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Photo credit: © JohnnyGreig


“I’m building my business by word of mouth.” Lots of us have heard that phrase — and even said it. (One time a guy told me he got all his business by “mouth to mouth,” but I think — and fervently hope —he was temporarily confused.) Anyway, let’s take a closer look to see if we really believe that word of mouth is all it’s cracked up to be and how to get more of it.

Frankly, for some, the phrase is just a delicate way of saying they’re lazy. Yes, I did just say that. For others, it means they don’t want to invest the time or money in an effective marketing program that increases their professional image, generates leads, increases profits and builds their business. Therefore, it’s not a “real” marketing effort, and they don’t put any time into it. Bad choices all the way around.

But we’ve all been told that “word-of-mouth” marketing is the best deal in town, and highly effective. It’s just painfully difficult to know if any mouths are spreading the word; and, if so, is it good? Smart marketers should take steps to control and promote word of mouth, instead of leaving it to chance. Here’s why:

• 65% of major purchasers (spending more than $1,000) say they’ll ask a friend about it first;

• 57% say a friend’s advice influences the purchase; and

• 40% say this advice is their main buying reason.

And in your plumbing business, the numbers are even more impressive:

• 37% say the relationship with you is the most important reason they buy;

• 22% say it is because they own another product of yours; and

• 14% are referred by a friend or family member.


Market for referrals

So, word of mouth is incredibly valuable. No disputing that. It is just horrifically slow for the growth-oriented contractor. Plus, since people are seven times more likely to repeat a story with a negative consequence than a positive one, it’s not so reliable. I mean, how do you know when you’re going to make a mistake with Mr. Complaining Loudmouth Person and suffer the effects for years? You don’t. That’s why you market for the advancement of referrals.

Let this fact sink in: Your outbound marketing gets the first sale. Your continued relationship gets continued sales and referrals.

Basically, you can tell your prospects all day long how great you are, but it means a lot more when others say it. So, how do we continue the relationship, get the referrals and turn one sale into many?

That’s where testimonials come into the picture.

Next to their own experience, people tend to rely on the experience of others. For this reason, testimonials are very powerful, and seriously underused in contracting. Your prospects get to see that someone else — given the same circumstances — chose you and benefited.

Plus, there is a strong implication that testimonials from real people are “true and unbiased” whereas a salesperson’s claims are often perceived as neither. Remember that if you make a statement about your service or superiority, it’s a claim. If a customer who has used you says the same thing, it becomes a fact.

So, if you’ve got a happy customer, put it in writing … and you’ve got a testimonial.


Do it for them

Where do testimonials come from?

You have far, far more happy customers than the praises you get. So when someone does say something glowingly great, you must realize it represents dozens if not hundreds of users. So you must spread those around.

The problem with testimonials is that many people say they’ll give them, but never find the time. They got busy. They meant to. They would, but it’s just that, oh phooey, the phone rang, the cat was at the door, my hair caught on fire, whatever. Don’t worry. There are easy ways you can help them find the time. In fact, you’ll do it for them.

Say what?

Gathering testimonials is an ongoing process. Pay attention. Whenever something nice is said about your business, jot it down and ask permission to use it. Be concise. Let customers know they can change, add or delete anything from “your” version of their testimonial.

Have you gotten email messages or a letter from satisfied customers? Or perhaps they wrote a nice review on your Google, Yelp or Yahoo listing? Send a thank-you note requesting permission to use their comments in a testimonial.

Do you have a place on your invoice or on your website to write a comment? No? Make one, and you’ll see testimonials flow back with no cost or effort. This open channel of communication is appreciated either way. Another place most contractors don’t think about when finding testimonials is social media.

This is the gateway for communication, reviews and product information nowadays. Ask your clients to “like” your Facebook page and feel free to let us know how your service was. This will create interaction and help build your image. Not to mention, when people look at your Facebook page, they’ll see that awesome review right there on your wall.

A strong assemblage of testimonials will undoubtedly increase the credibility you deserve while settling unspoken fears. For wide effect, use them in your advertising. And on the sales call, include a stack of 15 or more in your presentation folder. Let others sing your praises and watch your profits soar.

You can build your business by word of mouth if you’ll wisely multiply the positive effects through intelligent marketing. Low cost and low effort can bring you high leads and image. Not a bad tradeoff.