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Allowing Customers To Know What It’s Like To Work With You

July 25, 2017 - Business Psychology -
By: Chris Riley

When we engage with each other, our perceptions and previous interactions are key. During your day, say you just left a conversation with someone in a sour mood. Your second encounter may not start off well. In our lives, we tend to hold those closest to us in high regard, and at the same time, there are people that we strive to avoid. This dynamic is important in choosing who we want to spend our time with. So why would it be any different when it comes time to decide what company to give our money to when we’re buying a product?

If there were no choices, then your outreach could be whatever you choose, and customers would still come. Your product most likely is not the only one of its kind. The technology markets are especially fragmented and filled with “nice to have” solutions, not to mention open source (OSS). You should know that right now, people are paying a lot of attention to your brand and/or product’s personality. That is why bringing people into the fold and letting them know what it’s like to engage with you is important.

The modern buyer is critical by default. He or she can be. There are a ton of solutions to choose from, and modern buyers are crafty, meaning they can find alternatives to problems pretty easily. So knowing how a product is going to on-board, support, and enhance their product is important. People want to find something that they can brag about and stick with forever. Yet it’s so easy for any SaaS solution to come and go. Your efforts need to start with your culture.

Share your culture.

Your company has a culture. You can be deliberate, or let it create itself. Usually, companies that are deliberate about their culture have no problem sharing it with the world. This is important because your culture will bleed into all your interactions, down to the words you use on your landing page, and even your 404 page.

You can’t give people a guide on your culture. It has to be exposed over time through consistent action and the language you use.

Your language matters.

How you describe your products, the words you put in your marketing assets, and how you approach users when selling your product all matter. Even your UI/UX should reflect your company’s personality and your culture.

I’m not telling you to be cute for cute’s sake. A lot of companies have fallen into that trap. It often pigeonholes them into selling to individuals, and they tend to sell novelty solutions that people have a hard time justifying paying for.

Language also matters in social interactions on Twitter, Facebook, your ads, etc. If you’re dry, and at other times you come across as whimsical, it’s confusing. You would likely be unsure about a person who is incredibly nice, and then suddenly sullen. Companies can be bipolar in how they present themselves, and this can be a sign of long-term instability.

Actions speak louder than words.

But what you do matters also—how you respond to angry customers, how you support the community, and how you deal with serious strategies. This post talks about how GitLab owned a major bug/outage, and how they addressed it and will mitigate it in the future. This approach is far better than ignoring or deflecting.

With it, GitLab gained a tremendous amount of respect. It will not erase fear from users about data loss, but most developers (their typical user), also understand. Crap happens with code.

So, it’s not just words. It’s also your actions.

Are you the stubborn one?

You could decide to do nothing, which is what most companies have done for years. It might be the safe route, but as solutions start to embrace personality (even massive brands like United with their big metal bird campaign), not embracing brand character and personality might actually become a liability faster than you think.

If your strategy is to close the gates, follow the status quo and have no personality, it’s likely that this will be met with the same amount of adoption you would see if your company behaved badly in public. People will interact with you even with a poor showing, if they have to. But they are not going to promote you, and as soon as they can leave, they will.

I can’t tell you how to do it.

Building campaigns around and exposing your personality is not easy, but it’s natural for many businesses, especially those that are fairly new. What I can tell you is that you have to be deliberate and consistent. It would be natural to think this requires micromanaging. It doesn’t. It comes from who you hire, and having a consistent conversation internally about the company as an individual. The entire executive team needs to live the personality you want to have. That’s the easiest way. You do not need to hire people who already fit the culture. If it’s an environment they like, they will fall in line with no effort. If not, they will leave. Ideally, they will share their objections, and refine the company for the better.

Products and brands are people, too. And just as in managing your personal interactions, guiding your attention to those you like the most, people do the same when it comes time to choose or leave an offering. Letting people know what it’s like to enter a relationship with you from your first web page, demo, or call is an important way to gain new business, and reduce churn.


Chris Riley (@HoardingInfo) is a technologist who has spent 12 years helping organizations transition from traditional development practices to a modern set of culture, processes and tooling. In addition to being a research analyst, he is an O’Reilly author, regular speaker, and subject matter expert in the areas of DevOps strategy and culture. Chris believes the biggest challenges faced in the tech market are not tools, but rather people and planning.

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