Recommendations from other people are the lifeblood of most businesses. It’s what is known as ‘third party validation’ and the reason most business owners actively seek testimonials and feature a testimonial page on their website. It’s saying ‘It’s not just us that think we’re good – other people like what we do too!’
Online companies like Amazon and Trip Advisor ask people to write reviews of the purchases they’ve made and holidays they’ve had – and that 5 star rating system is everywhere. But what do 5 stars really mean? Does 1 star indicate bad or just not great? The implication of stars is that ANY stars are a positive indication, but most people read one or two stars as a bad review and yet one Michelin star is highly prized by restaurant owners!
Every recommendation is an addition to your reputation – so what you really need are lots of fans who RAVE about you and can provide evidence of your fantastic services (or products). If you give your clients 5 star service they will almost certainly do this anyway, but are your clients the only people who will recommend you?
Getting recommended happens for all kinds of reasons:
- A delighted customer wants to share their experience with others
- Someone who reads your blog regularly rates you as knowledgeable in your core area
- People who have heard you do a short presentation at a networking meeting think you’re good
- People who follow you on social media like what you post
- Someone who you’ve met a few times, maybe networking, likes YOU
As you can see there are varying levels of experience and knowledge in the mix here. Someone who likes you as a person doesn’t have the same weight as a delighted customer – but when someone gives you a recommendation how carefully do you check their actual experience of the service they’re recommending?
I’ve been recommended for all the above reasons – and they have all resulted in work! However, if you’re on the receiving end of a recommendation it’s wise to check what has led the recommender to suggest this particular person.
In all the cases where I’ve been recommended I always have a preliminary discussion with the potential client first, produce a proposal based on their needs and have a process that allows for development of the work in line with what they want. Not all businesses can do this, so it’s quite important to ensure recommendations are robust and you should always do your due diligence. However, I do believe that creating high value content in the form of blogs, articles and tips is an excellent way to help people who are not clients to see your expertise.
Obviously, existing or past customers are the best kind of recommendation to get, but that doesn’t mean the others have no worth.
I regularly read blogs by a selection of people who I rate as knowledgeable – over time I’ve learned from them and would not hesitate to recommend them to other people (and often do so) as experts in their field. I probably wouldn’t recommend them on the basis of a single post, but cumulatively the consistency of high quality information gives me the confidence to recommend them.
Even a 10 minute presentation will tell you quite a lot about someone:
- How well-prepared they are shows how ‘bothered’ they are about delivering high quality in every situation
- How well-focused the material is for the group shows how customer-centric they’re likely to be
- Providing take-away material indicates the level of attention to detail they are likely to apply
There is an argument that not everyone is a natural (or trained) presenter – and that’s true, some people are stricken with nerves standing up in front of a group. Even so they should have invested some time in the content of their presentation so you should be able to get an idea of their value.
People who are social media connections aren’t exactly strong recommendations – but if they have been following your posts and maybe reading some of your articles on LinkedIn they could have quite a good idea of your abilities and expertise. Having said that I was once recommended by someone I know from networking and has seen the work I’ve done for a client to a random agency in Canada. We had a Skype chat and I was able to fulfil their needs. You really never know! It’s probably more effective than simply choosing someone from the yellow pages or any other directory.
People who like you are definitely good to have around – we all want to be liked – but are they a good recommendation? If you’ve met networking a few times, they’ve probably heard your minute-pitch and almost certainly have had a chat with you. It’s always worth having a 1-2-1 with people you get on with at networking – you get to know each other better and what each is capable of – then recommendations have more weight.
The secret of getting recommended is to be a good recommender! People tell others when they’ve been recommended – often by whom – and your reputation gains another star as a result.