Mouth. Flickr CC image by emmettgrrrlA fellow member of Small Biz Nation asks, “How critical are reviews and testimonials to a small business and how do you manage and share those reviews within your organization?” My answer: so critical that it’s like throwing away money not to ask for them.

When seeking applicants for a job, the smart boss knows there are several ways to evaluate a candidate. The CV or résumé offers a snapshot of the person’s capabilities in presenting him- or herself in written form. The interview is about the in-person presentation and “the vibe.” Finally, the references provide 3rd party support for the conclusions reached in the use of the first two.

So too the client testimonial. Take these examples:

You’ve found great pictures of a bed-and-breakfast online and the rates look great. But many former guests have placed reviews on Qype that state the place smells, is farther from the city center than advertised, and its bathrooms are poorly cleaned. Will you still book your lodging there?

Or what about the new Indian restaurant. Your friends have just tried it and they’re RAVING about how good the food is. How more likely are you to give it a try than if you’d only seen their “grand opening” sign?

For any business, word of mouth advertising is how one stands out on a field crowded with competitors. Customer reviews/testimonials play a large part in that, especially as more buyers take to the ‘net to research before they buy. The efforts you can undertake to convince buyers to choose YOU and your products or services  should include asking your current clients/customers to speak up on your behalf. (If they’re happy, they will do it for you GLADLY.)

How to make it work for your business:

  • Make the ask: Place a call or send a personal email to your current and former clients asking them to be a reference for your business. If the person is also on LinkedIn, use the Ask for a Recommendation tool. Easy!
  • Drop it into your marketing materials: Use snippets or even full text in your sales and marketing materials. If your current client says “I would recommend ArcherTC to anybody!” your prospective client may be persuaded by reading just that alone. Websites, brochures, sales letters — use it!
  • Encourage your colleagues to do the same: Sometimes, the recommendation is for one of your colleagues. But if each member of the whole team is getting great feedback, that speaks wonders about the team as a whole.
  • Help your clients talk about you: You know those “tell a friend” calls to action? They work. So don’t hesitate to ask current clients to pass on the news about what you’ve done. Better yet, make it easy for them by making suggestions: If they have a newsletter, ask them if they’d be willing to include a small statement about the work you did for them. If they’re in a business club, tell them you’ll offer a great price to any members they personally refer.

I’m sure others have more to share about their own experiences, so I’d love to hear them. What’s your take?