GUEST AUTHOR BLOG: "How Likeability Can Restore Trust In Business" by Rohit Bhargava author of "Likeonomics: The Unexpected Truth Behind Earning Trust, Influencing Behavior, and Inspiring Action."
What if the first thing any business did was tell you exactly why you shouldn’t buy from them?
We don’t generally expect this kind of honesty from business.
And there are plenty of reasons why most companies wouldn’t even consider it.
Of course, no one wants to turn down a sale. After all, customers are customers and revenue is revenue.
But what if the real secret to selling more and being more profitable had everything to do with an unexpected and human honesty instead of focusing just on perception at all costs?
In the process of trying to be all things to all people, most businesses never admit that they aren’t perfect for every customer.
Instead by making manipulative and “augmented” claims about what they offer, businesses and marketing teams in particular have collectively created a crisis that is threatening the entire ecosystem of business today. It is a crisis of believability and no business, no matter how big or small, is immune to it.
A Gallup survey in 2011 measured confidence in institutions and found that only 12 percent of Americans had a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in the US Congress. But before you wag your finger at those corrupt politicians – big business didn’t fare much better at only 19%. Even small business, traditionally one of the most trusted institutions in America (after the US military), only came in at an unimpressive 64%.
Adding to the problem, every week a new article or book is published about this trust gap between business and consumers. Occupy Wall Streetwas a highly visible recent explosion that showed the depth of this rift. Somehow business and perhaps even capitalism itself has become the enemy to many Americans.
Something needs to change – but what will it take?
This was the question at the heart of Likeonomics, where I delve into the stories of brands and organizations around the world to understand what makes them more believable and more trusted. An unlikely answer is coming from the resurgence of an ideal that many people would never have equated with business, and certainly not with big Fortune500 businesses … likeability. The fundamental insight behind Likeonomics is that business is finally rediscovering that while people may not trust institutions, they trust other people they have personal connections with. We all do business and build relationships with people we like.
It is why brands like Intel , IBM , and Cisco are all running multiple million dollars focused on their people and the innovations they create. It is why a brand like Skechers has ruthlessly tried to copy the model that helped a beloved grassroots brand likeTOMS Shoesbuild a customer base of millions of people.
"In the process of trying to be all things to all people, most businesses never admit that they aren’t perfect for every customer."
When brands focus on their people, they immediately become more likeable because they offer a real human connection. In some cases, like Skechers, it is based on little more than a gimmick … and that only works for a short time before detractors attack. Yet for the brands that do manage to do this authentically, they can not only make more money but they also inspire their employees and their customers.
The lesson this offers is that the most important currency a business has isn’t made of paper anymore, it comes from relationships. In a society filled with distrust where people simply don’t believe what they see or hear – the only way to survive as a business is to build trust by making a more personal and human connections. It requires a new focus beyond just promoting products and features.
The future belongs to the organizations who can connect with their customers and employees in a more real and authentic way. In a world where trust is the ultimate metric of success or failure, personal relationships and likeability is everything.
Rohit Bhargava is a marketing expert on helping brands bring more humanity back to business. His second book Likeonomics focuses on how to build trusted and likeable brands and will be available on May 22nd. He teaches global marketing at Georgetown University, and is a Senior Vice President in the Strategy & Planning group at Ogilvy.
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