When promoting your business, sometimes it’s best to let others do the talking. That’s why business recommendations are so powerful.
According to Nielsen, 83 percent of consumers either completely or partially trust business recommendations from family, friends, and colleagues. Other research from Social Fresh indicates testimonials are the most effective form of content that businesses can produce.
But how do you ask for a recommendation without it seeming awkward, and without running afoul of endorsement laws that govern the use of these recommendations in your marketing?
Here’s some advice on soliciting recommendations from customers — sans the awkwardness.
As a rule of thumb, you should ask a customer for a recommendation after you’ve exceeded their expectations, solved a problem for them, or they’ve shared their appreciation unsolicited.
In each of these cases, your follow-up conversations with happy customers can determine whether they’ll recommend your business.
1. Ask right away
The best time to ask for a business recommendation is right after a customer shares a positive experience with your business, in person or online.
This approach may seem premature or a bit aggressive, but you’ll want to ask while the experience is fresh in the customer’s mind and they’re still enthusiastic about it.
To do this, send a follow-up message to customers who said something positive online, or ask a customer in person after you sincerely express your gratitude for their business and loyalty. By being earnest in your interaction with customers, they’ll be more likely to want to help.
2. Use social media and your website
If your business has a Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram page, scour it to see who’s left a positive comment, and message them to ask if they’d like to recommend your business. Asking for a business recommendation in person can sometimes feel awkward; asking on social media removes some of that pressure.
You can also scan the comments section of your WordPress.com site to see if any customers have left positive reviews. Keep in mind that you can’t just lift quotes or reviews from social media or your site. You must get permission from each customer directly if you want to use their review or comment, because the Terms of Service on most social media sites say this content is the property of the person who posted it.
3. Offer to return the favor
One simple way to get a business recommendation is to offer to give one yourself.
For example, if you own a landscaping service and one of your customers owns a local restaurant you often visit, offer to trade online reviews.
If you use this approach, remember that it’s important to be authentic. Federal Trade Commission endorsement laws also require that you disclose any affiliation or connections with anyone who endorses your product or service (this is especially important if you offer an incentive or discount to customers for recommending your business or providing a testimonial).
4. Be proactive
Sometimes, it’s best to reach out to customers first. Handwritten thank-you cards are a lost art, so why not use this strategy to show your appreciation to long-time customers?
Chances are, you already have a mailing list with customer addresses, so select a few customers and mail them a thank-you note.
This approach works best before you actually need something; otherwise, it can feel purely transactional. Lay the groundwork now to strengthen your customer relationships so it’s more natural when you need to ask for a recommendation.
Recommendations can be very helpful for increasing your business’s visibility and sharing the value you offer with future customers.
Remember: if you’re seeking business recommendations, you’ll want to make it easy for customers to share their experience. You can accomplish this with a quick video interview or a simple questionnaire. Or, you can show customers examples of other business recommendations in your industry so they have an idea of what to share. Then, you can use a plugin to showcase these recommendations on your site.
Giving customers this road map will help you get an effective recommendation you can use in future marketing efforts, ultimately attracting new customers and helping your business thrive.
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