You can’t please ’em all, no matter what you make or do

Marco Arment recently wrote this great post on Apple app reviews, review culture in general, and the fallacy of trying to please all your customers. Go read his entire post, please! He’s a cool dude who makes really wonderful products like Instapaper, The Magazine, and this now-unavailable breastfeeding timer app that look just trust me the guy’s rad. He was the principal engineer behind Tumblr. There, now I said one you’ve heard of, right? 🙂 He’s funny on Twitter, too. Go Marco!

This snippet in particular caught my attention, because I think it relates to ANY business or product.

No matter what you make or how much you charge, some people will find things to complain about. If you drop your app’s price all the way down to free, people will still complain — just not about the price. They’ll move on to the features, the implementation, the design, the updates, the way you look, or what kind of dog you have.

uselessI haven’t experienced an onslaught of negative criticism as The Heartographer, but I do get frustrating commentary. Some readers will vocally appreciate something I put out there, then immediately leave jaded/misleading/dismissive comments about some link I weighed in on, or some point I was trying to make that I failed to articulate well in a fleeting Internet moment. I address it or update it when I can and when I feel like the criticism is valid, but I don’t always have a context to fully explain where I was coming from, and some commenters are just downright nasty. (Em Henderson also has an interesting post on this.) I feel like I can almost hear these critics, through a tube halfway across the Internet, forming an inaccurate impression about what I was trying to say and therefore who I am, what I do, and whether any of my bits of advice or my profession at large are remotely valid. And that sucks.

Some of this is undoubtedly  my own insecurity talking; I’m a bit of a people pleaser and one who prefers to avoid conflict beyond a friendly debate level. But as Marco demonstrated with this delightful Zazzle mug design, people are prone to inane commentary or misinterpreting your goals, and their moment of frustration when captured in the snapshot of a review or upvoted comment can scar your business or product forever, often for silly or misguided reasons. (Seriously, go check out the mug and read its text, comprised of real reviews.) I mean, think about businesses you check out on Yelp or products you browse on Amazon, that have exactly one review, which awards one or two stars. You’re unlikely to select that café or SD card from your overall search results, right? Do you always take the time to read the negative review(s) and see whether you find the point valid? Often, the answer is no.*

This “can’t please ’em all” applies to my own clientele. Some potential customers just don’t jibe with my personality, or they want my assistance in a marketplace I’m not as familiar with (like Munich or adult baby fetishes or poly lesbianism) or they want me to offer a product (singles mixers! An iPhone app! An entire online dating service to compete with giants like and blow them out of the water!) that I don’t want to spend my time, energy, and money developing. Sometimes I do my best to help anyway, but usually with a healthy amount of disclaimers, because I don’t want to take on clients that I don’t think I can help or projects that I can’t make excellent. Not only are ill-fitting clients going to review me negatively and deflate the value of my service accordingly if they even think to refer people to me, but I genuinely want to help and I don’t want to charge people if I don’t think they’ll benefit from a session with me. And we’re not even touching how some people can’t stand my long-ass blog posts, because those people stopped reading like 1,867 sentences ago.

My long and winding yet ultimately relevant point, singletons, is this: 

The “can’t please ’em all” maxim also applies to online dating!

You can’t please ’em all with your profile. Your profile should not be meant to appeal to all singles on a given service. It should be meant to express your unique personality, in a way that might catch the eye of someone who shares an interest or a sense of humor. You should be as weird and quirky and humorous as possible, because that’s the only way you’re going to stand out. (If you’re not a particularly humor-driven person, you can still find ways to stand out, but you must be genuine and you must know that in doing so you’re going to alienate some people, and that is OKAY because those people are not the right people for you to begin with!)

You can’t please ’em all with your service. That’s why some people like eHarmony better and some people prefer OKCupid or FitnessSingles or HowAboutWe or who knows what else. If you hate every single aspect of a given service, consider trying a different one. Ask your friends. Google around. Email me. I’ll probably tell you which one to randomly try for free.

If you still can’t figure out which direction to go, and you continue to struggle with writing a profile that draws in matches YOU like rather than trying to appeal to the world, get in touch. This is what I live for, you guys!



*I’m a weirdo when it comes to reviews; I always sort ratings low to high if possible and see if the low complaints are consistently whining about something that would bug me. But I usually do this with more subjective products, like seeing how a certain dress fits on Anthropologie or how a certain lipstick holds up on Sephora. If I could create a global, site-agnostic e-commerce settings profile that made all products in all categories on all sites display as “view all” with the largest possible image/color selection and sorted all reviews by “lowest” if available, and “Avg. customer rating” if Amazon, and optimized for people with similar height and body type and shoe size and skin tone as me, I would be so happy. I lose sleep thinking about these things sometimes. Shut up. Somebody please make this, I’ll help!

Comments 2

  1. Linda

    Google “polarization” and then we’ll talk one evening. 🙂
    One of the goals when writing online copy or to connect on social media is to speak in your own voice. It needs to be as if I was standing right in front of you. Doing this clears the way (and fast) for the people who you are meant to serve. If someone doesn’t like you from your blogs or pages then move on. When you have people who speak out yay or nay about your offerings, rejoice! This means you are being impactful instead of irrelevant.

  2. Virginia

    Well said, Linda! It took me a long time to figure out that, despite what marketing consultants were trying to tell me about changing the way I write. The Real, Genuine Virginia is ultimately what wins me both followers and clients, no matter what advice I got to the contrary!

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