The Best and Worst Feedback You Can Get

Jen McGahan
Oct 16 · 7 min read

What “I don’t get it” really means

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Photo by Kevin Erdvig on Unsplash

As an entrepreneur, idea generator, or generally curious thinker (and hopefully not a copywriter); you’re going to hear occasionally: “I don’t get it.”

There are a few ways to take this. You can zoom out from yourself and see yourself as an oddball and pout. You can puff yourself up and take pride in it (thanks Apple) because it’s always “the crazy ones” that others don’t understand. You can shake your head in frustration by people who have no vision at all. You can go into isolation and just build the damn thing (maybe people will come). You can shrug your shoulders and say, “so what’s new?”

Square pegs develop a pretty thick skin after a certain number of years. (I heard that from a friend.)

I used to think it was the worst feedback you could get, because “I don’t get it” means your message lacks clarity. As a copywriter writing for clicks, clarity leads to success in the direct response/info-marketing world. Clicks mean “Oh yeah, I got that.”

No clicks mean, essentially, “I don’t get it.”

Here’s what “I don’t get it” really means

When someone gives you that blank look (or scratches their head in earnest; or looks over your shoulder, eyes glazed over; or absently moves food around their plate, searching for something polite to say; or sneers at you in disdain; or types the comment, “I don’t get it.”) you know one of six things:

  • They don’t like it.

Now pick yourself up off the floor. Because this is actually good news. This is the gift of feedback, even if you don’t like it.

Marc Lore, President, and CEO of Walmart’s e-commerce, who sold Jet.com to Walmart for $3.3 billion, recently said that there are certain traits of an entrepreneur, including being comfortable with taking risks. “I can’t tell you how often when a good idea that ultimately worked had been shared, a vast majority of the people say, ‘I just don’t see it.’ To be an entrepreneur you have to see things that others don’t see.”

Maybe you can wear your prospects’ “I-don’t-get-it” badge as you build your business, but you can’t rest on that for long. Not if you want long-term success. Not if you want to sell your company for $3.3 billion. At some point, you have to be able to frame your business in clear, cogent terms so that Everybody Gets It.

The reasons people don’t “get you”

I actually love this feedback as much as it makes me feel foolish. First, it weeds out the people who will never understand what you’re trying to do. Second, It helps you hone your message for the people who actually want to understand.

The interested ones sniff something of value, but they just can’t digest the real benefits to their lives. It doesn’t pop into their consciousness as a crystal-clear option.

This means you have work to do. You can handle that, right?

If someone really doesn’t understand, then there are three things going on.

1. You didn’t explain it well.

Dominic Walliman is a quantum physicist who writes children’s books. His mission is to explain mind-blowing concepts to children and get them excited about science. If you’re selling pizza or eyeliner, you should just take some simple copywriting course and get’er done. But if you’re explaining things like quantum physics (you really have to check out his Ted talk), you may need these tips…

  1. Start in the right place with terms they already understand. Ask if it makes any sense via a Facebook group or in person. You can even crowdsource feedback at this early stage.

2. It really is too complicated.

Time to go back to the drawing board. Sometimes simplification means paring away features that you, the originator of the idea or product, love. But as Walliman reminds us, people only “get” a little at a time.

What would happen if you only talk about, write about, and sell, one simple feature at a time? Get that first yes, and you’re onto something that others can understand.

3. The person you’re explaining things to is not your customer.

This one is hard to accept but true. When you get the feedback that someone doesn’t understand you, you must ask yourself honestly:

  • Are you trying to please too many people?

Remember, for every individual that hates it or doesn’t get it, there’s someone who really resonates with it. You need to pivot right now and talk to that special person. See if there’s anything there… for real.

The good and the bad sides of your customer’s confusion

When you hear someone say “I don’t get it,” you can count on the fact that a few things are bound to happen. [You need to take this very seriously because they could impact your future as a marketer — especially smaller businesses where your face is your business.]

Sometimes, you’ll have the opportunity to correct your mistakes and speak clearly to your ideal customer. This is a best-case scenario. Unfortunately, sometimes, you’ll lose a potential customer forever.

