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Business is ultimately about people. No matter what goods or service a company sells, sustainable success depends on individuals choosing to do business with it. Even if you're selling a digital product, in the same category, say, as Instagram, that product was still created by people (designers, engineers and product teams) for people to love.
In order for a product to be loved, the people behind it need to relate to those they consider ideal clients.
This relatability can make or break an entrepreneur’s — or a company’s — chances of becoming or staying successful. In the wake of the scandas at Facebook and Uber, it’s been necessary for Mark Zuckerberg and Dara Khosrowshahi to personally apologize to consumers worldwide in hopes of restoring their companies’ public image.
Had audiences deemed those CEOs unrelatable or irresponsible, their apologies would have been ignored.
At my current company, VentureDevs, relatability is a key component of our identity. By showcasing our colleagues’ unique personalities and being transparent and honest about our mission, we help our customers see the human side of our company and relate to us as an organization that cares. From sales to networking, being relatable increases your chances of succeeding in all aspects of business.
Relatability comes with business gains.
While some companies lead with a marketing strategy that connects their products to their target audiences, it’s often wiser to first employ a strategy that connects the company’s message with its audience. If people don’t like how a company represents itself, they won’t engage with its product. A 2016 Label Insight study found that 73 percent of consumers surveyed would rather pay more to buy from companies that promise total transparency.
The tools to become a relatable entrepreneur and company are easily accessible. Market research can help you and your company understand your target audience inside and out. A deep understanding of your target audience is necessary to create a successful pitch deck, to build subsequent products and to support users — but it will also help you understand what you can do with your personal brand to connect with your audience.
Here, Virgin founder Richard Branson is a great example of a wildly successful entrepreneur who has built an extremely relatable enterprise around his personality. He emphasizes that people should have fun and create a great work environment when building a company, and that attitude draws engagement from his fans. With more than 24 million followers across his social platforms, it’s clear he knows what he’s doing.
While it might not be possible for everyone to reach Branson-level relatability, entrepreneurs can still ensure that both they and their companies genuinely connect with their audiences. Here is where to start:
1. Build a network of like-minded individuals.
Networking is about forging concrete connections with people. Social media is a popular tool for networking, but adding someone to your LinkedIn network is a far cry from actually getting to know him or her. To make the most of each networking opportunity and cultivate authentic relationships, opt for in-person meetings rather than online interactions.
In general, I believe in starting to network with friends in your existing networks and getting personal introductions whenever possible — and I’m not the only one. Investor Chris Moore says that in his experience, “warm introductions” are almost guaranteed to lead to meetings. If you are fortunate enough to secure an intro from a friend, repay his or her good deed and be respectful of the outreach.
2. Post personal content on social media.
The “personal” aspect can come from your everyday experience or be business-related, but either way, it should involve content that followers can relate to. I myself don’t love posting about my personal life to the entire world, but I find it easy to post about my businesses. Reason being, when someone is proud of what he or she is doing, it’s almost second nature to share the team’s success.
Writing about personal wins makes anyone come across as more relatable. So does writing about overcoming obstacles.
Amazon's Jeff Bezos, for example, posts wins and challenges from both sides of his life on social media. He might lead one of the biggest companies of all time, but he still uses his social accounts to showcase evidence that he has a personality to which the world at large can relate.
3. Tackle everyday problems in your posts.
While bringing attention to global issues is certainly important, your messaging needs to be framed in a relatable context. When discussing a social issue, center in on the human factor. If possible, highlight the ways that your audience, and perhaps even you yourself, might be contributing to these issues. No matter how you address a problem, make sure that the reader will see himself or herself in the content.
Some people cultivate a huge following by doing just this. James Altucher, a self-help author, has accrued 196,000 followers on Twitter by regularly discussing the problems average people face daily, from self-image struggles, to cognitive bias, to rejection.
4. Engage with your follower base.
To avoid simply showing off and coming across as pretentious and conceited, be sure to actively help followers. Ultimately, the heart of social media revolves around forging a community. This applies to the social media used by brands, too. Posting relatable content can help brands develop a community of loyal customers.
Salesforce has reported that it takes eight touchpoints (on average) with a brand for customers to even think about buying from a company. Don’t be afraid to use social media for some of those touchpoints. Connecting with customers online can take the form of answering DMs, retweeting customer comments or sharing customer reviews. Not only will these actions touch those individual consumers, but their networks will be impressed as well.
Being a relatable entrepreneur and, in turn, building a relatable company can make or break a business. Not only will it help you cultivate a broad professional network for yourself and your organization, but it may help to attract your customers to your product or service. Follow these tactics to craft a relatable presence that consumers will love.