How testimonials make the economy grow faster..

The economy is growing, Hurrah!

But a growing economy may be a necessary requirement for most businesses to succeed, but it’s certainly not sufficient. Businesses need to make sales.

Analysis by the Entrepreneurs Circle suggests a scary number of businesses are failing to succeed – largely through a lack of sales.

20% of all businesses, in any sector are struggling. 60%, the majority, are just getting by, 15% are growing and only 4% enjoy any kind of success. Just 1% is actually really flying.

In the top 20% are many excellent world-beating businesses across all sectors, especially in financial services. But small marginal differences in the way some of the other 80% operate could make an impact on the overall economy.

For example, how many times do you enter a shop or restaurant when staff show a complete lack of any sales skill or awareness of how to treat customers? One can’t blame them necessarily; more often than not it’s because their bosses have failed to train them properly. What do you think is the effect of that on that company’s profitability? How much money can that company’s shareholders and staff ill afford to take in dividends and salary as a result? How much more would they be spending as individuals if their sales were healthy? How does that affect other businesses nearby? What will be the impression of a rich foreign visitor suffering the same experience? How, when extrapolated across 60% of all businesses scraping by, would it affect the UK economy and the rest of us?

There’s an example of this in the latest edition of the Entrepreneurs’ Circle newsletter.

A partner in a luxury goods company, selling products worth thousands of pounds, succeeded in keeping a certain well know businessman and his wife waiting around a stand at a luxury home furnishing exhibition at the NEC. Fair enough perhaps, it was busy. But despite this businessman having a four-figure sum to spend there and then, the partner manning the exhibition stand failed to make a house-visit appointment there and then. He didn’t have the “reps” diary to hand, so asked this well know businessman to fill out a “prospect form”. That’s a classic unconsciously incompetent performance borne out of any kind of awareness, training and mentoring, I suspect.

But if businesses are failing on such a basic level, heaven knows how they deal with the intricacies and sophistication of sales and marketing strategy and dealing with social media. These days, you can’t pick up the telephone and simply call up a list of prospects who don’t know you (unless you are exceptionally well briefed, with oodles of charm and wit). You need to engage with them 1:1 at networking events, make a great first impression, which is then backed up through a visible, impressive online persona through Blogs, LinkedIn, Twitter and so forth.

Increasingly, if people want to do business with you, they’ll Google you – and likewise your sales team members. Your online profile counts. So you need to write articles, make videos and even write a book. You need to be an expert at what you do and known in your industry or niche.

But dare I say it, there is a relatively easy way to help you get there which will have an immediate impact on your sales.

It’s a very simple and old school. Yet few businesses do it to any significant effect. It is in fact the oldest marketing technique in the world and even today is arguably the most persuasive form of marketing there is. It’s using your existing customers to market to your prospective ones, telling them why they should be doing business with you. It’s the testimonial.

Testimonials are easy to implement, there’s no learning curve, and most importantly, it will have a massive beneficial effect on your authority, sales volume and perceived value.

But they have to be done right.

Now, most business owners and marketers can get the odd testimonial from their best customers. But they’re leaving money on the table. They don’t have enough understanding of the psychology behind them, how best to get them and how to deploy them to greatest effect.

A classic form of useless testimonial is being “damned by faint praise”, i.e. “Tim turned up to do the job which he performed well.” You can fix this, by the way, simply by asking loaded questions of your customers and by stating before the testimonial your unique selling proposition. Or you can make an outrageously beneficial claim. Then the faint praise that follows is no longer faint, but collaborates it convincingly.

You could also make testimonial gathering part of you operational procedure. Your employees then become more accountable to your customers. For example, if you have issues with staff picking up the telephone slowly, you could incentivise them by the number of customers testifying that their call was answered in less than four rings.

If you have delivery people, you could incentivise them by the number of personal testimonials they receive about how helpful and polite they are.

The key is also to use testimonials across all media – your brochures, print ads and your website are traditional areas. But also you need to think about your telephone voice greeting system, testimonial videos on YouTube and social media and how best to edit them into your existing and future videos.

At Diggbite, we have a system for making it really easy for your customers to give you testimonials. They just dial a telephone number, record their compliments, which a few days later are created into animated testimonial videos.

We can also construct for you a comprehensive plan for testimonial gathering, putting it at the heart of your sales, marketing and operational DNA.

If the partner on the trade stand had a goal of getting testimonials about his experience at the stand, would his behaviour and techniques been any different? Would our well know businessman have bought?

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