elections, polarizing & having an opinion

Well, today are the elections in Canada. Myself and many of my friends are hoping for an end to the Harper regime (he’s Canada’s George W. Bush – but less charming) and a shift to something more progressive. We shall see in a few hours where it goes.

So, the other day, I sent out an email to my list (you can read it below).

The content of the email was interesting – but the reactions it got were even more interesting.

One person attacked me, called me a jackass and my email ‘inapproriate’ and the other person said it was the most important email I’ve ever sent.

Here are the take away lessons that are as true for your business as they are for politicians in voting season:

LESSON #1: It’s okay (actually really important) to have a point of view. This might seem obvious, but I’m struck by how many enterpreneurs are scared to share their views on things. They don’t want to offend anyone and so they never say what they really think. Are you a raw foodist who thinks that cooked food is poison? Awesome. Share that. Are you convinced that the root cause of all disease is excess toxicity in the body? Mineral deficiency? Stress? An inconsistency between the will of the soul and the will of the personality? Karma from past lives?

Be clear about what you think.

Ask yourself these questions to help you identify how you see the journey that people must take. So many people are sort of shy and scared and think that they’re being ‘gracious’ and ‘nice’ by not sharing where they stand. In reality, they’re coming across as dull and lacklustre. In the political world people are quickly labled as ‘spineless’, ‘wishy washy’ and ‘flip floppers’. It’s not a quality that anyone respects. You can disagree with someone and respect their intensity and sincerity of belief.

Not only is it okay to have an opinion, it’s important. We all know that so much of marketing is about differentiating yourself from others offering similar products and services. It could be argued that all marketing boils down to the question: ‘why should I do business with you versus the competition?’ But what most people miss is all the different ways they can differentiate themselves.

You can differentiate yourself based on who you’re trying to reach, what you’re offering, how you offer it, when and where you offer it – even the story of why you offer it the way you do. Most people profoundly underestimate the power that your story and point of view has on your marketing.

As your business grows – you will inevitably become a hub for something. Surprisingly – you will most often become a hub and a trusted advisor around a certain and particular point of view. Imagine a politician unwilling to have an opinion – just going wherever the poll numbers go (this shouldn’t be very hard to imagine). Then think of the people who most inspire you and inspired the world – you’ll find they all had a point of view they were willing to stand behind.

LESSON #2: It’s okay to polarize. But let me take it a step further. Not only is having a your own opinion a really, really good thing – it can be powerful to have your opinion be completely the opposite and contrarian to conventional wisdom. If you try to make your opinions mainstream most people will think you’re ‘okay’. But if you really speak out on polarizing issues (like elections) you will have some people love you and some people hate you.

It’s easy enough to share little differences that won’t upset anyone – but what if you have a contrarian opinion that you know your colleagues and others in your industry might strongly disagree with? What I’m saying is that this can actually be a profoundly powerful differentiator. The more polarized the point of view – the more polarized the response you’ll get. And here’s the marketing point: yes, some people will hate what you’re doing . . . but others will LOVE it.

They will adore you endlessly. They will champion your work. They will want to buy everything you own because you’re the one willing to point out the elephant in the room. You’re the one willing to take a stand on an important issue that everyone else is avoiding. Sometimes people think marketing is about making everyone love you. But, of course, that’s foolish.

Consider letting go of that and letting your freak flag fly. Consider bringing a new level of candor and honesty to your marketing – being yourself and expressing yourself with more and more honesty; letting the world know who you are without apology.

LESSON #3: Bless and release. When people disagree with your opinions and point of view – bless them and release them. Just let them go. How wonderful for them that they’ve found their own path. Don’t spend time trying to convince people to your point of view. Just share your thoughts and, like a light house, let people looking for your kind of safe harbour come to you. You won’t be a fit for everyone. How wonderful for you.

LESSON #4: Take a stand for issues bigger than your business. Is there a timely issue that you think people on your list might want to know about? Or might feel lost about what to do on it? Consider becoming an advocate or source of guidance there. I will always remember getting an email from Ron Berezan, The Urban Farmer – he ran a local gardening, landscaping and permaculture business in Edmonton for years. A beautiful man with a beautiful business.

