collect, but you know, no promises.”

Discuss everything, and address every criticism.
When you have a bunch of conflicting opinions, you have to take the time to address them. Decide whether or not they’re worthy of concern. Then determine the most relevant.  Trouble comes from treating all criticisms equally or assuming the truth of an opinion based on the source.

A word to clients who are being ripped asunder by conflicting opinions.
When you show a bunch of different people creative ideas, you’re going to get a range of reactions. People have a natural inclination to be useful, so you can count on many of them having (overly) strong opinions. What can I say? People like to be heard. The long and short of it is you’re going to agonize. What can you do:
1) Collect your comments, and sit on them a day or two. Try not to be swayed by latest opinion you just heard. You’ll go crazy.
2) Talk the reactions over with your creative partners. Give them a chance to respond to the points individually.
3) Then, give the most weight to the comments from the people who are in your market or understand the problem best.

A word to the creative people.
Like I’ve said, I’ve mellowed over the course of many projects. I’ve had the most success by listening. I try to remind myself that I am there to help clients find the truth. Most of them are able to weed the relevant and useful comments from the extraneous and extreme. You can help them get there by listening and offering your honest opinion when asked. You want to stay in the loop, so you can respond and gain useful insights. So be a team player.

If you want to know what I think.
I’m here to help. Call or email me to discuss your copywriting project or get a quote anytime.