In a speech at an Iowa state fair last year, presidential hopeful Mitt Romney uttered the phrase “Corporations are people.” In context, he meant that corporations are simply organizations made up of people. Out of context, it was a pretty bad gaffe and became a talking point for legal pundits and Occupy Wall Street protesters alike.
But why is the idea of a corporation being a person such a horrible thought? The reality is that no one likes to do business with things. We like doing business with people with names, faces, voices and human emotions.
That’s why the more your corporation functions like a person, the better. Here are six tactics to ensure that your corporation acts more like a human:
1. People know when they are talking to a robot.
Ever seen the latest “human robots” to come out of Japan lately? Creepy. Don’t be that company. For your humanizing efforts to be successful, they have to be true and sincere. You can’t fake it or be something you’re not. It has to become a part of your corporate culture, from your ads to the company Christmas party. People will be able to tell right away if you’re fake or not, and they will respond accordingly.
2. People have names and faces.
Flo. Mayhem. The Priceline Negotiator. I’m Mac; this is PC. E-Trade Baby. The Burger King. Ronald McDonald. The Cavemen and recently, Clint Eastwood as Detroit. I could go on and on naming companies that have successfully captured their personality in an actual face. And it works, because we remember people better than we remember headlines or corporate mission statements. Other companies let us in on their “inner workings”: State Farm’s University of Farmers and Samuel Adams documentary-style commercials come to mind. The campaigns make their entire company look human and relatable.
3. People talk to each other.
How healthy is your company’s social networking? Does your advertising and marketing focus on talking at your customers, or are you talking with them? An exchange of ideas is called communication. Jamming your message down others’ throats is called annoying.
4. People apologize to other people.
Your customers are your customers because they saw something in what you provide that they liked. People are surprisingly responsive to a sincere and meaningful apology from another person. So when something goes wrong, reach out. It’s not enough anymore to just have a call center (more on that below). You have to go out and find what they are saying and communicate. In the Northeastern United States, “Snowpocalypse 2011” comes to mind and how some airlines handled it. JetBlue directly responded to 94 percent of its customers’ tweets about the storm. Delta, only 48 percent. US Airways, 0 percent per the Economist. Corporations and companies go out of their way to get customers, so why not work hard to keep them?
5. People are eager to call friends when they have a problem.
Are your customers eager to call you to help them resolve their problem? Or does the thought of calling customer service give them an anxiety attack? You want your customers to want to call you when they have a problem. That means you are given the chance to fix it instead of letting these dissatisfied customers silently slip off your sales sheets.
6. People give thoughtful gifts.
Do you reward your best customers? Good! That’s the first step. Now, did you pick out something special? Was the reward something personal or different? Or do your customers just file the “buy-10-get-1-free” card in their wallets with all the others? It’s one thing to reward your best customers. It’s another to do it in a way that sets you apart. In my opinion, we’re way past due for some innovative thinking on this tactic.
Transforming your corporation into a person isn’t just a nice thought. It’s good business. Corporations need to start behaving more like people, because, quite simply, people like people, and they’ll show their appreciation with their wallets and their loyalty.
By Brian Havig copywriter at gyro New York
Originally published at Ignite Something on the Forbes CMO Network