How “Warm” is Your Company?

Do your clients want to do business with a person, place or thing?

In last month’s article, I included the phrase “… referrals are where it’s at!” A loyal reader replied to me with an e-mail that read, “Not that I’m knit-picking, but it should be ‘referrals are where it is!’ … Unless you are writing colloquially, which it appears to be the case.” Maybe that guy was onto something …

There are two schools of thought on the topic of business etiquette. One school tells us to remain completely professional at all times, while the other says, “C’mon man, loosen up a little!” Is it possible to be friendly and warm while remaining professional? Absolutely! Why is this important? Because by and large, “loosening up” (a.k.a. “warming up”) is becoming a requirement if you want to attract and retain more business.

 

4 Tips on Warming Up Your Brand

1. People do business with people they like AND people like people like themselves.
Who are your clients? Perhaps more important, what type of client do you want to attract? If your clientele is completely “buttoned up,” then the loosened up approach may not be the best. (This should only apply to a few of you.) The rest of us, however, are dealing with everyday people; people who want to deal with … everyday people. So how can you be perceived as more of a “real” person?

2. Be Accessible
In a recent video message, the wildly successful (and always-charismatic) wine expert and branding guru, Open Door Policy (Humorous)Gary Vaynerchuk, shared his insights on “consumer expectations” and advises that your clients want to know and feel that you are accessible.

Here’s an example we can all relate to: Just a few years ago, it was a big deal to have contact with your favorite author. Now, personal replies from famous writers are becoming the norm (I’m in touch with several). If your clients can reach out to their favorite author and receive a response, shouldn’t they be able to reach you? Gone are the days of burying your phone number and e-mail address in the basement of your website. If you’re too busy to be accessible to your audience, you’re sending the wrong message to prospective and existing clientele.

 

3. Be seen
I learned from their founder that when tech support company Optimal Networks redesigned their website, they wanted to communicate that, more than a (boring) technology company, they are a service (i.e. people) company. One way to do this was to introduce the team … in a fun way. Polaroid-style pictures of staffers (complete with humorous job titles) are proudly displayed on the “Meet Our Team” page. Elsewhere on the site, you can find candid shots of the team working and playing together, including the “Spirit Day” rafting trip. I love this idea. What better way to show people your company’s “human” side?

Pictures and video of you and your team are priceless. Put yourself out there. Simply being seen equals warming up your brand.

4. Don’t Hide Your Mistakes
If nobody’s perfect, why are our testimonials pages chock full of “perfect” client quotes? My former boss very wisely used to say, “Often a client who’s had a bad experience (that you were able to resolve for them) turns out to be your best client; an even better client than the one who had an average – or satisfactory – experience.” That person’s testimonial becomes about more than what happened, it becomes about your outstanding efforts to help. You can bury your head in the sand and choose not to acknowledge the folks who are receiving sub-par service … or you can wear your testimonials on your sleeve – the good AND the bad.

Web 2.0 (web applications that facilitate interactive information sharing) gives everyone a voice … especially disgruntled customers. Many companies are now actively participating in social media. Not only are Facebook and Twitter a public platform for sharing information, they can also be a vehicle for handling customer/client concerns – publicly. Like many companies (large and small) Southwest Airlines has figured this out – it has people trolling the Internet for conversations about … Southwest Airlines. Here’s a recent example (that took me less than a minute to find):

Southwest Twitter Complaint from "Heather"

Click Image to Enlarge for Easier Reading

In case you’re new to Twitter, I’ll explain what you’re looking at here. Heather had a complaint about Southwest Airlines and decided to share it on her Twitter profile page (which is currently followed by 1,077 people). Almost immediately (as evidenced by the time stamps), a human being at Southwest provided Heather with a link on how to make a claim for her damaged luggage AND an invitation to further connect via Twitter’s Direct Message feature (DM).

How warm is your brand?

[Related video] ~ In a recent “We Mean Business!” TV interview, the country’s leading Approachability Expert, Scott Ginsberg, shared his insights on how and why approachability is such a key factor in business > > >

Comments

  1. Great article, Steve. I think it is possible to use the King’s English and also not appear to be buttoned up or stuffy. I’d like to reach everyone if I can.

  2. Agree. Nowadays people want to see the face of the company and know that they’re doing business with a responsible person. I personally like having somebody I can count on at the other side of the line.

  3. I agree to a point, Steve. While it is important to be authentic in your interactions with clients (and really, everyone) and in this age of transparency the more human a company is, the more attractive it seems, I would encourage businesses and service leaders to place professionalism as an equal priority to their humanizing activities.

  4. Thank you Jim, Maggie and Suzi. You all bring up excellent points.

    Suzi, I couldn’t agree more. I wish I’d thought to include your statement in this article … “I would encourage businesses and service leaders to place professionalism as an equal priority to their humanizing activities.” An equal balance is that magic formula that I’ve seen be responsible for the great success of so many individuals and organizations.

  5. Holy Crap! I can’t believe I waited sooo long to read this.

    Two things that tell me you KILLED it (in a great way) with this post:

    1 – http://garyvaynerchuk.com/ – I had no idea who this was until your shoutout.

    2 – The SW Airline thing! You convinced me to take less than 60 seconds and open a Twitter account today just to post a funny GoogleVoice transcription. Well, seeing the SW Airline thing totally changed my perception of twitter…..Twitter needs to put that dialogue b/t Heather & SW on all their media! I’d love to know that bit of info so I don’t use SW….furthermore, I’d love to know that I was wrong in not using SW BEEEECAAAAUSE they obviously CARE!

    Great stuff. Let me tweet it!

  6. You’re funny, Masoud.
    I’d imagine SW has a couple thousand more stories, just like Heather’s. I’ve heard that Verizon, Pepco, Comcast, Starbucks and many others are doing this too.
    As for advertising it, perhaps they’re afraid that if more people knew about it, those folks might take advantage in some way? Not sure, but happy to see many companies taking a proactive approach and becoming “accessible.”

  7. Chris Jensen says:

    I read this article while sitting in a snowstorm that eventually dumped over 5.5 feet of snow on our home. We made snow forts, tunnels, dug out neighbors, and just enjoyed the time as a family. It also gave me the time to reach out to most of my social network. Past friendships were rekindled, current contacts were strengthened, and future employees, partners, and clients were met. It was a wonderful time and allowed me to test your comments without ever having a face-to-face. Thanks for a great article.

  8. Wow, Chris, that’s a LOT of snow! I’ve heard so many great stories come out of this DC area historic snowfall. Thanks so much for sharing yours.

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