The Art of the Endorsement

    By | Small Business

    Say “endorsement” and most people think of celebrities and the millions they’re paid to promote products. But an endorsement doesn’t haven’t to mean something quite that big. On a much simpler level, an endorsement is a positive and truthful opinion, given by someone of influence, about your business. And guess what? It’s within your reach, no matter what size or stage your company is at currently. By cultivating favorable feedback on your products and services, you can put your company excellence in the spotlight in a credible and organic way that catches buyer attention.

    Here’s why. In the digital age, consumers look as much to each other as to your marketing. Review sites, coworker recommendations and online dialogues all play a strong role in shaping brand perceptions. So do industry influencers and “digital stars” with big social followings. According to Search Engine Land, 76% of consumers regularly or occasionally use online reviews to determine which businesses to use  – and a Nielsen study shows 92 percent of consumers trust recommendations from family and friends more than any other form of marketing.

    Why are others opinions so powerful? In a word: authenticity. Today’s buyers are sophisticated, whether they’re B2C or B2B. They understand quite well the strategy and guile that goes into most marketing campaigns. An actual experience from someone they know, however, seems like an accurate prediction of the experience they’d have buying from you – what researchers call “social proof.”

    This holds true even when it comes to online strangers. People spend a lot of time on the Internwebs and often put as much credence in social media friends, digital personalities and even anonymous reviewers as they would in a personal friend’s account. In fact, behavioral research by Granify revealed social proof to often be even more influential than “low prices” in purchasing decisions.

    Obviously endorsements are an important part of your brand image, making it essential to focus on developing a positive ecosystem of authentic testimonials, reviews, mentions and case studies. You’re likely already familiar with Net Promoter Score (NPS) surveys to measure customer satisfaction and the likelihood of recommendations. If you haven’t tried one of these yet, get on it stat. If you’re a NPS expert, now’s the time to zero in those top customers and see if you can turn their delight into written proof of company performance.

    Consider these approaches:

    • Have your PR team work with industry analysts and influencers to get your name in the spotlight. Maybe there’s an industry mover and shaker whose nod of approval would unleash a tidal wave of new prospects. Think beyond the standard reviewer and look for influencers within your industry who would actually use the product beyond that first review.
    • Develop a steady stream of case studies and customer success stories that show just how effective your company is in action. Bringing your product or service to life in a real customer context is always more persuasive than simple marketing copy. In fact, case studies are the second highest content format sought by B2B buyers, with 73 percent using them in purchasing decisions.
    • Speaking of case studies, keep refreshing the customer testimonials. Ask sales reps and customer service folks for the names of your superfans (if you don’t already know) or approach loyalty club members, then offer a giveaway for anyone who submits a testimonial. Pro-tip: to ensure that your testimonials don’t all praise just one feature, invite select groups to say what they think about specific functionalities or items.
    • Encourage customers to leave positive feedback on review sites and local search directories like Yelp, CitySearch and Google Places. Offer incentives for the first five users who comment on your YouTube video, post coupons and discounts on review sites and include special offers for Facebook fans.
    • Work with partners to cross-pollinate each other’s customer bases. Perhaps you’ll write a blog post mentioning their great product, and in turn they’ll invite you to co-host their next webinar. You’ll each tap into an existing wellspring of trust by recommending each other to your brand evangelists and digital communities.
    • Monitor what people say about you online. Someone might praise your business on social media or a personal blog, or mention you in an article. Thank them and see if there’s an opportunity there to expand the positive feeling. Notification systems like Google Alertsand Social Mention can help with this – just be sure to check for your leaders’ names as well as your company and product names.

    A few final words of advice. The first: be prepared for negative reviews. You probably won’t see too many from the customers who volunteer for case studies and testimonials, but you may find a few negative comments sprinkled throughout the Internet. The best approach is to respond politely and ask how you can help. The commenter may or may not change their attitude, but others will see that your business was accountable and willing to help.

    Also, be sure to stagger your timing when you request reviews and testimonials from customers. A sudden flood in a two-week time frame can look suspicious to readers, so aim for a steady flow.

    As the saying goes, trust is the new business currency – and endorsements put plenty of coins in your brand pocket. Go ahead and ask who’s willing to offer their honest experience with your business online and in the community. Your future customers will be glad for the chance to find out about you.

    This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: The Art of the Endorsement

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