If December is a quieter period for your business, as it is for many, why not take some time to put some customers in your window? Get in touch with everyone who you’ve worked for this year and ask them for testimonials you can use next year.
There’s a reason that you’re seated in the window of a restaurant when you arrive early. It’s the oldest, purest form of marketing. If you see a busy restaurant, you’re more likely to try it than if you see one that’s empty. If December is a quieter period for your business, as it is for many, why not take some time to put some customers in your window? Get in touch with everyone who you’ve worked for this year and ask them for testimonials you can use next year.
As consumers we gravitate toward things that we perceive to have been vetted by others first. It’s about risk aversion, trust, and our underlying desire never to be the guinea pig who makes the mistake from which others can learn, unscathed. When you see the couple sitting talking and laughing in the restaurant window, they are sending an authentic and trustworthy message to you. They’re not being paid; they’re having a real experience and that experience is selling you on the restaurant.
Next time you’re watching TV, take note of how many commercials rely on real people telling real stories or having real interactions with products and services.
In the digital era, where all of us have direct access to each other through peer-to-peer networks, the restaurant window is a lot bigger and the people walking past the window are virtually infinite. We can read reviews on any restaurant we’re thinking of visiting on sites like Yelp; we can read peer reviews of any product before we consider buying it on Amazon or any other online retailer; we can check out anything from tradesmen to coffee by hearing from the people who actually use the service or product – all of whom are now empowered to share their stories with a wide audience.
Whether we are pushing messages out ourselves or monitoring the responses to our brand that are beyond our control, we must constantly pay attention to the real world and what it says.
For the staffing industry, or any other professional service, the principal is no different. Don’t underestimate the power of using real people in all of your communications. You’re probably not using TV spots; but think about what you are using: E-mails, collateral, social media, digital advertising. It’s time to get serious about putting your customer experiences front and center. To help you get started, here are five things you should do to get it right.
1. Don’t be shy
I’m always surprised by how unwilling some of my clients are to ask their customers for references. As long as you’re asking the right people, it should be a short and positive conversation. Everyone appreciates the need for these testimonials; it really isn’t a big deal to ask for them. In addition, having your customer spend 30 minutes thinking about you and articulating all the reasons they like you is never a bad idea. Still, you should be prepared to handle some basic objections from some of your staff to doing this.
2. Offer to help
Some people are very busy. Some don’t write particularly well. Most common is the customer who is quite happy but simply doesn’t know what to say. Offer to help them write the reference. This will make the task easier for them and will also help you to steer things in the right direction. They can tweak it and make it their own using what you’ve sent as a starting point.
3. Align testimonials with your brand
I’ve lapsed into marketing speak a little here, but stay with me. The chances are you have a fairly specific message you’re trying to get across to your market. It may be that you are trying to be recognized as the most experienced supplier in your market. It may be that you are trying to be the best value. Whatever your central message is, try to make sure the testimonials you get are focused on that message.
Experience – “We relied heavily on the ABC team’s experience throughout the project. They brought a wealth of knowledge of our market to the work.”
Best Value – “The ABC team delivered so much for such a low cost. We were amazed how much support we received for such a small investment.”
Both are positive messages, but both promote completely different aspects of brand. Which one is right depends on what you’re trying to accomplish operationally. There are a thousand other different angles you might want to focus on; make sure you know what you’re trying to accomplish.
4. Once you’ve got the references, use them
As you collect a healthy number of testimonials, always look for ways to use them. There are a myriad of possibilities. Use them in your sales proposals; circulate them on social media; place them prominently on your website; add them to all your collateral; have them on the wall in your lobby; put them on your business card or e-mail signature. There are very few places where a well written endorsement isn’t appropriate. You must always set an expectation with your customer, so they know how the reference will be used. They may have differing levels of comfort with the use of their name and their company. It’s always best to be very straight with them. Tell them that you would like to list their name and company and to use the reference publicly. That’s always your ideal. If you have to come down from there to something that they may be less worried about, then that’s fine. Ultimately you want to make your customer comfortable, but do your best to get the fully usable and attributable endorsement.
Best – “ABC delivered everything in record time. I’m thrilled that we were able to complete the project as quickly as we did.” – John Smith, Managing Director – XYZ Company.
Next best – “ABC delivered everything in record time. I’m thrilled that we were able to complete the project as quickly as we did.” John S. – XYZ Company.
OK – “ABC delivered everything in record time. I’m thrilled that we were able to complete the project as quickly as we did.” John S. – ABC Client
The last option is to be avoided if possible, but it’s a whole lot better than nothing.
5. Keep moving forward
Build the process of asking for references into your business’s usual operations. There will be a point where the customer is most satisfied and engaged; that’s the point where you need to appear and ask for an endorsement. In addition, listen for any natural cue to raise the subject. If your client call ends with your contact making a grateful comment, (E.g. “Thanks guys, it’s really made the difference having you involved in this.”) ask them if they would mind writing it down for you quickly. The moments when they’re honestly happy with you is when they will be most motivated to deliver a good reference. Involve your teams in the initiative and perhaps even offer a reward for each good reference. I know a company that pays a $50 bonus for each reference; the result is that staff not only try to get that reference, they try to earn it too, which results in better service. In a good month, they can earn $200 in bonus; that’s great value ammunition for the sales team and wider marketing efforts. For a few hundred bucks a month, they have a continuous stream of positive references.
However you choose to go about obtaining and utilizing references, there is no question that in 2020, positive endorsements are your most helpful marketing device at all levels of your business. Take a little time and think about how you might go about getting started. You can always call us if you need some extra help.
Richard Spragg is the CEO of Hirebrand, a global leader in marketing strategy for employers and staffing companies. Follow him on Twitter at richard_spragg, or call him on (713) 876 6045.