Thursday, March 12, 2009

Free Marketing Ideas - Part IV

Originally Published 2.11.09

9. Load Up On Testimonials.

Testimonials are powerful. Expert testimonials are even stronger. They reassure uncertain consumers who lack the technical ability to judge the quality of your work.

For most companies the problem isn’t getting testimonials, it’s *capturing* them. After a service call, a grateful homeowner complements your plumber or technician. There’s the testimonial. Too bad it’s lost.

At a home show, your customer stops by your booth and tells you how wonderful your company is. It’s great to hear, but unless you capture it, it’s lost.

Now, a new product from Dan and Dave Squires makes it easy to capture testimonials. The product is called Voice Q. Essentially, Voice Q is a telephone comment line that digitizes the comments and instantly emails you a wav file with the customer’s message.

Ironically, the Squires brothers developed Voice Q as a means of improving field efficiency, not increasing testimonials. Dan saw it as a way to eliminate wait time when technicians call in to debrief after a service call. The techs didn’t like waiting on hold while the call taker or dispatcher was on another line. The call takers didn’t like having to drop everything to debrief a technician.

Each tech has a separate line, which is identified by the tech’s phone number and the date and time stamp. Separate lines cost a little more, but search and sort makes it worth the cost. An additional line is available for parts orders.

Voice Q helps improve field efficiency. The office staff will love it. Yet, it works even better as a testimonial catcher.

With Voice Q, the technician can ask the homeowner who gives the complement to call the message line and repeat the message. In fact, he can whip out his mobile phone, dial the message line and ask the homeowner to repeat the message on the spot. In all likelihood the message will be even better if the technician is standing there while the homeowner gushes.

The catch, of course, is the field service personnel. They must be given an incentive to collect the testimonials. Plus, the need to collect them should be reinforced every week until it becomes a habit.

Dave used Voice Q recently to capture testimonials during a trade show from his contractor customers. Click here to hear how clear these sound, despite being recorded in a busy show with background noise.

Get expert testimonials by asking your peers in other towns to provide expert testimony about your quality and craftsmanship.

Take the customer and peer testimonials and transcribe them or place them on your website for people to click and listen. Even better, incorporate them into your on hold message so that prospects hear your customers rave about you (if they must be placed on hold).

Voice Q isn’t free, but it is affordable. It only costs $3/month for a line ($5 for separate debrief and parts lines). Check it out at

Help me test it by calling the new Service Roundtable and Comanche Marketing comment line at 810.320.3118. Leave me a message about the Service Roundtable, Comanche Marketing, your best clean joke, whatever.

You don’t need Voice Q to collect testimonials. It just makes things easier. When you learn from your field service people that a customer paid a complement, you can call or email the customer and ask if he or she wouldn’t mind repeating it in an email you can quote.

At a home show, you can hand the complementary customer a business card and ask the customer to send you a quick email with the same message. Some will and you lose nothing by trying.

Expert testimonials are easier. Simply email your peers in different markets. Start by offering each peer a testimonial of your own. Be sure to tell everyone you contact that it’s okay to say no.

10. Give Creative Titles

Let’s say you are starting a new career. You just got your first job. You can’t wait to tell your mother.

“Hey Mom, I just got a job!”

“Why that’s wonderful. I can’t wait to tell the ladies in the bridge club. What’s you title? I know it will take a few weeks before you’re named vice president, but I’m sure you’re important.”

You puff up your chest, stick out your chin, and proudly proclaim, “I’m a ‘Helper.’”

What a proud day for your mother!

Titles are cheap. At different points in your life, they matter to people or to customers. Let people have creative titles if it will help them feel better about themselves or better represent themselves.

Instead of “Helper,” call the kid an “Assistant Installation Technician.” Give him a title he can brag about with mom and more important, with his girlfriend. And give him a business card. Give him a real business card with his name and title, not a blank line for the kid to write his name in.

