I am a first-time homeowner of a very old house that hasn’t been remodeled in a long time. And I’m new to the neighborhood. My life revolves around referrals and testimonials on a daily basis.
I mention both referrals and testimonials because these days it is not enough to just have one or the other. I seek two points of validation before I hire a vendor for my home-improvement projects. Not only do I ask for referrals, but now I look for testimonials, too. Testimonials from people I trust, like friends and family, are always great. But testimonials from trusted sources on the Web and social media, such as Angie’s List and Yelp, are becoming easier to find and equally important.
While your firm may not have a presence on either of the sites mentioned above, accounting firms are publishing testimonials in other ways, including social media. How you manage your reputation through referrals and testimonials can be the strongest marketing tool you have to close new business.
Good Client Service Is as Important as Technical Proficiency
Chances are your technical proficiency is known. Whether it’s how long you have been in business, the content you publish or the types of clients you serve, you have proven that you know your stuff. Your expertise will get you noticed, but it will take more than that to get you selected. People want to work with a firm that communicates clearly, proactively addresses business issues: helps clients by going beyond just performing basic duties. The first step is to make sure you are providing the type of client service that reflects these and other attributes that are important to your clients. And, if you are not sure what service attributes are most important to your clients, be sure to ask.
Happy Clients want to Refer You
Referring your firm, especially knowing they are passing along a good provider, makes the client look good and feel good. Therefore, the top way to get a client referral is to ask for one. And it should be no surprise that the top way to get a client testimonial is also to ask. If you are uncomfortable asking for the testimonial directly, you could ask for feedback on an evaluation form following an event you host. You could also request feedback in an open-ended question on your client survey. With any testimonial, you will want to seek permission to publish it on your website and in proposals, or you may ask them to share positive feedback on third-party sites like CustomerLobby or Yelp.
Look at Negative Feedback as an Opportunity to Shine
Many of us fear asking for referrals and testimonials because we aren’t confident that we’ll get the response we were hoping for. It is true, asking for referrals and testimonials can sometimes provide feedback that you weren’t expecting. Perhaps you thought a client was happy, and your request uncovers a hidden client-service issue. Rather than fearing this negative feedback, view it as an opportunity to turn the relationship around. Sometimes, the greatest indicator of good client service is your ability to recover from a troubled client experience. A good measure of client satisfaction is the Net Promoter Score (NPS), which measures a client’s likelihood of referring you to others. Companies with some of the highest NPS scores, like Nordstrom and Costco, actually achieve those scores by how they respond to a problem. By quickly addressing dissatisfaction and correcting a client situation, you can win a client for life and in turn, create the best testimonial you could ask for.
Monitor Your Reputation
Update testimonials on your website and proposals. You will have control over the content you post on your sites and in proposals, so the key to reputation management in those instances is to keep content fresh and relevant. Video is becoming a more common medium for testimonials. It also provides a personal touch and can improve SEO on your sites.
Be interactive on your own social media sites. According to the 2014 SocialCPAs Survey, published jointly by the Association for Accounting Marketing and Inovautus Consulting, LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are the most widely used social networks.
You will also want to check the sites that your clients use. It is no surprise that respondents in the same survey said they were likely to adopt Yelp in the next year. Social media is becoming the most used form of testimonial, so actively monitoring and responding on those sites is critical to managing your reputation.
You can learn more about the sites mentioned here and the SocialCPAs survey results from Sarah Dobek, founder and president of Inovautus Consulting, during the April 9 AAM webinar, State of Social Media in the Accounting Profession.