Image by rikhei via Flickr

I once met with a business that was thinking of adding a Social Media component to their already large yet scattered marketing program. A high end retailer, they were already using outdoor, radio, and a large dose of print, both newspapers and local magazines. One item they wanted to continue was an weekly 6-column inch ad in the Sunday newspaper that cost about $400 per week. That’s more than $20,000 per year.

I’m not anti-print, but I also know enough about our local newspaper and its circulation, that this raised a red flag. I asked them if the weekly ad was working. Did they know if people were seeing the ad? Did they know if it was generating any business for them?

The response I got was an overwhelming,

“Yes! People tell us all the time they see the ad!”

I asked them who was telling them this. Who are the “people”?

Turns out it wasn’t customers coming into the store. It was friends and family members. Aunt Violet was calling and telling them that she saw the ad and she loved it! Brother Bill saw it, too, as did Mom.

But they couldn’t remember very many customers ever telling them that they had seen the ad.

Here’s the problem: our friends and family have a vested interested in our business. They care about our business simply because they ARE our friends and family. They go out of their way to look for our ads and marketing efforts. Because they know us, they are more aware than the average consumer. They have a bias in our favor.

As a result, we need to be careful when we listen to them. Just because they saw the ad, doesn’t mean anyone else did. Just because they tell us they like what we are doing, doesn’t mean the general public does.

We need to avoid the skew. We need to make sure we seek out the input and opinions of a wide variety of people, not just the people who are closest to us. They are more inclined to tell us what we WANT to hear, rather than be honest and tell us what we NEED to hear.

Friends and family are great, and they can be a great support for us, and while they generally have our best interests in mind, they are also biased. What we need are honest, impartial opinions, and those very often don’t come from friends and family.

As you evaluate your marketing efforts, and business in general, to whom are you listening? Are you seeking out the opinions of nothing but “yes men”, or also looking for input from the general public?