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

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

The hair stylist business that doesn’t capture the name, email address, phone number, birth date, 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 people off the street.”

The business advisor who assures himself that someday a 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 business for a few years.

The restaurant that tells itself that reviews posted online don’t matter is going to be competing against every other restaurant in town for a long time.

You may have the mistaken notion that most people have about asking for referrals, testimonials, or reviews as being a bother. You think you are asking for a favor. You are making an even trade, you just must see it from another perspective. Most people love to be asked for their honest opinion, as it is part of our nature. Ask a customer or client who likes your business to comment on it, and it will likely make them smile just to have been asked.

Truthful testimonials

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

“John, your pasta is the best I have ever eaten!” — Susan Jones

“I can only say that working with you has saved my business and life. The day I met you, Bob, I had been thinking that it would be better to shut down my business in order, to spend more time with family. You helped me to get a handle on the business so that I can spend time with family.”

“Bob is the best person I have ever met in my life. He helped me determine how my business could be more profitable. We did it together. Thanks, Bob.”

Testimonials are incredibly easy to get and extraordinarily useful to you. A testimonial guides your prospect to think, “Wow! Other people like this product or service. I likely will like it too. This is a no brainer decision. I can trust this company to give me what they are promising.”

Testimonials work because me telling you how brilliant I am at business coaching and consulting is suspect, but when you see dozens and dozens of my clients making raving comments, then you can believe that I really do know what I am talking about.

Robust referrals

A passive referral happens when Jane says to Steve, “I’m thinking of getting an SUV like yours. Where did you buy it?” and Steve tells her “Oh, at Luther Toyota on Brooklyn Blvd.” That is passive because Steve was just standing there with his car keys when Jane approached him. You can’t say no to that, but there is another way to get referrals that is much more proactive: asking for and rewarding people for referring your business.

A thank-you could be money, a percentage of the profit, a set fee, services, products, a thank-you card, or gifts. It doesn’t need to be extravagant, 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 provide a referral. Which do you think would have better results in your business? Decide, and then start asking for referrals boldly and regularly.

Raving reviews

Most people trust reviews. You think that the reviewers are all unpaid people just you who are making honest assessments. Just the proliferation of review sites online should alert you to the fact that reviews are very important.

You must pay attention to reviews, the good and the bad. You can learn what you are doing right and wrong in your business. They are precious.

You may be thinking, “I don’t want to ask for them. I would be embarrassed.” My response is: “Would you rather be embarrassed or struggling to make profit?”

Testimonials, endorsements, reviews, and referrals help prospects to trust in your products or services. If you believe in your business, there is nothing better than to share the responses of what your happy customers or clients are saying about you, so that new customers or clients can enjoy the same benefits.

How to ask for what you want

How do you shoot yourself in the foot when you ask for referrals, testimonials, or reviews? What do you do with them when you get them? How can you make better use of them?

Thankfully, I’ve learned a lot about this.

  • Every time someone compliments you, your business, your team, or your product or service, say, “Will you put that in writing?”
  • Decide where you would 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 would like reviews to appear, ask your new custom­ers or clients where they first heard about your business. When you know, tell anyone who asks that is where you want them to write the review.
  • For many businesses, customers or clients are attracted through a website. Have your happy cus­tomers or clients write testimonials. Have them give you signed releases allowing you to use the testimonials anywhere and any time you want.
  • Include the testimonials in your marketing materials and on your website.

There are many ways to promote yourself using testimonials, reviews, recommendations, and endorsements. Using these as you get them will help your customers or client to feel more confident in you, your business, your products and your services. It will help them trust you and maybe even liking you.

Remember: People do business with people that they know, like, and trust.