Volume 44, Issue 9 - September 2009



Getting Referrals in an Online World
How to Amp Up Your Customer Referrals
by Mike Jones

Buyers have always been skeptical of marketing messages and advertising, and the new advertising tricks of the Internet have only made them more so.

Customers know that the most reliable source of information on companies are the referrals from other customers who have already experienced everything that company has to offer.

Customers need to know what companies they can trust with their meager budgets, and they need to hear it from the only people they believe can offer an objective opinion—other customers just like them.

You can help potential buyers get the information they need from your current loyal customer base by implementing a few online strategies.

Customer Reviews
First, put up a customer review section. It’s a bold move, but it will get results. Customer reviews are best if you have a lot of faith in the quality of your company and are certain you can solve any problems that arise in the customer reviews.

If a customer is complaining that a product was faulty, for example, you’ll need to be able to respond quickly to that complaint and solve the problem. If you can manage that, even the bad reviews can be some of the best referrals you’ll ever receive.

No one is more thankful than a customer who once had a problem and now no longer has it, thanks to your prompt intervention. Those clients are often even more effusive in their praise than those who had no problems at all.

On the flip side, there will also be lots of good reviews to help customers decide to work with you. You can use those reviews to discover what your company is doing well and what customers admire about you—feedback that can be extremely beneficial when you’re coming up with branding ideas.

Be sure to respond to good reviews and thank those customers. Ignoring them only means those customers aren’t likely to continue reviewing, and you don’t want that.

The openness and vulnerability of a customer review section goes a long way toward building customer trust. When customers only see positive reviews, with absolutely no negative comments, they’re going to be skeptical. No company in the world has never made a mistake, and no company has not had a customer who was simply furious at a problem.

By showing that those mistakes do happen, but that your company deals with mistakes promptly, professionally and with great attention to customer needs, you’ll show those skeptics that there are still honest companies in the world, just trying to do the best they can by their customers. That openness leaves no room for skeptics.


Ask for Testimonials
If you don’t already have testimonials on your website, put up a section for them immediately.

Testimonials are more likely to be taken with a grain of salt, since they represent the top 15 percent of your customers, the ones that wouldn’t go anywhere else for their glass services needs. Testimonials are invaluable even if they aren’t as moderate as the customer reviews, since they show that your company has the ability to knock the socks off a customer.

Every customer hopes they’ll have a great experience; every customer fears they’ll have a terrible experience. While the customer review section shows that their fears of a terrible experience are unfounded, testimonials show that their hopes for a fantastic experience are well-seated in reality.

If the reason you don’t currently have a testimonials section is that you don’t have enough testimonials, that’s an easily-solved problem. Simply contact your biggest clients, the ones you know love your company and what you do, and ask them if they could take a few minutes today and write a couple of sentences about their experience with you.

Even customers that love you will sometimes put off the task until they forget about it if they’re very busy, so make the prospect more appealing by offering a small incentive for taking that time out of their day. It doesn’t need to be anything big—a gift card for a cup of coffee is always appreciated, and even something that small can give that customer the extra boost they need to dash off a few sentences about why they think you’re a great company with which to work.

With all that customer feedback on your website, new buyers will have all the feedback they need to make the decision that you’re the company they want to work with. All these other people trust you; why wouldn’t they?

Mike Jones is the president of GTS in Portland, Ore. Mr. Jones’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine.

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