You can talk about how great your company is all day long. You can tell people that you have great products, that your services are unparalleled, and that you have the best customer service on the planet, and it will be to no avail. All you’ll get is a big yawn because everybody says that about their companies. In the words of TV’s Dr. House, “Everybody lies.”
For example, every company I’ve talked to over the years has claimed to have great customer service—even the ones with terrible customer service. No company representative will ever tell you anything different. And when they’re cornered about it, they’ll either say, “We’re no worse than anyone else,” or “That’s just marketing.”
The problem with this is that everybody looks the same to customers. How many times have you heard customers say, “You all have good quality and delivery, so if you’re all the same, then all I have to go on is the price. That means I'm going to go with the company with the lowest price.”
But there are credible witnesses to your superb services and outstanding products who can positively influence the sale of your products. Potential customers will believe your delighted current customers. Getting your customer to brag about your company and your services is the best form of advertising, and it's much easier than you think—if you do it the right way.
Here are some guidelines for getting your customers to “sell” your company to other companies.
Choose the right customers. These should be people who:
- Have known your company for years
- Are grateful because you just did something great for them
- Like working with your company and/or a specific member of your team
Choose people who are willing and able to give you a testimonial.
- Large companies will not do it, so don’t even bother (there are too many lawyers)
- Smaller companies will be happy to because it’s good publicity for them as well, and they can piggyback off your advertising. This includes design service bureaus, small assembly companies, and small OEMs
The best times to ask for a testimonial, reference, or success story include:
- After you have done something that they are happy about
- After you have successfully completed an important project together
- After you did them a solid favor
- On an anniversary or milestone of working together
- Asking in-person
- Sending an email request
Explain how you’re working on new marketing materials and need their help in saying something positive. Tell them exactly what you're looking for, including:
- Whether it should be a testimonial, reference, or success story
- How long it should be
- Where it will be used
Be clear that you will use their name, title, and company.
- This is a must!
- An anonymous testimonial is worthless
Have them be specific about what they like about your products and services, as well as what they like about doing business with your company, such as:
- Customer service experiences
Sometimes, they will ask you to write it for them.
- If so, do it fast
- If they like what you write, they will sign it
- If they don’t, they will adjust it
Consider a partner ad.
- Pay for and publish an ad that highlights the customer and how your product helps them to achieve their company’s goals
- It's a win-win because it’s a free ad for them, and it’s bragging about you!
- If another customer complains that you are favoring the customer in the ad, invite them to be in the next ad
- The more, the better
The important thing is to get your customers to sell for you. Your customers will believe your other customers more than they believe you, which is a good thing.
One more thing. Reciprocate! Offer your customers the same courtesy. Brag about them as well. Offer to write a testimonial. I know that you are the vendor and not the customer, but judge companies by how they treat their vendors as much as the way they treat their customers.
The best thing about working with your customers and promoting each other is that it creates a nearly unbreakable partnership between the two of you. You’ll have each other’s back and will look for opportunities for one another. You’ll both be in a frame of mind to help each other to grow. Imagine having this kind of relationship with all your customers. Wouldn’t that be fantastic?
It’s only common sense.
Dan Beaulieu is president of D.B. Management Group.