And, one day, I got an email from him letting me know about some potential development that might happen in our beautiful rivervalley. There was a link to a survey I could take. I was so grateful for the heads up on the issue. It had nothing to do with his business directly, but it had everything to do with the point of view that we shared about the environment and our local community.

Are there issues like that for your own business? What are the issues that aren’t directly related but are indirectly a fit?

*

For those who are curious – here are the emails.

The subject line was: “CANADA: If you’re unsure who to vote for, something to consider . . .” and the message read as follow . . .

Hey Canadian Friend,

Sorry for two emails in one day.

But Monday’s a kind of important day – and a lot of people I know are confused about how to vote.

And this might help.

It’s a note I got from my colleague Audric Moses of www.funkybugnaturals.com in Edmonton.

(from my colleague Audric Moses in Edmonton)

Hello everyone,

As you all know this is an election that has the potential to have a huge impact on the governance of this country. A majority of Canadians do not want Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in power, yet vote-splitting between Liberal, New Democrat, and Green supporters always results in Conservative seats in the House of Commons. I’m writing this simply to make sure that everyone is aware of the online voter tools available to them, and that strategic voting could have an enormous impact on the results of Monday’s election.

The first such tool is here: www.projectdemocracy.ca — a fantastic tool for non-conservatives. Project Democracy uses prior elections, the latest polls, and other factors to generate predictions on voting in each riding. Based on your postal code, they will then tell you which candidate has the best chance at defeating the Tory in that riding. There are at least 4 ridings in Edmonton where a non-Con has a chance to win, if people vote strategically. If you are in Edmonton-Strathcona, Edmonton-Centre, Edmonton-East, or Edmonton-Sherwood Park, please check out their recommendations.

The second tool, www.votepair.ca , is for those who want their party to get a vote, but still would consider voting for someone else to defeat a particular candidate. Essentially, you swap votes with someone else in the country to make a bigger impact. Put your name on the list, fill in the requested info, and your party will still get a vote, even if it’s not from you.

Third, if you still don’t think the Conservatives have been that bad, read the following article by Globe and Mail columnist Lawrence Martin: http://federalelectionblog.ca/2011/04/27/harpers-attack-on-democracy-itemized-by-lawrence-martin/ In it, he itemizes the most serious abuses, scandals, and other trespasses by the Harper government demonstrating their disregard for the Canadian democratic process and for we the people of Canada. We tend to forget these things as they come and go in the media, but seeing them listed like this is almost unbelievable, and far worse than any government before the current one.

Lastly, a more entertaining look at those same abuses of power: http://compellingcomics.justsomeguy.com/CanadaVotes2011/Canada.html

Thanks for reading, and please, pass this around! (if you’re a Conservative voter who won’t be swayed, please ignore this message).

Well, most of my people really liked it. But one person really didn’t. Here’s a shortened version of his email . . .

“My wife subscribes to your newsletter – and I saw the subject line and had to open it.  Don’t hold my comments against her. Shame on you.  You have no idea of economics and the consequences that the LEFT will have on this great country. Take a look at what the Left has done to most of Europe, they are BROKE.  The cost of the so called Green energy plus the excessive social programs are so high that all Governments in Europe are looking at walking away from these asinine concepts. Canadians are much too smart for a Jackass like you – so come Monday the Canadian people will show you and your Socialist crowd the EXIT DOOR. Oh and by the way, using your business email newsletter to further your own political agenda is inappropriate.”

How he is shocked by my leftist leanings given that the name of my business is Marketing for Hippies is fascinating to me. As is his opinion that he gets to tell me what’s appropriate and inappropriate to do with my email newsletter.

But then I got these emails from some clients of mine . . .

“Just to say Tad that I think that this is one of the most important emails you’ve sent to date. I really admire you for sending it! I just had a chat with one of my tenants who’s still not sure he’s going to vote and when he said he’d probably vote PC as he doesn’t like the LIberals…. well it broke my heart. He is truly a smart and passionate man who I would have assumed after nearly 2 years of knowing him would have been GREEN. I forwarded him this email and told him I wanted him to first and foremost vote and that I didn’t want to sway him, but to educate him. Thank you for helping me do this with this WONDERFUL COMMUNICATION.”

