When you started your business you probably used word-of-mouth as your primary promotional strategy. Hey, you were new, people were interested, you could stimulate excitement about what you were doing – it was all good.
After a while though, that slows down; the excitement abates as you build a stable base of customers. Whether that’s sufficient to sustain your business is another matter. It’s at this point businesses often stall and even paid advertising may not be enough to stimulate sales – assuming of course you can afford it.
If you consider how successful those early word-of-mouth days were, it might be worth looking at how you might encourage more customer referrals and endorsements of your product and business.
In today’s social media savvy world, it’s quite easy to attract testimonials using sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, Yelp, Trip Advisor. To be effective however, these sites require careful management on your part; checking them regularly to see that people are saying good things about you and moving quickly to address any negative comments.
Building a following on Twitter or your own Blog will also lead to a sense of familiarity, that if you harvest it right will lead to referrals and even written testimonials. By telling your own story and producing your own content on a regular basis, you’re going to get noticed in the digital world.
There’s a good argument for establishing a strong presence on LinkedIn, which includes recommendations from colleagues and clients. But don’t just wait for people to recognize you. Give multiple LinkedIn referrals first, without being asked; it’s kind of like once we receive a Christmas card we feel obligated to send one back.
It’s one thing to do good work – but another to have people aware of how good you really are; so tell your story, share it with customers and don’t be afraid to ask good customers to spread the word through their Facebook site and click the ‘thumbs up’ (like) on your Facebook page.
As mentioned earlier, one of the most effective tools is also one of the simplest – word-of-mouth. The higher standard of service you deliver, the more likely clients will share their experience with friends. “I was blown away by my accountant this week. She went out of her way in the evening to deliver my updated file to my home office.”
Ask six or eight of your customers to join you for a sandwich lunch and seek out their views of your company and what additional services they might recommend you offer.
First off, they will be flattered to be asked and as they will witness your passion and be motivated to say good things. Don’t be afraid to ask them directly to endorse you.
Asking them to participate is best handled in person, or at least on the phone, rather than via electronic means – it adds a personal touch. And, since you don’t want either of you to be embarrassed, you need to have a pretty good idea who will agree to your request before you decide to ask them.
Sometimes, testimonials happen almost organically, but often nurturing referrals is a long process. Staying in touch with customers is critical. Like any good business strategy, it’s important to be patient. Building good business practices over a period of time and gaining the trust of customers will more likely result in them recommending your services.
Most of us like to say good things about the people with whom we do business. Sometimes we just need to be asked.