I have a policy for CustomBytes: all of my new clients are going to become references to any new clients that come along after them. I tell my new clients that, so they understand that they’re going to be treated just as wonderfully as all my past clients.
Some consultants collect testimonials for their web site and other marketing materials. They do that so that potential clients can see at least a brief amount of feedback from their past clients.
Why have references or testimonials? Because as a small business, part of the sales cycle is going to be spent allaying any client fears that you might run off with their deposit or leave the project unfinished. Any feedback from past clients that help show you won’t will speed along the sales cycle and help you close the deal.
Testimonials can help potential clients see how awesome you are before they even contact you. If the rest of your marketing materials don’t strongly connect with the potential client, you can still have those testimonials to proclaim that you’ll do a great job.
How do you collect testimonials? Wait until the end of the project and ask your happy client to provide you with a quick quote over the phone or via e-mail that you can use on your web site. Some clients will do it, some will not. Just make sure that the wording you use (if you paraphrase or shorten the testimonial) is acceptable to your client. Some clients will not do it and assure them that you understand and that their decision is fine with you and that you’ll still want them to be a reference to any future clients who come along.
Once a potential client contacts you and gets comfortable with you and the services you can provide, then it’s time to break out your references to help you close the deal. Like testimonials, you need to get permission from your clients to use them as references, but that’s usually less of an issue than a testimonial, because a reference is not static and a client’s opinion of your business might change over time and the reference can reflect that.
Bottom line: as part of your marketing materials and to assist you in your sales cycle, work hard to earn those testimonials and references.
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