Monday Mornings with Madison



Most sales and marketing efforts are viewed with skepticism. In our hyper-commercialized world where the majority of sales and marketing efforts are saturated with euphemisms, exaggerations and even outright lies, the public has become cynical about what to believe and whom to trust. That is why the third-party endorsement has become one of the most powerful tools in the sales and marketing toolbox. 

A third-party endorsement is a statement or recommendation about your product(s) or service(s) from a customer, colleague or business associate… someone unrelated to the company that can be relied upon to tell the unmitigated truth.  This includes taking the advice of an unbiased product review.  Here, “unbiased” means reviews that are not paid for, or supported in some way, by the company, product or service being reviewed, thus ensuring the information is impartial. The reviewer has nothing to gain or lose by giving an honest opinion. Third party endorsements are especially valuable when someone considered a specialist or authority in your company’s area of expertise passes his or her endorsement to you.  

Third-party endorsements are so effective that, in many cases, they can significantly increase a company’s sales figures more than a sales letter, ad or website ever could.  To reap the full rewards of a third-party endorsement, there are two caveats. Endorsements must be requested and obtained. Second, endorsements must be used wisely in marketing efforts. The good news is that companies doing a great job for clients will not have a hard time getting endorsements – if requested nicely and as long as the endorsements are used thoughtfully in marketing efforts – without putting clients in compromising positions (such as revealing confidential information). Thus, there is an art in how to ask for a third-party endorsement and a science in using it effectively without hurting relationships with existing clients.

Before asking a client for an endorsement, first ask these questions internally. 

1. Did your company do a great job for that customer or for the referral source’s customer? Not just a good job…. a great job. To ask for an endorsement, there should be complete confidence that the endorser has something positive to say. Ideally, the endorser should want to rave about the product or service. There is nothing worse than a lukewarm endorsement. 

How can a company know if a particular client was delighted with the product or service? Ask. The best companies survey clients to know what they think after the work is done or the product is delivered. Good surveys ask not only about the quality and timeliness of the product or service, but also about the professionalism, expertise and attitude of the employees. If your company is not surveying every client after the work is done, that is the place to start. There is no point for a company to request third-party endorsements until there is a certainty that the vast majority of clients are raving fans.

2. Is the endorsement from someone people will believe and trust? Not all endorsements are created equal. Ask for endorsements from people who are trustworthy and believable. For companies that provide professional products or services, an endorsement from a third-party professional such as doctor, lawyer, or accountant will typically be viewed as more reliable than one from an anonymous customer. 

Celebrity endorsements can be even more valuable, as demonstrated by the billions spent by major brands to hire celebrity sponsors. However, the product or service must be perceived to have a relationship to the endorser in order for the endorsement to deliver value. Indeed, the value of the endorsement is tied not only to the reputation and cache of the endorser, but also to the relationship of that person to that product or service. For example, a third-party endorsement by real estate tycoon Donald Trump could be invaluable to a product or service related to commercial real estate. Yet, Trump’s recent celebrity ads for Macys performed poorly. There was little relationship between the endorser and the brand. The same was true of Lance Armstrong’s ads for Radio Shack. Of course, even when there is a strong tie between the endorser and the product/service – such as between Brett Favre and Wrangler or Tiger Woods and Nike – the lack of trust in the endorser can kill the value of the endorsement. Thus it is important to choose third-party endorsers carefully.

If there is confidence that the customer is a raving fan and that that person’s endorsement would be trusted and believed by other potential customers, it is time to ask for the endorsement. However, don’t wait months or years to ask. Timing is important. Ask for the endorsement after the deal is done but while the customer still remembers clearly the quality and value of the product or service. A good timeframe is from a few days up to a month or two after the job is done, depending on the size and scope of the project. Waiting more than two months risks losing some of the positive feelings which may fade. 

There are ways to elicit solid endorsements that bring value. Next week, we’ll look at what to say or write (and what not to say or write) when asking for an endorsement or testimonial. Don’t miss it!

“What’s the best endorsement? A satisfied customer.” Glen Mason

© 2011 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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