How to Defang Critics with the Power of Your Audience (Part 2)

I was pretty tickled with myself when I hatched the plan to bury a nasty Amazon review of my business partner’s book.

All I had to do was send one email to 41,000 people asking for “not helpful” votes and that review would be history.

Ah, but I forgot about the “white knights.”

Whenever you do anything with your marketing (or to be honest, anything in your business or life in general), there are always a few people who will climb up on their high horse and lecture and moralize at you.

These are the people who immediately break out in hives when they see the popup for your email list—then take to Twitter to denounce you.

You’ll never make these people happy.

You can’t afford to let your business become paralyzed by their hysteria.

However, it’s also not real smart to stuff your pockets full of raw steak and throw yourself headlong into shark-infested waters…

Which is more or less what I did when I sent the “hey downvote this review!” email.

To be clear my strategy worked—the email got an excellent 4.4% click rate.

And with more than 1,800 Simple Programmer fans reading the review—well, it didn’t stand a chance.

It plunged from the top almost instantly, and it remains buried at the bottom of the list of critical reviews. (The reviewer even decided to rewrite his original review to make it less personal.)

But oh my goodness—the controversy!

One of the “white knights” posted my entire email in the thread, accompanied with plenty of finger-wagging and scolding.

This is an outrage!

How dare John use his “horde” this way!

This tempest in a teapot raged on for a full day before its fury was finally spent.

As we always do, John and I did a little post-mortem reflection on this afterward.

And John made a shrewd observation about how we could have sidestepped the controversy entirely—while still getting the desired result of burying the bad review.

Where I made the tactical error was in telling our subscribers to downvote the review directly.

Instead it would have been smarter to still link out to the review and ask our readers if they agreed with it…

But I should then have asked them to leave their own POSITIVE review if they thought the hater was full of it.

That way, plenty of subscribers would still have clicked the downvote button, and we’d have picked up some extra 4- and 5-star reviews in the process.

Missed opportunity.

All things considered though, I still consider this episode a win.

And it’s a good example of how to turn public criticism to your own advantage.

A lot of people make the mistake of going toe to toe with their critics—trying to debate them and refute their arguments point by point.

It’s far more effective to rally your supporters to your defense.

Not only will they drown out the lone critic, but by giving your audience the chance to rise to your defense, you’re deepening your relationship with your subscribers too.