WOMBAT is the word!
Sales & Marketing for Professional Services & Sales Tips

WOMBAT is the word!

January 19, 2012
by Tony Vidler.
A couple of recent conversations reminded me that there is one single thing that is continually forgotten, or under-utilized, in the marketing efforts of professional advisers – TESTIMONIALS!
You may well ask what this has to do with a Wombat – you may even wonder what the heck a Wombat is.  Humor me for a few moments though, and all will become clear I hope.
In literal terms a Wombat is a native Australian animal, renowned for its tough, resilient, plodding approach to life.  Even their metabolism is remarkably slow – some 8-14 days to digest their food.  Slow and steady is their way.  In colloquial terms the acronym WOMBAT is often used to describe a human that is rather useless really – a Waste Of Money Breath And Time.That observation has nothing to do with anything really, but is perhaps a useful or amusing piece of nonsense – you may know a wombat or two, and now have a useful label for them that is not openly offensive. I know some wombats for sure.
From a sales and marketing perspective though WOMBAT stands for Word Of Mouth Beats Any Thing.
Word of mouth advertising is the best there is.  Referrals and endorsement from happy customers, who advocate for you to other potential customers, produce the best new customers.  Cost of acquisition for the new client is generally one of the lowest of any marketing methods.  Ease of business in terms of gaining rapport and establishing trust is superb.  Your expertise and value is largely accepted by the potential customer before you even meet.
Everyone knows this of course, but few generate enough referrals to be able to rely upon them as the primary constant source of new business.   There are a number of reasons why that is the case, not least of which is the reluctance for professionals to beg their clients for the names of others.  That is something which nobody feels good about – especially your customers.  The extremely basic concept often touted is to ASK!  Ask and all shall be delivered!  Well…it IS true that if you ask often enough, you’ll get something from enough people, so that it is sort of effective I suppose.  Truth be told this method usually results in obtaining little more than a list of the client’s B-list acquaintances, and they are barely qualified at this point (if at all).  The result is effectively a new list of cold-calling candidates for you, and a nervous new client wondering what the heck they have just done.  Brilliant.
Let’s face it, it is poor form and a bad look (especially early in a business relationship) to put somebody on the spot and bluntly ask them for a bunch of names.  Do you really expect that someone who is still only beginning to trust you will deliver your next wave of super clients?  Just because you asked the magic question do not expect your new client to open his contacts list and electronically transport his entire social network to your I-phone, with the ringing endorsement that everyone they know should place their faith in you. The chances of that are nearly as good as playing Lotto.  You’ll perhaps win plenty of small prizes if you play this game often enough, but you’ll still be losing money overall and missing out on the big money.
Word of mouth though is where it is at.  Constant streams of referrals from satisfied customers ARE possible.  However, like the wombat you have to be prepared to plod along, and understand the slow metabolism at work here.
You do have to be referrable to begin with of course.  That is, be someone professionally who is easy to trust, and easy to recommend because of your expertise, enjoyable manner of doing business and interacting with customers, and because there is a bit of a WOW factor in the customer’s mind.  You do things that exceed their expectations, and impress them enough that they are confident to share their positive stories with others.  And people actually like telling others about their good experiences, so give them the chance to do so by being a good experience.
Clients also have to know that you actually want new clients.  Now that sounds really basic, but it is amazing how many customers believe you are successful, and busy – too busy in fact to take on anyone new.  Incorporate the message into your entire marketing and client engagement process that your business depends upon doing such a good job that clients introduce new clients.  And you have to keep reminding people that this is still the case.  It should be part of your marketing process that you are continually conveying this message.

There is a huge difference too between asking for referrals, and asking to be recommended.  The first is usually an uneasy process, the second is usually a comfortable process for the clients.  Asking to be recommended might not generate new leads immediately, it is a bit more passive than that.  It is however the road to repeated referrals from satisfied clients.  It is where clients become advocates for you and your business.

One of the simplest methods of all for generating awareness is to actually ask a question that invites criticism.  Of course you have to comfortable enough and confident enough in your relationship with the client that you are prepared to take that risk, because the last thing you can afford to do when asking the question is defend a position.  Whatever the clients answer is, is valid to them. Their perception is the reality of the relationship.
The little chat, and key question, that is often very effective in opening the recommendation discussion and positioning for it is:
You know that we enjoy working with you and you are exactly the type of client we are focused upon helping, but I am a little worried that we might not be quite up to the mark in your view.  You see, clients that are really happy with us and think we are doing a good job generally refer others to us – that’s actually how our business grows; through word of mouth from satisfied clients.  I am not aware of us being recommended by you to others, which makes me think we haven’t got it quite right.  Can I ask what we need to do that would make you happy to recommend others to us?
The objective here is to actually find out what you need to do in order to become referable.  then you have to be prepared to act upon that feedback – if it is reasonable & fair.  If it isn’t reasonable, you were probably having the talk with the wrong sort of client to begin with, and probably don’t want more clients like that. You do only want to ask those who can refer you to the right sort of clients for your firm.
Ideally what you also want from this chat is endorsement from the client.  That may come in a number of forms – perhaps they are comfortable with you being allowed to refer to them as one of the clients of your firm.  No details of their business with you of course, but a simple acknowledgement that you provide advice to them and they are comfortable with others knowing that.  In itself, that is powerful to other prospective clients, particularly if the endorsements are from well known people or businesses.
Testimonials are gold.  Brief and to the point (50 words or less are best) – about why they think you are excellent, and hopefully why you WOW’d them.  Put the testimonials on your website, your brochures, and any marketing material you can.  Put them everywhere it makes sense, and where other potential customers can find them.  If you find yourself in a situation where you have a delighted customer for some reason, definitely ask them for a testimonial while they are delighted.
These days many potential customers will check you out before even meeting you.  Give them something positive and powerful to check.  Google rules!  So feed Google….Customers gain confidence from realizing others have positive experiences with you.  It takes away some of the risk for them in deciding to engage you.
Naturally I follow my own advice in this respect, and gather testimonials from happy clients and business colleagues.  You would not believe how many people refer to the Testimonials page when they meet with me.  Seriously – more than half refer to it at first meeting.  They have not necessarily read everything, in fact mostly they are looking at the names of the people who provided the testimonials and forming a view on that basis alone.

The key to a successful and perpetual stream of the right sort of new clients is to be referable, ensure people know that you rely upon it, exceed client’s basic expectations, and seek their testimonials.  It is about generating Word Of Mouth.  It really does Beat Anything Else.


© 2012 Tony Vidler.  All rights reserved. All materials contained on this web site not otherwise subject to copyright of other parties are subject to the ownership rights of Tony Vidler.  Tony Vidler authorises you to make a single copy of the content herein for your own personal, non-commercial, use while visiting the site. You agree that any copy made must include the Tony Vidler copyright notice in full. No other permission is granted to you to print, copy, reproduce, distribute, transmit, upload, download, store, display in public, alter, or modify the content contained on this web site.

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