Many were stunned by the surprise announcement of the closing of Ringling Brothers’ “Greatest Show on Earth” Circus. Animal rights activists targeted the circus in the years leading up to its closure for the circus’ treatment of its animals. In 2016, Ringling Brothers’ quit using elephants in its shows after years of legal battles, but, what happened next (according to this Chicago Tribune article) outlines an important principle that will change the way you look at your life and your business:
…when the elephants left, there was a “dramatic drop” in ticket sales. Paradoxically, while many said they didn’t want big animals to perform in circuses, many others refused to attend a circus without them.
I’m going to stay out of taking sides in this animal rights issue, what I want to look is the broader lesson of the unfortunate fate of Ringling Brothers.
The lesson is a simple one: the people who are criticizing you or your business are almost never going to be your customers or your fans even if you give in to what they want from you.
Appeasing your haters won’t gain you their favor or their business. They don’t like you. They weren’t and aren’t going to do business with you. If you water down yourself or your product to please your haters, it may actually cost you the favor of your fans, the people who actually do really like you.
In the case of Ringling Brothers, the circus was left little choice but to compromise due to legal pressures. But, as long as your haters are not dragging you through court, you have much more freedom in responding to your haters than Ringling Brothers.
You can choose to listen to haters and water down yourself or water down your product. Or, you can double down with your fans.
You can change yourself or your offering to attempt to make fans out of those who don’t like you. Or, you could just try to find more people who are like your fans.
If Alice Cooper had quit biting the heads off of bats would the disgusted parents have begun attending his shows? If N.W.A. had quit using profanity in their songs, would censorship activists have begun purchasing their rap albums? Or, if cigarette companies changed their marketing tactics, would critics begin smoking?
The answers to all these questions are obvious. But, how many times do we do the same thing in our lives or businesses? How often do we kowtow to criticism (or simple fear of criticism) expecting that to make us more appealing? The fact is that appealing to all different groups and interests simultaneously is simply not possible.
In fact, trying to be everything to everyone is the path to being nothing to anyone. Double down with those who already like you and/or your product. Ignore your haters or, alternatively, your fans may even love to see you take a stand and roast your haters on social media. Feel out what is right for you and your circle.
But, be sure to build your future on a solid foundation with your fans, don’t ever make the classic mistake of trying to build a future on the sinking sand of criticism.