Confusion is alienating

When a potential customer doesn’t “get you” or feels that you’re shifty in any way, (this could mean hawking contrasting products or acting contrary to your brand,) then you’re bound to lose some folks. Not only will you cause prospects to back away from your website, your landing page, or your social media posts; but you will stack mistrust against you.

Warning: That’s hard to get back.

Think about a time when you put an item in a shopping cart, but then became confused about what would happen. There was some friction in your shopping experience, for whatever reason. Maybe you aborted your shopping cart and decided to think it over.

Let me ask you, did you go back? If you did, then you were highly motivated. (This is rare.) An abandoned shopping cart is a marketer’s challenge to redeem trust… and there are forces working against you.

First, your customer will always feel (just a little) that you wasted her time. In some small way, she’s going to feel like those minutes spent shopping were a waste of her time because the order wasn’t fulfilled. Even if it wasn’t your fault, even if she was totally responsible for the apprehension, this is what your buyer leaves with: an aborted mission.

If someone spent minutes reading a landing page but didn’t quite connect with it, it would be a miracle if she ever clicks on a landing page of yours again. Sad but true.

And yet, confusion is good

When you get a comment like “I just don’t get it” you have a miraculous opportunity. It’s not for the faint of heart. It takes hard work. It’s going to set you back a while. But you may victoriously emerge from a dead end. (Fingers crossed.)

All the product managers I’ve worked with tell me that an emerging product is never finished. They rely on feedback from their beta testers to hone the next iteration of their masterpiece.

The best thing about the “I don’t get it” feedback is that it forces you to stew in your customer’s juices for awhile. You don’t get to fly above it. You need that first sale, so you must deal with whatever is confusing.

This is the gift of feedback, even if you don’t like it.

When a customer is confused, you get to make revisions, you get to ask questions. You get to re-iterate the idea you thought was great to begin with.

If you’re lucky, your first customer is your girlfriend, and she’s not shy about telling you how to improve. Otherwise, you ask questions. If someone doesn’t understand what you’re trying to do, but they are willing to talk with you about it, your job is to keep them engaged in the conversation.

Make it worth their while. These are your people; these are your first 1000 customers, (an oldie-but-goodie concept). If someone is brave enough to tell you “I don’t get it” then you’re in good enough shape to improve. When you have a personal relationship with your early adopters, even if they don’t exactly get it, then you’re bound to get some helpful feedback.

Get them on your email list. Regular communication is the elixir that gets people to keep talking. Imagine if you tossed someone a bone to chew and they never got back to you. That would suck. Don’t be that gal. If someone engages with you, keep the convo rolling. Sending regular emails is the way.

Give them something to work with. When you have a group of people who claim not to get it, but still want to be in contact with you, you are in the perfect space to both serve them and to profit from their feedback. Don't waste this divine situation. Adopt beta testers. Keep them on your contact list. Give them freebies as you test new iterations of your product. Please don’t be shy.

These are your people.

Feedback is a two-way street

One time someone told me that he didn’t get the name “CopyPeopleRead.” It was a course or a landing page title I created, I don’t remember. At the time, I thought, “Duh. ‘Copy People Read’ is what you want.. so, naturally, you want “copy (that) people read”… But I was dead wrong. At the time, I failed to engage in the conversation and I ultimately lost that relationship.

When someone tells you they don’t get it, you can be bullheaded, or you can be fluid as water. My advice now: be like water… The worst feedback often becomes the best feedback. As long as you’re strong enough to suck it up.

Being open to learning is the key to your success. When someone gives you challenging feedback, your response predicts the outcome. The most challenging response elicits the most brilliant solutions.

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Jen McGahan

Written by

Curious mom, writer, & lymphatic massage therapist. I teach a persuasive writing course, too. Start here: https://www.jenmcgahan.com/power-words

Portals Pub

Fearless learning, disparate connections, and honest writing

Jen McGahan

Written by

Curious mom, writer, & lymphatic massage therapist. I teach a persuasive writing course, too. Start here: https://www.jenmcgahan.com/power-words

Portals Pub

Fearless learning, disparate connections, and honest writing

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