Seven Weeks To A Better Business, Part Three

By Beacon Staff

Two weeks ago, we started getting you a little more time to work on the next 6 things. Last week, we worked on getting closer to your existing clients. This week, we’re going to personalize your business by systematically collecting and using testimonials.

One of the biggest opportunities that small businesses miss out on is the power of testimonials. A number of business people have told me they think it is against the law to use them. Not even close to the truth. Even in heavily regulated businesses (financial services), just a little extra thought is necessary.

The failure to collect and use testimonials from their existing clients is a huge mistake that can reap rewards if you correct it. I don’t mean collect testimonials occasionally. I mean regularly, in fact, systematically. The collection of testimonials should be part of your business process, just like shipping products and paying bills.

When you see a sign or brochure that says “We’re the best mortgage broker in town”, do you believe that? Doesn’t everyone say that, or something similar? How do you really know who to talk to?

Not only do you have to use them systematically, but you have to use them properly. If you see a testimonial that says ” ‘Mark is great’ A.G., Opelousas, LA”, I can just about guarantee that you think it has been made up. If you have even a sliver of doubt about it, then that testimonial has lost all value to you and to your prospects.

Value. That’s one of the keys here. While the testimonial might provide you with value by having other people say what kind of work you do, the real value is to the prospect who doesn’t know you. If they see a believable testimonial from a real person, it helps them make a less risky choice.

Now consider this made-up testimonial: “Joe helped us figure out how to refinance the house even though my husband had been laid off. He helped us when everyone else told us it couldn’t be done. Now my husband is working again and we’re doing great. Joe believed in us like a friend when no one else would and I’ll never forget that.” – Mary Madeup-Fakename, Columbia Falls Montana.

Everyone feels they are taking a chance on your business the first time they come in. A believable testimonial from existing clients, with their full name and the city where they live, is extremely powerful. A picture of the smiling client with you is even more powerful.

Testimonials are extremely powerful during the sales process. Before the prospect approaches you or your store, they get the prospect in a positive frame of mind about your business. While in your place of business, the sight of more smiling client pictures with letters commending your product and service quite simply will put them over the edge.

Many car, boat and outdoor toy salespeople miss out on this. A simple photo, taken every single time you make a sale. One goes on the wall of your office. You can mail the photo as a postcard to your customer as a thank you. Almost everyone likes a photo of themselves next to their new toy. 100 smiling faces surrounding your desk sends a message to the prospective buyer who doesn’t know you from Adam.

Testimonials are great for breaking down sales objections, particularly “normal” ones. Think of a common complaint that people have about dealing with businesses or employees in your industry.
Now consider how helpful a testimonial would be that directly addresses that complaint and makes it clear that your business is different and doesn’t have that issue to complain about. This is a very effective strategy, and more importantly, it encourages the customer to focus on that issue. The same issue that you hope your clients will use to judge your competition.

So how do you use them? In your ads. In your office. In a notebook full of letters from happy clients.

What to do next: Figure out when the best time to collect testimonials is, and make it a standard part of your business process. Select the best time to ask for them, as the time will vary depending on the type of business you are in.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a business, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s site or contact him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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