What does it mean to have an approachable business? Think of it in terms of being an approachable person.

Businesses, much like people, have characteristics and personalities. A leader who is unapproachable is seen as distant, cold, and ineffective. Few people want to follow a leader who refuses to be approached.

Similarly, a business that projects an image of being aloof or arrogant will have a difficult time connecting with its customers. A successful business, then, knows that in order to expand its reach and ability with its customers, it must be approachable.

Customers of a business should feel that they can buy, interact, or connect with it without risk or repercussion.

You get to be in charge of how approachable your business is, and here are the seven techniques that make it possible.

1. Give back.

Approachable businesses are generous businesses, and the way that you can prove your generosity is by giving back.

How does a business give back?

Let me give you an example. Kroger grocery gives away a whopping 10 percent of its profits to schools and community projects. When a shopper walks into a Kroger, he or she does so trusting the company to be transparent and generous in its approach to profits.

This is the same approach that has characterized Toms shoes. The company is known for its charity trips, and for giving shoes to needy people.

Such actions inspire an approachable brand personality that customers trust, and they return to the brand time and time again.

2. Be known for one thing.

This is really about being simple and straightforward with your marketing.

As an example, Coca-Cola owns the world's most valuable brand. The brand has global appeal in part because of the way that the company has positioned itself around a central tenant: refreshing.

Coca-Cola may not be healthy. It may not provide weight-loss benefits. It may not be cheap. But it is refreshing. For that reason, consumers can trust it to provide what it promises--a refreshing beverage experience.

Do your customers know what your brand stands for? Once they do, they can embrace it with confidence. Being known for one thing is about creating an approachable brand persona that people know, understand, identify with, and relate to.

3. Interact with your social media fans.

If there's one thing that says approachability, its actual interaction, online or off. If you have social media channels, they are indispensable tools for listening to your customers and responding to them.

Don't view Twitter, Facebook, et al., as one-way broadcasting channels. View these platforms as two-way communication channels, where you listen and respond to customer feedback.

Customers who are truly interested in your brand will be positive about your brand only if you prove yourself approachable by interacting with them on social media.

4. Be competitive without being cutthroat.

In business, if you're not competitive, you're toast.

There is a way to be annoyingly competitive, and then there is a way to be appropriately competitive. The annoying variety of competitive tries to badmouth the competition, engages in subterfuge, and meddles with the competition's honest effort.

Healthy competition steers away from such rudeness. You can outrank, outsmart, outmarket, and outprofit your competitor without saying a single nasty word or doing a nasty deed.

And the biggest upside of all? Your customers trust you. In their eyes, you've been able to stay nice and go big.

5. Write positive content.

Today's content-driven marketing relies on substantive, in-depth, and authoritative articles. Companies are the new publishers, pushing out thousands of articles, syndicating their content, and embracing myriad new forms of marketing via information.

We know that content-marketing works, but what kind of content works? We can't neglect the overwhelming impact of tone in the content-marketing discussion.

A content's tone is what establishes its authority, elicits trust, attracts customers, and improves the brand's persona. Here are some tips for creating a tone of content that proves you're an approachable business.

  • Avoid zealous self-promotion.
  • Don't complain.
  • Don't bash the competition.
  • Encourage people.
  • Be inspirational, not merely informational.

What kinds of content exude this approachable positivism? Any kind. The best types of articles include how-tos, in-depth guides, white papers, and problem-solving posts.

6. Have nice leaders.

The individuals who lead a company have a strong part in shaping the personality of that company.

A great company can have a cruel leader. But just because that type of business has been successful a time or two doesn't mean it's a model for others to replicate.

While recent history is colored with the likes of Chainsaw Al and Jeffrey Skilling, we also have leaders such as John Wooden and Howard Schultz, who prove the virtues of an alternative path.

When you're a kind leader, you cultivate a kind and approachable company. People like that. People follow that. People buy into that.

7. Be generous.

Generosity is a highly attractive characteristic for both businesses and people.

We know what it's like to be a generous person, but what does it mean to be a generous company? I explained the concept of "giving back" above, but there are additional ways to be generous. Here are a few.

  • Create free software. One decision that I'm grateful for is that I provide my SEO checking software for free. Although it has a high value, it has zero cost. This is one way I want to help business leaders and digital marketers who may not be able to afford expensive consulting services or pricey software suites.
  • Provide free resources. Some of the most respected companies in the world are those that provide in-depth resources. HBR publishes articles that are second-to-none in quality. IBM releases excellent white papers. Google collates helpful information for web searchers. Whatever the format or content, you can provide valuable resources to your customers, no money required and no strings attached. Even food companies can give away free stuff.
  • Give complimentary consulting. If you can't give away ice cream or software, then maybe you can give away your time. Chances are, there are people who would value your expert insights on issues. Provide consulting to select individuals free of charge.

Final thoughts...

Being approachable may seem like a tangential aspiration for a company that is focused on profits and quarterly revenue.

Just maybe, however, it's not that tangential at all. Perhaps creating an approachable persona is exactly what it takes to become a successful business.

There's no way to experience the benefits unless you try.

And if you succeed in creating a brand that is truly approachable, I think you'll see your revenue go up, too.

How can you make your business more approachable?

Published on: May 21, 2015