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Getting your customers to brag about your company, products, and services is the best form of advertising out there. You can tell people how great you are until you’re blue in the face, and you might get someone to listen, but get your customers to brag about you, and everyone will listen. The trick is getting your customers to do it.
Amazingly enough, I have found that it is often much easier than you think—if you go about it the right way. Assuming you have done a good job of developing ongoing relationships with your customers, most of the time they will be happy to help. The key is how you approach your customers. Most of them are smart enough to realize that a healthy vendor is one that will be around for a while.
Here is my 10-step plan for getting customers to brag about you to the point of helping you grow your business.
1. Choose the Right Customers for the Right Topics
Choose the topics you want to promote, and then choose the right customers for the task:
2. Ask the Right Companies
Ask companies who are more likely to be willing and able to give you a testimonial. Large companies will not likely do it (too many lawyers). Smaller companies will be happy to because it’s good publicity for them, and they can piggy-back off of your advertising. Consider companies like:
- Design service bureaus
- Small assembly companies
- Small OEMs
3. Consider When to Ask
Sometimes, timing is everything. You may want to ask for a testimonial or reference:
- After you have done something that made them happy
- When you did them a solid favor
- When you reach an anniversary or milestone of working together
4. Ask at the Best Time
The best time to ask customers to share their success story is once you have successfully completed an important project together.
5. Use the Best Approach
The best approach is to say that you are working on new marketing materials and need their help by “saying something positive about us.”
6. Be Specific
Tell them exactly what you need, such as:
- Whether you’re looking for a testimonial, success story, or reference
- How long it should be
- Where it will be used
Also, be clear that you will use their name, title, and company. This is a must. An anonymous testimonial is worthless!
7. Be Prepared to Write Something for Them
Sometimes, they will ask you to write it for them! This is the best, so do it quickly. If they like what you write, they will sign it; if not, they will adjust it.
8. Ask Them to Be References
References are easy to ask for because the customer only needs to be willing to answer the phone and talk about you and your company. Ensure that you are solid with that customer because once they get on the phone with a potential customer, you have no idea what they will say. Even with good intentions, they could say something that might hurt your chances. And believe me, potential customers will call, especially the careful ones.
When it comes to customer references, the more, the merrier. Nothing is more impressive than having a long list of customers and phone numbers for their key people who are ready to vouch for you when a potential customer calls. The best thing of all is that almost anyone you ask will be willing to do this—even customers from large companies are free to act as a reference for you.
9. Consider a Partner Ad
Pay for, and publish, an ad that highlights how your product helped the customer to achieve their company’s goals. This is the most valuable form of testimonial. It’s also a win-win situation because they brag about you, and it’s a free ad for them. If another customer complains that you are favoring the customer in the ad, invite them to be in the next ad. The more of these, the better.
10. Keep Everything Transparent
Tell them where you will use their name, information, and testimonial. Make sure there are no surprises and always get their full approval before posting or sharing it.
The most important thing is to make sure you have earned the respect of the customers by doing such a great job in the past that they are more than happy to help you out in the future. Many times customers will be so satisfied with a good supplier that they will be happy to tell people about them. After all, it reflects well on them that they have chosen so wisely.
In the end, if you have performed well and built great relationships with your customers, they will be willing to help you grow your business. There is nothing better than getting your customers to sell for you.
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.