“I haven’t been to one of your seminars yet but thanks a lot for this information. I’ve already shared it with 9000 people!”

“Thanks for sending this out. EVERY CANADIAN should know MORE about the parties and VOTE on Monday :-)  I live in Toronto Danforth where Jack Layton runs and I intend to vote for him, too.”

“great… thanks for this…. I’m confused about who to vote for so this is useful.”

You can’t please everyone.

Can you share a story of a time you got these kinds of mixed reviews for sharing something you believed in as an entrepreneur? Share it below.

 

If you’d like get cool posts like this in your inbox every few days CLICK HERE to subscribe to my blog and you’ll also get a free copy of my fancy new ebook “Marketing for Hippies” when it’s done.


About Tad

  • Guest

    “he’s Canada’s George W. Bush – but less charming”

    Nice bit of propaganda to start it all off! GW Bush is GW Bush. No one else is. You are working with subconscious images right off the bat and unfairly painting a man a color he is not.

  • Hi Tad,

    From the reports here in Australia the dark side won in a landslide. I gather the left of centre parties go the majority of the vote but the conservatives got the biggest single party vote.

    Onto opinions and so on.

    People don’t like stuff they don’t understand. The contrarian position needs to work in the existing terms. Opinions on other stuff may be simply irrelevant and a problem – someone writing about using software doesn’t need to differentiate based on politics (although they could talk about green stuff and recycling).

    One of my differentiators in self development is that I think small and safe steps are better. Scaring yourself because a guru tells you to I don’t find appealing or intelligent.

    I really don’t see politicians as a model for how to conduct ourselves. The phenomenon in recent politics in the Anglo-Saxon countries has been increasing lack of differentiation I think.

    I’m not sure about how you know how much to polarise either. Maybe you’ll offend so many people you don’t have a market left.

  • Gosh, if you can’t take risks with your own business, who the heck CAN? And as successful business people – hippies or greenies or lefties or whatEVER – we are keenly aware of the broad spectrum of economic issues, even when we may define success in a more three-dimensional way than maximizing profit. We are not armchair ranters, but folks who work for profit both social and financial in the real world, and many families depend on the sustainability of our work. In the aggregate, we are the backbone of the local economies, which keep people going when the big money leaves town.

    I say, let’s leave the fearmongering, finger-pointing and generalized overstatments, and make the best of it. Keep the momentum going, no matter the short term pain. Unlike big corporate, we can’t just uproot our businesses to cheaper climes.

    If we give in to the hopelessness of polarized politics and see the next four years as too long to live through, well, that’s not the attitude that builds success in anything. Myself, as a result of this election, I’m focussing on the issue of electoral reform, so that if the majority party is actually elected by the majority of voters, we might actually get somewhere.

    We also have to take responsibility for the toll a political life takes on people who stick their necks out (and there are a few very young new MPs in Quebec who might just be wondering what they are in for!) – this is what keeps many capable people of good conscience from taking that step, and invites imbalance. The bullying attitude of Question Period and the negative campaigns seem oddly dissonant in a country so concerned with stopping this very behaviour when it applies to young people. Do what we say, not as we do? Sheesh.

    More power to her, Elizabeth May is determined to civilize the tenor of debate and behaviour in the House, single handedly. If she can face THOSE odds, with such a determined smile on her face, after all these years of trying to get the Greens elected, who are we to give up! Stay informed, stay involved, stay connected, and stay the course. It’s only four years and there’s a lot to do.

  • Sé NicMhaoilein

    I love this blog post!!!!!!

  • I could not agree more!

    A while back, I got called all sorts of names (manipulative, spreading ideas that could be dangerous, etc) for suggesting that we can be more consciously empathic with our clients!

    Would just highlight one crucial piece to your courageous suggestion that helps me stay respectful to others when voicing my “radical” beliefs: being authentic and in integrity with attributing my opinions, beliefs, and feelings, as being mine and not speaking for anyone else… that has saved me from much muddiness and supported my confidence when I do get the odd attack or baiting for argument — which I often enjoy immensely — once the initial double take has passed.

  • Beth

    I come to your blog to read about business marketing, not politics. There are more than enough political blogs out there.