Likeable Business

By: Dave Kerpen



Dave Kerpen is a social entrepreneur and author of the book “Likeable Social Media”. He first sprang to fame as the “Crunch ‘n Munch guy” at sporting events in and around Boston. In his latest book, Dave advances the concept of “Likeable Social Media” into business. He explains why customers now demand more and how leaders can deliver to create likeable businesses.

The book is full of examples that illustrate Dave’s eleven strategies. So here, together with handy exercises (let’s call them Kerpen’s Calls) are those eleven strategies for organisations of all sizes to spur profit growth and overall success.


We’ve all heard the saying: ‘God gave us two ears and one mouth… so use them in that ratio’. But how many of us really listen? When people feel like they have been listened to, they open up and give you a chance to form a relationship. Listening to work colleagues and employees helps build a positive culture that makes work and business better by making people feel important. Listening is a science and Kerpen suggests it can be broken down into four parts: research, feeling, intimacy and mirroring.

Research: Find out as much as you can about the person or company you’ll be meeting. Forewarned is forearmed.

Feeling: How are you reacting to what they are saying? Are you intrigued? Bored? Are you revealing it in your body language?

Intimacy: Based on your research, what can you add to the conversation that identifies a common bond. Ideally, these are linked to your business objectives.

Mirroring: As the name implies…reflect back what you are hearing, not only with words but with your body language also.


Practice active listening. Start by spending one meeting listening more than you talk. Next, spend a meeting only talking 10% of the time (or less). Then try to talk 10% or less for a full day. Use that extra time to take notes.


Kerpen tells us that when you tell a great story, people connect with you emotionally and want to get to know you. The same goes for a company. When your brand tells a story, it becomes real and more tangible. And when a customer relates, when they say “I understand that, I’ve been there, I know how that feels”…they buy.

As the Heath Brothers say, stories are made to stick. Kerpen reminds us that your customers won’t remember your financial figures or fancy product features, but they will remember your brand’s story and what it means to them.

Seek out the stories in your business. Find moments that bring your brand to life and engages an emotion. They may come from your employees: What made them choose your business? What do they get from working with you?


Write down three stories you’d like to be able to tell about your organisation in three years. Set the ball in motion to get there.


Kerpen suggests that no one wants to form a relationship with a person perceived as ‘fake’.

Equally, no one wants to do business with a company that seems inauthentic.

To be an authentic leader, you must reinforce your organisation’s values. So if you say ‘The customer comes first’, better make sure you mean it. If not, and you waiver from your core values, customers will doubt your trustworthiness and not commit to doing business.

Customers want to feel like they’re interacting with a person, not a machine or a cold, soulless company. So your company must take on human form with a true and authentic personality: everywhere from your marketing and support to customer service.

As Kerpen points out, a great benefit of being perceived as authentic and human is that you’re given slack for your faults. Consider that as a key weapon in your customer complaint department.


Assess how much of your personality you display in the course of doing business. When was the last time you told a colleague or client a personal anecdote? When was the last time you were vulnerable in front of your company?


Kerpen claims that trust and respect comes from taking a stand, and explaining why you made a certain decision. It also comes from the belief that you should be willing to be transparent about your actions, weaknesses and challenges.

Transparency demands accountability. This happens when each member of the company openly takes responsibility for his or her work and actions.

You can’t hide the truth. There is no point even trying. When you embrace transparency, instead of trying to hide the truth, you create an open, positive environment in which your company can prosper.

Kerpen tells us that being transparent doesn’t have to mean being a completely open book. As a rule of thumb, the more you share, the more trust you’ll gain. So if you’re doing something great, share it; if you’re doing something you’re not entirely happy with, admit it…and be open to how you’re working to change it. Don’t ignore any elephants in the room; your customers can see them and will appreciate you acknowledging their existence.


Write down 3 things your company could be doing better, and 1 way you can communicate this to your employees and customers. Share!


Kerpen states that building a team of motivated, loyal members requires creating a workplace environment where employees feel appreciated, recognised, and valued for their contributions. Part of being a great leader is giving credit to your team… and seeking none of your own. When praised, a great leader credits his or her success to the work of others (and maybe just a little bit of luck).

The consequences of letting others take the credit are beneficial to all: your modesty is admired and makes you more likeable, and the person you praise gains motivation and a boost to their confidence.

Research has shown that companies with highly aligned strategies and cultures have a 30% higher growth rate than others. Today, it’s not enough to just have a great product or service and robust financials; long-term business success depends on a healthy culture.


Hold a team meeting and brainstorm activities your employees would enjoy as a team. Choose 3 favourites and plan to make one of those activities part of your culture.


Kerpen suggests that while we should appreciate feedback, the bigger challenge is how we genuinely respond to it. Let’s be honest: people get hurt if they are ignored, and happy if their opinion is recognised. With the prevalence of social media tools, consumers are no longer shy about sharing their opinions, and the response challenge is only going to increase.

