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How to Get and Use Testimonials, Referrals and Reviews Remember: People do business with people they like and trust.

By Wendy Keller

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


The following excerpt is from Wendy Keller's book Ultimate Guide to Platform Building. Buy it now from Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes

One of the most overlooked yet critically important benefits of building a rock-solid business that really serves its customers is that people like what you're doing. Maybe some of them send you referrals or give you a testimonial. They might endorse something you're doing or give feedback on new products or services you're thinking of launching. Or, they might not.

Related: How to Use a Live or Online Event to Draw in New Customers

If you're doing a good job but aren't getting the kind of support you need from your customers, there can only be one reason: You aren't asking for it.

The beauty salon that doesn't capture the name, email address, phone number, birthdate, wedding anniversary and children's names and ages (and remembers to commemorate these dates) for every single client does itself no favors and will always be "accepting walk-ins."

The business consultant who assures himself that someday some CEO will be golfing with another CEO and his name will maybe come up is likely to be taking a side job to support his consulting business for a few years.

The restaurant that tells itself that OpenTable, TripAdvisor or Yelp reviews don't matter is going to be competing against every other restaurant in town for the foreseeable future.

The number-one misconception most people have about asking for these things is that they think they're asking for a favor. Actually, you're making a square trade -- you just have to see it from another perspective. The majority of people love to be asked for their opinion -- it's part of our nature. Ask a customer who likes your business to comment on it, and it will likely make the customer smile just to have been asked.

Types of testimonials

A testimonial is the positive feedback you get from a customer that you use to help market your business. Here are some examples:

"Joe, your pizza is the best I've ever eaten!" -- Susan Kritzer, your hometown

"I can only say that working with you saved my life. The day I met you, Eliza­beth, I had been thinking that it would be better to end my life than to continue with [this problem], but now..." -- Chelsea P.

"This man is the best person I have ever met in my life. He helped me figure out the entire theory of relativity. Thanks, Jim." -- Einstein

Testimonials are incredibly easy to get and incredibly useful to you. A testimonial guides your prospect to think, "Hey! Other people like this product or service. I likely won't be screwed over if I buy this or use this. I can trust this company to give me what they seem to be promising."

Testimonials work because me telling you how brilliant I am at marketing is suspect, but when you see dozens and dozens of my speakers and authors making lovely comments, some of whose books you're likely to know about or even have read, then you can believe that I really do know what I'm talking about.

Robust referrals

A passive referral happens when John says to Scott, "I'm thinking of getting a Lexus like yours. Where did you buy it?" and Scott tells him "Oh, at Main Street Lexus on Third Street." That's passive because Scott was just standing there with his car keys when John approached him. Can't say no to that, but there's another way to get referrals that's much more proactive: asking for and rewarding people for referring you.

Related: How to Get Paid to Give Speeches

Your thank-you could be money, a percentage, an affiliate fee, services, products, a thank-you card or gifts. It need not be lavish, but don't make it cheap either.

You can have a policy that says "We pay 10 percent for referrals," or you can just surprise people when they do it. Which do you think would have better results in your business? Decide, and then start asking for referrals boldly.

Revelatory reviews

People trust reviews. They assume (sometimes incorrectly) that the reviewers are all unpaid people just like them who are making honest assessments. Just the proliferation of review sites online should alert you to the fact that reviews are super important.

Remember to go onto the primary review sites now and again to refute or make amends for the bad reviews but, even more important, to graciously and publicly thank anyone who has given you a good one. (And send them a little something -- even just a physical card.)

Pay attention to reviews -- the good and the bad. You can learn what you're doing right and wrong in your business. They are precious.

Blushing for dollars

"Oh," you may be thinking, "I don't want to ask for this kind of stuff. I'd be embarrassed." My retort: "Would you rather be embarrassed or broke?"

Testimonials, endorsements, reviews and referrals help more people trust in your product or service. If you believe in your company, there's nothing better than to share the good news of what your happy customers are saying about you, so that new customers can be happy too.

In fourth grade, I realized that all my friends' mothers cut their children's sandwiches diagonally, not simply in half as my mother did. I hinted. I sort of asked. I even told my mother that Cherie Ann's mother always cut her sandwiches diagonally, at the very moment she was holding the knife over my PB&J. She never got the message.

Eventually, I screwed up my courage and point blank asked her to do this marvelous thing for me. She looked at me kind of funny and said, "Sure." Then she gave me this life lesson: "If you don't ask, you don't get."

Please take my dear mother's words to heart, right here and now, as it pertains to you asking for referrals, reviews, endorsements and testimonials.

How to ask for what you want

So how do you screw up your courage to ask for these things? And what do you do with them once you get them? And how can you use them?

Related: How a Contest or Giveaway Can Attract Business Prospects

Luckily, I've learned a lot about this topic since fourth grade.

  • Every time someone compliments you, your business, your team or your product, say, "Can you put that in writing?"
  • Decide where you'd like them to put it in writing. Websites, especially Yelp, strongly affect the traffic you get for small businesses in urban areas. If you don't know where you'd like reviews to appear, ask your new custom­ers where they first heard about you and once you know, tell anyone who asks that that's where you want them to write the review.
  • For many businesses, customers are attracted via a website. Get your happy cus­tomers to write you testimonials and give you signed releases allowing you to use them anywhere any time you want.
  • Slap those testimonials all over your marketing materials and all over your website.

There are overt and subtle ways to promote yourself using testimonials, reviews, recommendations and endorsements. Using these as you get them will help your customers feel more confident in you, your team, your product and your service. It will help them trust you -- maybe even predispose them to liking you. Remember: People do business with people they like and trust.

Wendy Keller

Literary Agent, Speaker Trainer and Entrepreneur

Wendy Keller is an award-winning former journalist, a respected literary agent, an author, speaker, acclaimed book marketing consultant, and branding expert. She is the author of Ultimate Guide to Platform Building (Entrepreneur Press®, 2016) and got her first job as a newspaper reporter as a 16-year-old college freshman. Since then, Wendy worked for PR Newswire; the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain; as managing editor of Dateline magazine; and as associate publisher of Los Angeles’ then-second-largest Spanish language weekly, La Gaceta. She works with authors, speakers and business experts to help them build and promote their brands. She founded Keller Media, Inc. in 1989.

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