Word of mouth

Once upon a time, Colonel Sanders, at 60 years of age, started a business with his first social security retirement check. He went door to door, asking restaurant owners if they would like to add his fried chicken to their menus. For five cents, he would give them his recipe of 11 herbs and spices. Later, he would return and ask them how their customers were enjoying the chicken, and he would share those stories with prospective restaurateurs and franchisees.

He built a multi-billion dollar empire with Kentucky Fried Chicken. The key to his success was building relationships…one handshake, one happy customer, one testimonial at a time.

It’s old school and it always works

Now, we can leverage this one-to-one, word-of-mouth marketing in lots of different and high-tech ways. Essential to getting more calls, leads and sales is having your happy customers brag on you. Perhaps you have recieved some nice notes or emails from your customers. Awesome!

Testimonials are the cornerstone of a successful marketing plan. We buy from people and companies we like and trust. And, we go to people we like and trust for recommendations. If you are going out to dinner in a new town, you will ask a friend who lives there, “Where should we eat? Do you know a great place?” If we have a plumbing emergency, we call a neighbor for a recommendation, or we go to Yelp or Google and check out the reviews.

Ask, ask, ask

Unfortunately, many of your happy customers may not have taken the time to write a love letter or post a review. They may even mean to, but they are busy and it just doesn’t happen. You can help them along. Here’s how to get really great testimonials. Follow along.

Who is your very favorite customer? If you could clone one person 10,000 times to fill out your customer list, who would that person be? Let’s call her Mrs. Fernwicky.

Why do you love her? Come up with a few reasons, like she pays with a smile. Or, she takes the time to visit with you about her heating system and the problem she is facing so she can make educated decisions. Jot these reasons down.

Then, call

“Mrs. Fernwicky, a friend of mine asked me, ‘Who is your very favorite customer?’ I answered…YOU. I just wanted to call and tell you that and how it is such a pleasure to work with you.”

Talk with her and thank her for her business. Wouldn’t you appreciate a call like this? Sure you would and so will she. It feels great!

Next, ask if you could set up a time to stop by. Tell her you would like to get a picture of her and your work. Show up on time, of course. Ask her to share why she likes working with you. Perhaps she will say something like, “I was hesitant to call a plumber because I was afraid I would be left with a big bill and even a bigger mess. But when you showed up, I could tell you were a professional. You are neat and clean and know what you are doing. We got the problem solved. Your financing really helped with the cost. And, the basement looks better than before you arrived!”


Get her permission to record her response on your phone, so you can post the video on Facebook and on your YouTube channel. Have some fun and get her to smile! Take a selfie of you, Mrs. Fernwicky and the new indirect tank.

If she isn’t comfortable with a video, write down what she says. Ask if you can create an email or a postcard to send to her neighbors. Use her full name. Testimonials without a picture, and with initials instead of names, look like you wrote them yourself. Do such a great job that she would proudly add her name.

While you are there, offer to check the heating system. Look at the gauges. Show her a few tips for keeping an eye out for troublesome symptoms. Tag the water and gas shut offs, if you have not done so already. You may even find some appropriate additional work as you review the system together.

Now, let’s leverage this testimonial and super charge your marketing. Ask Mrs. Fernwicky to be your Facebook friend. If she is under 30 years old, she probably has an Instagram account too. Post her testimonial on your page and tag her, or ask her to share with her friends. (If it is a flattering picture, she is more likely to share. Just sayin’.)

Offer her a $25 coupon (transferable, no expiration date) if she gives you a starred review. You can hand your phone to her with the review site loaded up to make it really easy. Send her a $25 coupon every time one of her friends contacts you. Give them a $25 coupon, too. You can put the coupon on the postcard.

Now, imagine Mrs. Fernwicky’s neighbors seeing the Facebook post and maybe liking it. Then, they get a postcard with Mrs. Fernwicky’s picture on it, and a headline that says, “I was afraid I would be left with a big mess and a bigger bill.” That’s catchy! They read on. They discover that they have a similar plumbing problem – their houses are all similar structures and fixtures as they are in the same subdivision. They see Mrs. Fernwicky at the mailbox and they start asking about you, her trusted plumber. We are all looking for good home improvement/repair professionals. Mrs. Fernwicky is the hero for turning her neighbors on to you.

The bottom line

Make it ridiculously easy for her to brag on you. First, do a spectacular job. Second, tell her how much you love working with her. Third, you do the heavy lifting by doing the typing, taking the pictures, and doing the recording.

Continue to shake as many hands as possible. And leverage testimonials with relentless e-marketing. Old school or new school…it’s still about word of mouth. Do the above, exactly as I have suggested. Do it 25 times with your 25 favorite customers. It’s guaranteed to get the phone ringing.

For more on business planning, check out The Biz Plan Challenge. You, me, other business builders…working in real time to craft customized Biz Plans for creating your ideal business and best life. www.bizplanchallenge.com.

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