Monday, September 12, 2011

Be Human, It's Good Business

If you've listened to Chris Brogan, Derek Sivers or Gary Vaynerchuk for more than a month, you already know what I'm about to say (but probably could use the reminder). Today, successful businesses have to be human. They have to be approachable.

I snapped the screen grab to the right because it's a great example. Some guy on Twitter wanted to get in touch with THE Gary Vaynerchuk. Like most of us, he safely assumed unless you're someone important or you know someone important, you have to be introduced to get noticed. Gary's response shows this is no longer the case. The CEO's email address is no longer a company trade secret.

Derek Sivers is another great example. If you haven't read his book, Anything You Want, go buy it. You can read it in an hour and a half. He talks a lot about business being human (funny non-corporate emails, asking customers to buy pizzas for change requests and even including sticks of gum or a squid (?!) in the outgoing package if necessary).

Derek ends his book with this:
"The coolest people I meet are the ones who find me through something I've written. So if you made it this far, please go to http://sivers.org/a and email me to say hello. I get really inspired by people's questions, so feel free to ask me anything, or just tell me what you're working on. I'm glad to help."
"I'm glad to help." He really means it. A couple of those 4,469 emails were to me and I'm nobody important. I get encouraged every time I remember his first reply:

Hi Luke -
Thanks for the GREAT email!  Wow!  Very cool to get to know you more. Sounds like we're kindreds! :-)
You didn't ask for a response, but just wanted to let you know how much I loved your email.
I'll definitely keep in touch. By the way, is this (luke.stokes@gmail.com) also you?
What's your twitter url?

Like Gary and many others, he generally cares and is interested in the people he connects with. He understands how people want to feel validated and important. If Derek Sivers, a man who some say changed the music industry forever, calls me a kindred then maybe I really can be successful. Even the nobodies want to feel like somebody.

Businesses and CEOs have an incredible platform to do exactly thatwhether that means delivering a steak to someone at the airport or just replying to an email to tell them you enjoyed reading their story. It sounds so simple, but it's actually very difficult to do consistently.

When FoxyCart first started, I used to get frustrated with my business partner, Brett Florio, because he spent hours and hours responding to customer support emails and forum posts. I used to think, "Dude, we can't scale that. We have to focus on marketing and sales and the website and, and, and..." Instead of firing off a quick answer to someone's pre-sales question, Brett took a look at the company's website, got an understanding for their product and his responses were usually personal and specific. He not only answered their questions, but he also asked some of his own and often included advice on how to improve their online presence.

He knew long before I did that what he was doing is marketing. A brand is the perception of your service in the mind of the customer and he was willing to build that perception one human at a time.

As we continue to grow and bootstrap this business, I never want to lose that human focus. I know there are only so many hours in the day, but our fans love us and rave about us because, hopefully, they understand how much Luke and Brett care about them. We care about their success. They are not just another cog in someone's profit wheel. They are humans and they want to work with a business made up of other humans caring for their users, validating them and making it known that they are somebody important.

What are you doing to make others feel important? How are you making your business more human?

3 comments:

Kacy Maxwell said...

Hey Luke! Nice post. You are right about businesses needing to be human especially when you are the face of the company in the space. I look forward to seeing how you continue to humanize FoxyCart moving forward. This topic would be a great post for the FoxyCart blog as well.

Julie Morris said...

I try to care about the end-user's response to what they receive. My focus is non-profit marketing, mostly helping churches create marketing materials that will get people to come to church. That's my mission and my calling. And I try to remember the Kingdom during the whole process, like what I create could change the course of a family, or change someone's life. It changes what I do from tasks to a mission. It's human to human level, and it's exciting.

Luke said...

@Julie: that's awesome that you're doing what you love and it's exciting. There's no substitute!

@Kacy: Thanks Kacy! You're such a great encouragement to me. And thank you also for sharing this article today, it's such a good "why" to this post: Being Human Is Good Business.