Boost your referrals with more of the right kind of testimonials

Oct 4, 2022 | Marketing and promotion, Reputation

I’m not normal. Normal people, apparently, don’t buy anything online these days without first checking for online reviews. I do. Maybe you do too. But, apparently, even when most people are in shops, they will have a quick google to see what other people say about electrical items, furniture and toys. And this informs their purchasing decisions.

At John Lewis, perhaps, you might be willing to take the advice of a sales assistant. But generally there’s an old adage: A salesperson’s assertions are not proof.

Equally – when you tell prospects how great you are, they may not be convinced. It seems likely that many of the same type of people also look for that third-party confirmation before choosing an accountant too.

In an ideal world prospective clients would seek recommendations and referrals from trusted friends and family. Where this isn’t possible the testimonials given by third parties are a powerful alternative. In effect you want them confirming to prospective clients, “Yes, this accountant is for real, they are good and this is how they helped me.” The implication of the testimonial is that when the prospective client engages you, they too will be pleased and have their problems solved. They start to believe in the promises you have made and the assurances you have offered by reading that others recommend you and were glad they used your services.

One of my mentoring clients once told me that he was scared to ask clients for testimonials. We discussed this and I shared some practical advice. Two weeks later he was over the moon and said, words to the effect, that thanks to my help and guidance he now had 5 really powerful, relevant and persuasive testimonials from clients.

You can also collect written recommendations on Linkedin. And you can copy and paste these onto your website. Maybe you could go one step further and capture video testimonials from your top clients.

Here are two big tips re testimonials and recommendations:

  1.  The best testimonials include: Full name (forename and surname) and, ideally a title and business name/type. Anonymised testimonials are less convincing.
  2. Ensure they speak to your ideal clients. So, if you want more businesses with sizeable turnover, don’t major on testimonials from sole trader clients like painters and decorators.

In my case I have over 100 recommendations/testimonials on my linkedin profile and also a significant number on the speaking pages of my website.  In almost every case you can see the full name of the person who gave the testimonial.  At the time of writing, I have few testimonials from my mentoring clients – because I have never asked for these! [Note to self: Take own advice!]

The challenge with Linkedin ‘recommendations’ is that you cannot curate these to focus on those of most value to you.

Why are testimonials so valuable in the context of accounting services? Quite simply because they are the next best thing to a direct referral.

Many accountants claim that they get much of their work through personal recommendations and I can believe that. They often claim that advertising is not really worthwhile. They may be right.

But there is, what I call, a disconnect here. When you advertise (and I include website material as part of your advertising mix) you are typically communicating with people who don’t know you. Equally these prospects may not know any of your existing clients. But those prospects could read testimonials from existing clients if these were easily available on your website and in your other marketing materials.

Without testimonials your marketing messages are mere assertions, like those of any smarmy salesperson trying to flog you a second hand car, a time share or double glazing.

Relevant testimonials can bring your assertions to life. They can act as the next best thing to a personal recommendation or referral. They need to be believable. They need to be relevant and they need to be authentic.

How do you get them? Just ‘ask’!

That’s right. Just contact clients (past or present) and ask them for feedback. There are various less direct ways you can do this if you are embarrassed by the idea or if you think it’s not ‘professional’. [Let me know if you want some tips on how to ask]

I believe it is entirely professional and appropriate to make clear to clients that you want to do a good job and to receive feedback to ensure you have done all that was required to their satisfaction.

Maybe you feel that it’s dangerous to ask for feedback from clients. What if they weren’t happy? What if they have a complaint? What if they won’t say anything good?

Well, in any of those situations the response you receive presents you with a wonderful opportunity to rectify the position.

Let’s be honest. You are hardly likely to ask a client for a testimonial if you expect a negative response. So if you find out that a client who you thought was ‘happy’ is actually dissatisfied you can do something about it. If you hadn’t asked you would have continued in blissful ignorance assuming that ‘no complaint = happy client’.

Unhappy clients tell a lot of people what they think of their accountant who has provided less than satisfactory service. Why? Because it’s human nature, sadly, to share complaints more frequently than to share stories of excellent service. In the same way the media is full of ‘bad’ news stories rather than ‘good news’.

You don’t want your clients to be bad-mouthing you, especially if you thought they were happy so it’s really helpful to KNOW whether no news really is good news and whether or not your clients were happy with the service you provided.

Asking for testimonials and not getting them is a sign that something isn’t right; it’s up to you how you deal with that situation. But a fear of such a response is not a good reason for holding back from asking for a testimonial.

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