At Turbo, I had an intern working with me during the summer. I ordered business cards for him and gave him the title of “Student Engineer.” There was no obvious reason for him to have business cards. He didn’t meet with customers and was unlikely to run into any. His main use of the business cards was to hand them to girls in bars.

You probably think giving him business cards was a waste. Maybe it was. Yet, the business cards were cheap and the title was free. A couple of years after he graduated, he returned to Turbo as a full-fledged mechanical engineer. Did the good feelings and identification he felt with the company while a “Student Engineer” have anything to do with the return? Absolutely. And the cards and title reinforced both.

When I worked at Decision Analyst I used to joke, “What do you call a salesperson at Decision Analyst?” “Vice President.”

In truth it wasn’t a joke, it was a business strategy. While I did my share of true research, business analysis, and consulting at Decision Analyst, I was fundamentally a high level salesperson. Before I could perform an engagement, I had to win one. I had to sell. Since I called on corporate CEOs and Vice Presidents, I had an easier time when I was a Vice President.

Taking it the other direction, the late Tom McCart gave himself the title of “Assistant Buyer” when he was selling for Ron Smith at Modern Air. It was an ice breaker. Tom would hand prospects a card at the start of a sales call. When a confused prospect commented on the title Tom would answer, “Well, I’m here to help you buy the best comfort system for your home.”

Do you have an employee who wants a more prestigious title? What about a more creative one? Will a title help your employee feel better about his job? Will it help him sell more? Don’t be stingy with the free stuff. Make your better salespeople vice presidents if that will help them sell more.

11. Have Employees Park Their Trucks At The End Of Their Driveways, Perpendicular To Traffic

This runs counter to conventional wisdom. Park your vehicle in the driveway of the customer’s home so the billboard is perpendicular to traffic and to every other home up and down the street.

Do you see any billboards placed parallel to the highway? Of course not. They are all perpendicular. If you decaled the truck for the advertising impact, turn it perpendicular to traffic, not parallel.

I hear the gasping now. You say the homeowner will be mad. Okay. Get permission.

“Mrs. Homeowner, I parked on your driveway to get the truck out of the way of traffic. I don’t want it obstructing a driver’s view if a kid is riding her bike down the street. Is it okay where it is, or should I move it to the street.

The homeowner will either say it’s okay where it is, giving you permission, or say she prefers it in the street, which means you move it. What’s the problem?

But what about oil leaks, you say. Personally, I’m not happy about oil leaks in front of my house. Once, a couple of plumbers showed up at my house driving the Exxon Valdez installation truck. It was big as a supertanker and left an oil slick everywhere it went. The only reason I didn’t complain after they left and I saw the oil slick was fear that they might return.

If you vehicle leaks oil, there’s a simple solution. GET IT FIXED! Even if you’re too afraid to try parking on the customer’s driveway and asking permission, GET THE OIL LEAK FIXED!

Service trucks are the primary advertising medium for most contractors. Park so more people can see them.

12. Hit The Service Club Rubber Chicken Circuit

Local service clubs (i.e., Rotary, Lion’s, Kiwanis, and Optimists) feature weekly speakers. These clubs are always on the lookout for speakers who can address relevant issues affecting the community and club members. That’s you.

When you speak to a service club, you speak to a room full of community leaders. These are connected people whom others turn to for advice and recommendations. If there’s any group you want to influence, it’s a group of influencers. If there’s any group you want to connect with, it’s a group of connected people.

Search the Internet to find the clubs in your area and contact the club president. Tell the president that you’re trying to spread the word in the community about electrical fires, refrigerant phase outs, ways to save water, practical solar technologies, and so on. Describe the topic and offer to speak on it when the club has an opening.

You will get approximately 15 minutes. Don’t use all of it. Be sure to leave time for questions and answers.

While this is an informational talk and not a sales pitch, it’s inherently promotional. When more people learn about your business, more business opportunities will come your way.

© 2009 Matt Michel

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