How quickly do you need to respond?

The faster the better, of course. If it takes you more than 24 hours to get back to a customer, you should be trying harder. Remember though, it’s not just about responding to e-mails, Twitter feeds or blog comments. It also means not putting your customer on hold for 25 minutes. It means sincerely taking customers’ feedback into consideration.

It’s a simple equation: respond to the haters, and you’ll turn them into lovers. Respond to the lovers, and you’ll multiply the love. Remember also that not responding is still a response. It’s a response that says, “We don’t care.”


Write a list of 5 ways you can respond to negative feedback and constructively use it to improve your business.


Kerpen believes that an adaptable company can meet the ever-changing needs of its customers. He advises us to remember that our customers don’t stand still and neither should we. In today’s changing markets we just can’t expect to hold our positions by standing still.

Kerpen also suggests that making a change in a company does not require completely refocusing its vision or abandoning the original mission. In The Lean Startup, another book, Eric Ries calls the ability to change direction while staying grounded in a particular vision, Pivoting. Business leaders who learn how to pivot can straddle the past and the future and embrace adaptability. They use a build-measure- learn-adapt loop, pivoting as they go.

A business reacting to change must be nimble. It takes a leader who is able to change based on critical results and significant opportunities. Kerpen says that if you remain open to alternatives, listen, analyse, and brace yourself to react, you can adjust on the fly and take advantage of new possibilities.


Hold a meeting with your team. Go around the room and have everyone offer one way you can improve the company. Write the suggestions down, pick one and make it happen!


Kerpen believes passion is vital to success. It invigorates us, provides purpose, and focuses our work. It fulfils and provides value and worth to what we do. It transforms a job into a life’s work.

He claims passion is found within the person. We need to identify what motivates and engages us. We have to try things out, find what motivates us, what fuels our energy, what gets us excited — at work and in life. The most important thing is that our passion is real, because passion can’t be faked.

Passion is contagious, compelling everyone around you who experiences it to jump on board. If an engineer or a non-salesperson is overheard talking about how much they love your product, it could lead to new business. The same goes for customers. Can your passion be theirs?


Connect with your customers’ passion. Understand what they love and care about and how you can play a part in that.


Statistics show that 40% of customers leave a business due to a poor experience. Kerpen advises that creating delightful interactions between your company and your customers is what will make them enjoy doing business with you and keep them coming back for more.

It’s actually quite straightforward. Adding the element of surprise to your business just requires over- delivering and exceeding your customers’ expectations. Social media can help us surprise and delight at scale, reaching far beyond one customer. When we deliver exceptional customer service or surprise a customer with a free product, that customer is going to tweet, blog or “like” with friends and followers.

In today’s social media age, an influential customer with a large, captive audience is particularly important. Since it’s physically impossible to surprise every one of your customers we must select the people who will have the most influence on spreading the word and the greatest impact on increasing business.

To get customers talking about your company, we need to give them something to talk about. And there is nothing more word-of-mouth worthy than surprising and delighting consumers.


Think of 3 delightful customer service experiences you’ve had recently. What do they all have in common? Create a plan to implement those elements into your business.


Kerpen claims that human beings crave simplicity. In a world where we are inundated with thousands of products, relentless advertising, and constant media bombardment, simplicity serves as a competitive advantage.

Consumers don’t want everything they could possibly ever want; they want only what they want right now and nothing more. For simplicity to succeed, it can’t be just a marketing or an organisational strategy, but rather part of your culture that penetrates every aspect of the business.

Simplicity isn’t something that can be just added to a company; it needs someone to guide and to stubbornly champion it. Simplicity must be implemented with consistency until it is simply part of the company itself.

Kerpen states it quite succinctly “Don’t be like the actor who decides to rap, and then launch a fashion line, a fragrance, and be a supermodel on the side. Figure out what you do best, and focus on that one thing.”


Ask yourself, “What’s unnecessary in the company or its operations? What can we remove? How can we make this simpler?”


Kerpen says that we need to think about business karma. If we make it a practice to genuinely thank those who deserve our thanks, they will appreciate our expression of gratitude and will be far more willing to help when we need their assistance. When we thank people and show our gratitude, they know they’re valued and feel honoured to be acknowledged. They are then excited to talk about us and are sure to continue to do business.

So how do we show gratefulness? Be retro.

An e-mail “thank you” is simply not very special these days. E-mails are too easy to write and send, and while some people may appreciate receiving them, others may actually resent the clutter in their inbox. But everyone appreciates a thank you card and the extra time it took to write and deliver. In an increasingly digital world, there’s something magical about tradition.


The next time you are about to send a thank you e-mail to a client or colleague — don’t. Write a thank you note instead.