"You can have a rock-solid business strategy, unlimited resources, and the most talented people on staff, but only one thing is guaranteed in today’s hyperconnected society: likeability," says Dave Kerpen, CEO of Likeable Media, a social media and word-of-mouth marketing firm, and the author of a new book called Likeable Business. "If your business isn’t likeable, it will fail."
Kerpen knows how important it is for a business to be liked—by customers, employees, stakeholders and the general public. He wrote the book on it. His groundbreaking bestseller Likeable Social Media changed the way businesses interact with their customers on a daily basis. Likeable Business lays out strategies that help leaders at small- or medium-sized companies to spur growth, profits and overall success.
I asked Kerpen to explain likeability for small businesses.
Open Forum: How do you define a likeable business? Can a business you "love" not be "likeable"?
Dave Kerpen: If you as a consumer love a business, then it’s probably pretty darn likeable. If you as a small-business owner love your business, you’ve probably got passion, but you may or may not have what it takes to be likeable to your customers and staff.
A likeable business is defined by 11 principles: listening, storytelling, authenticity, transparency, responsiveness, adaptability, passion, surprise and delight, team playing, simplicity and gratefulness. I cannot stress enough how crucial it is for businesses to listen to their customers and respond to their feedback. For consumers, a likeable business is one they want to return to and tell their friends and family about. If a business follows these principles, their customers and employees will become advocates, which will lead to growth and profits.
OF: How does being a likeable business translate into growth for a startup or small business?
DK: Let’s say your customers like your chocolate chip cookies but they would prefer it if you would add a little more chocolate. A likeable business would listen and adapt to their customers by taking their feedback seriously, even if it means spending money on more chocolate. So you decide to add more chocolate chips in your cookies; your customers are happy and spread the word about how you listened to them and your new delicious cookies. This will bring you more customers and increase your business.
Team playing is another essential aspect for growth when running a small business. Having a team that is passionate about their work and knows how to work together well is crucial for the growth of a business. Make sure to build a strong company culture and surround yourself with people who are likeable as well, and they will work longer hours and harder to grow your business.
OF: Should a business have someone in charge of ensuring likeability? Why or why not?
DK: Everyone in a company is responsible for ensuring likeability, and it starts at the top. It’s not a task that is assigned solely to one person. For a business to be truly likeable, everyone from the CEO to the delivery guy needs to act upon the principles of likeability. Leading by example is the best way to build a team of amazing employees and a likeable business.
OF: What are the three most important and tangible likeability tactics or techniques for a small business?
DK: Listening, gratefulness, and surprise and delight. Every business should start by listening. I keep repeating this because it’s simple and yet overlooked so often. Being grateful is another key component of becoming likeable.
The power of a simple "thank you" is underestimated but can go a long way, whether it’s for employees, investors, business partners or your customers. Handwritten thank you notes will take you far! Surprising and delighting your customers is another way to create a likeable business.
Customers love surprises and being delighted; it’s human nature. I do whatever I can to surprise and delight my customers and employees. Whether it’s by giving away a present, sending thank you cards and swag, or giving customers a freebie, this will definitely make you more likeable in the eyes of your customers.
OF: Many of your likeability qualities—authenticity, transparency, responsiveness, adaptability—have been written about at length. What's different, new or better about your take?
DK: Nothing in this book is new, or rocket science. People have been talking about many of these principles since Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People. But in today’s economy, small-business owners have lost sight of some of those principles. And so many are still struggling with how to apply their principles to an increasingly digital, increasingly social-media-driven and increasingly complex business landscape. This book simplifies things for small-business owners, and makes it fun, easy and profitable to be likeable.
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