Controversy, carefully deployed, can actually help you attract more of the clients you want, while at the same time avoiding those you do not.
The duck-billed platypus. A very strange creature. The result, perhaps, of avoiding controversy. Part duck? Part otter?
What on earth is it? Personally, and uncontroversially, I think it’s quite cute. In fact it’s appeared in a TV advert so it must be okay.
But it’s like a committee put it together. So it kind of appeases different people. But it makes no sense.
Like Ferrari deciding to create a sporty little number. That is economical. Shaped like a box. With a go-faster stripe. But also with a stairlift-type thing to appeal to elderly people who struggle getting in and out of it.
In other words, trying to please everyone, but in the process, alienating pretty much everyone. The young people hate the stairlift thing, its fuel efficiency which hinders speed, and the box shape. The elderly detest the speed and go-faster stripe.
Standing Up For What You Believe
The attempted appeasement to cater for the needs of everyone, creates a compromise which dilutes the result. So most people are only marginally happy, but just as unhappy with the concessions to please others.
If however, you pursue the same ethos and beliefs that mirror the wants, needs and views of the kind of clients you want to attract, you will receive a much more passionate response from them. And yes, disinterest from those who disagree.
It is the negative responses which cause many to avoid controversy. But let’s make a distinction in order to find a way of courting controversy.
“Shockvertising” is the concept of outraging and pushing a point which goes beyond societal norms.
Many will remember Benetton’s advertising in the 1980’s which tackled issues ranging from racial equality through to highlighting AIDs suffering. Or the graphic anti-smoking advertisements.
But you needn’t be as extreme as that. Controversial can also be fun. Such as the “Idiot’s Guide” series of books. They were controversial book titles, but they struck a chord to such an extent that they made it acceptable to admit your ignorance by reading them on a train.
Zagging When Everyone Else Is Zigging
Rather than shocking or causing offence by being falsely controversial, why not ‘zag’ when everyone else is in ‘zig’ mode?
In other words, look for trending topics that affect your sector. Look at the Facebook trends section, or on Twitter to see what everyone is talking about.
In press or media related to your sector, see what the hot topics are. If everyone is saying “social media” is failing to deliver for example, and you happen to see ways in which it is working, say it
People are drawn to contrarian perspectives going against the current thinking. They see something which counters the perceived wisdom of the moment and are drawn in.
People share such views – even if they don’t agree with you.
But don’t be a Contrary Mary. Only take an opposing stance if you genuinely believe and can substantiate your position. Being controversial for the sake of it, or tenuously maybe isn’t the best policy.
And when you do, give some balance by outlining why people believe the opposite.
So Where Exactly Should You Be Controversial Or Contrarian?
Before we focus on where, which you may already have guessed from the giveaway image, let’s figure out the purpose.
In essence, you want to attract customers. So wherever you choose to do so, it’s a good idea to have a destination in mind.
And I would suggest your own website. So publish the article on your own site in the blog or news section. And then look at disseminating it.
Social media is a good idea. Repurpose it for example as an abridged piece on LinkedIn Pulse, with the continuation of the article on your own site.
And before we move away from LinkedIn, make sure you post an update linking to it, but also tick the box which allows you to share it on Groups you are a member of.
The same principle applies to Facebook and Twitter. Post in groups too on Facebook, and use the trending hashtags that may have originally inspired the contrarian piece.
If you publish a newsletter, publish it there too – again, abridged so readers can continue the full story on your website.
And finally, yes, awareness of who you are is a great result from people visiting your site. And if you keep up the pace, they will come back too.
But some of your visitors will be potential customers. So make sure that wherever you publish the article, you give them an option to make contact with you.
For example, you will notice I offer people the chance to directly question the author at the end of my articles. And on the right at the top I help people with a handy guide to growing their business through word of mouth. I also offer a free consultation – where I steer people in the correct strategic direction whether they decide to use me or not.
You don’t have to overtly sell. People will buy when they are ready.
And those who visit may also click around – they may notice the navigation bar or the promise at the top of your page. They may click the About section. They’ll get to know you and what you offer without you having to sell.
Just make sure you give good, balanced opinion and help educate people. After all, you are the expert on what you do, and your visitors are expert at what they do. But they don’t have time. And your product or service can help them, especially when you prove you know what you are doing.
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