If there is one thing that all entrepreneurs share in common, it has to be the false belief that all mankind just HAS to like the thing that they invented. Every person who looks like they're not interested, or even - god forbid - say something negative about their product, company or service, is considered to be the root of evil, or - in the ever so polite corporate jargon - a crisis.
This usually comes from misunderstanding what "target audience" means. Politicians, by the way, understand this term better than anyone else, and usually wouldn't care about a negative story about them, as long as it's not published in a media that is read by their voters.
So what does "target audience" means? It means the audience which is highly likely to purchase whatever it is that you're making, usually because it's highly relevant to them (based on their location, occupation, habits, areas of interest etc.). I think we can agree that if this definition was to stop here, everyone would embrace it. The problem lies with the part less talked about - the one that deals with those who are NOT part of your target audience, and how they might react to your story.
First of all, news flash - there isn't even one thing in this world that EVERYBODY likes. Even babies or puppies are hated by some (those bastards!). Your product, your company, your story - are not going to be the one thing that changes that. It's not "close to being impossible", it is impossible. So some people are not going to like what you're doing, that's a given. And by the way, you are not going to find out about all of them, not now and not ever.
What to do about them? that's what we're going to solve today. I even prepared a checklist to make it easier on you. After all, dealing with haters is no pleasure cruise.
1. Are they in your target audience?
2. Are they in a position to influence your target audience? (say a reporter that writes about luxury cars, and hates yours. While he probably won't buy one for himself, his readers are your exact target audience. This is also true for KOL - Key Opinion Leaders - and the likes of them).
3. How loud are they?
4. Is their hate based on personal bias, or actual experience?
5. (This is the most important one, probably) Do they make a fair point?
6. Is there a possibility to change their mind?
7. If the answer to 6 is yes, what will it take, and is it worth it?
If they are in your target audience, jump immediately to Q4+5 (by the way, if the answer to 1+2 is no, leave it!). Do they make a fair point? if you're too close to answer this yourself, ask someone you trust and doesn't work for you to try and answer this. Try to avoid giving them your point of view before they answer, and ask only people who you trust enough to know that they will always be honest with you.
If the answer is yes, thank the hater and learn from it. Maybe even change accordingly. You have a chance at communicating directly with your audience here. Be humble.
If the answer is no, go back to Q2. If they are not in a position to influence others on a massive scale, leave it. No one reaches 100% of their target audience. If the answer is yes, check out Q6- can you change their mind? yes- go to Q7 (what will it take), and if it makes sense, do it. If no - leave it! It would be wiser and better to spend your time on winning others who like you, or are able to learn to like you, and create positive ambassadors there.
The only question I did not address is Q3, how loud are they. I didn't address it because, to be honest, I don't like it. In today's world things can go viral for no apparent reason, and ignoring someone (especially if they do make a fair point) just because they have only 130 friends on Facebook and 43 Twitter followers can prove to be a big mistake. Huge. But if you have to, add that to the mix in order to asses the risk - it also helps to understand the general loudness of the hater. Are they "professional haters", the kind that hates everything and anyone? are they usually positive but have a thing with your company specifically?
Professional haters (and we all know at least one of those) are usually taken by their surroundings with a grain of salt. Positive people who share negative opinion about something are usually trusted more. Which one is yours?
To sum it up - if you go through the following Q&A with a rational mind, most of the time the answer would be "leave it". That's because we can't win them all. And I'm not saying they should be treated with anything other than respect (not admiration, obviously, but respect for sure). I'm just saying they're not worth it. Not your time, not your resources, and not the endless fight of trying to win them over, a fight that will never end because there will always be at least one hater you're aware of, if you're not lying to yourself.
If you see that too many of your target audience are becoming haters, then the best thing to do would be to quote Ice Cube to yourself - "Check yourself before you wreck yourself". Something is not working, either your story, your brand promise or the actual experience. Don't wait until it's too late - your target audience wants to love you, you invented something that is aimed at making their life easier. If they don't, learn from it and react before it's too late.
I'll close with an example I like to give. There's a website called "paypalsucks.com". It's been around for a while, and I'm sure PayPal HQ are aware of it. Why haven't they declared war on it? Simply because with over 100M clients, they understand the simple truth I was talking about today:
Haters gonna hate. No worth spending your time and energy on them, when you can win loyal clients somewhere else instead.