BY NANCY MICHAELS
As I travel the country speaking to entrepreneurs and small business owners, I'm struck by the number of people who have terrific client relationships, but would never ask their client to put a good word in for them with a prospect. Why are we uncomfortable asking our client base to spread the word on our behalf so that others might benefit from our product or service we offer? More than likely, we're afraid someone will say no - they'll reject us and that's a situation we'd rather not have happen.
Here are some suggestions on how you can launch an effective and powerful endorsement marketing campaign and take the pain out of the process for you and your client. If you're wondering what the difference is between an endorsement letter and a testimonial letter, here's the cost - sweat equity and a commitment to follow-through on a three-tiered approach to connecting with your prospects. What type of business might benefit from this experience - virtually any business from the local sandwich shop, copy store, accounting firm, to individuals targeting CEO's of Fortune 500 firms. This takes the idea of a testimonial to a new level because the letter is going direct from your client to your prospect list.
Here's how it works.
Phase One: Endorsement from Client
Ask your best client (particularly after they've said something wonderful about you or when you're prepared to show them the "draft" of the letter) if they would assist you in the growth and development of your business by signing off on an endorsement letter that would come from them (that means on their letterhead with signature) and be delivered to a pre-determined list of people (your prospects) that you'd be willing to share with them for their review and approval. Obviously, they wouldn't want a letter of endorsement going out to their competitors, etc.
Write the letter on their behalf and have it completed by the time you ask them. When you make a request and are prepared, your success rate will increase significantly. Include bullet points for easy reading, statistics (if you have them) regarding the results that working with you has brought your client, present an offer (invitation to meet with you for a consultation, a coupon or discount, etc.) and additional information (a copy of an article authored by you or reprints of publicity received, etc.). The letter ideally should be about two pages in length.
Ask your client to sign his or her signature on a blank piece of paper, retrieve their company letterhead or personalized stationery, print the letter out and send it from the town that they're based in (if different than your own). Hand write their names on the package and mail via priority or first class mail.
Phase Two: Follow-up Letter from You
About two to three weeks later, send a letter out to the same list of prospects from you. Acknowledge the letter that your client sent out on your behalf and reiterate the points made in that letter (without being redundant if possible). You can express in more general terms what you have to offer a prospect and that your client-focus has earned you the kind of endorsement they just received. Include a fax back form (don't forget to put your fax on it) that they can send back to you for additional information. Include three other quotes from satisfied clients, and again, include an offer (discount, giveaway, coupon) and an article that you've authored or that you think your customer base would find of interest that relates to your business and would assist them as well. For instance, the sandwich shop might send a tip sheet or article on casual entertaining with a checklist of everything you need for a party of 10 or 20 people. Send it around Super Bowl time and they're likely to pick up the phone to place the order. You get the idea.
Phase Three: Grand Finale Letter from You
Update them on additional news related to your client's success in connection with your product or service. Refer back to the original letter (even send a photocopy of it to refresh their memories and be absolutely sure they receive it - you never know who might be opening their mail).
I recently asked a client of mine to assist me with an endorsement campaign and I had no idea what I'd send out with a third letter - what would possibly be new if a few weeks time. Fortunately, timing (and the seeds I had planted months before) worked in my favor and I was able to send them a recent article I had written, a reprint of an article written about me and notification of an award I had received - all building blocks to increase my credibility with my prospects. In addition, prepare them to receive information in the future such as a newsletter, etc.
We all like doing business with people who we view as being successful and having a proven track record. When they come recommended, it becomes a no-brainer to contact them if we have a need for their service. If your list is developed with time and care, all of the prospects you'll be contacting should be interested in your product or service. Endorsement marketing is one of the most cost-effective and powerful forms of marketing for any business.
Nancy Michaels is the founder of Grow Your Business Network and offers private coaching services to small business owners. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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