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What is the point of difference in your brand? It might be your references

How do you think customers choose to use your company, over a competitor?  You might think that you offer a great service – but they will only know that after they’ve used you.  Maybe your prices are competitive, but unless you’re displaying them publicly, then most new customers won’t be aware of them before making contact.
The truth is: your brand is often what influences a purchasing decision by a new customer.  This means that taking control of that brand is a critical step on the path to success. 
Many small businesses think that branding isn’t for them – they believe it’s what multinational firms pay agencies to create for them.  But nothing could be further from the truth.  Companies of all sizes should focus on creating a brand that truly reflects their values, which should be distinctive and unique. . 
For small firms, with a local presence or industry focus, branding is absolutely critical.  However, you might think that branding isn’t something you can have any insight into, or control over.  But you don’t need focus groups and other ‘tools of the trade’ to be able to improve your brand.
To a large extent, your brand is what people think of you.  If they’ve had a good experience with you, that’s great – for that one person, your brand is strong.  It doesn’t matter if your logo looks old-fashioned, or your office is tatty.  They view you positively, and that’s what matters.
But for people who haven’t had such close contact with you, then what?  They may struggle to determine what their experience is likely to be.  Of course, you can use all the usual techniques to help people understand what you’re about – such as picking a name that communicates your values. 
But there’s one thing that all companies can do, to take control of their brand.  What’s more, it doesn’t require any special skills or expensive tools - and it doesn’t cost anything.
The key to making branding work for all firms is to get people to talk about what you do.  People will generally associate with others of like mind – so your top customers will tend to know other people who will also make great customers.  The trick is to control the messages that these people receive.
Of course, it’s great to get positive mentions in general conversation – and your business is probably already benefitting from this kind of informal referrals.  It’s called ‘dark social’ because it’s hard to spot, unless you happen to be in on the conversation. 
A different approach to is to focus on leverage.  If your happy customer gives a reference to a friend, that’s certainly a win.  It may not be enough to get you the business on that one particular occasion – but it’s a start.  The trick is to turn a client from someone willing to give a one-to-one reference, into someone who’ll offer you a shareable testimonial.
So, how can you leverage this good will – and make it influence dozens, or even hundreds, of new customer relationships?
The answer is incredibly simple, but at the same time complex – you need to get the customer to capture that good reference for you, so you can use it again and again.  How it’s captured really doesn’t matter – it can be in writing, video, or an audio recording.  Even less conventional formats, such as a photograph, can convey a great deal of meaning.  At the very least, a photo or logo from a customer conveys a sense of approval or endorsement.  But beyond that, it can convey a key aspect of your brand, such as the enjoyment that comes from using your product or service.  Restaurants use this technique all the time, by ushering attractive, aspirational diners to window seats.
So, how do you go about using references and testimonials to leverage the goodwill associated with your brand? 
That’s where comes in.  We like to think that is the easiest and most effective way to collect, manage, and display references and testimonials.
Next time, we’ll look at ways that you can capture references more effectively and more regularly.


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Use references and testimonials to leverage the goodwill associated with your brand

How do you go about using references and testimonials to leverage the goodwill associated with your brand?  Well, you have to ask!  This may sound obvious, but unless you are lucky enough to receive some completely unsolicited complements from customers, it’s just not going to happen.
What is it that holds us back from asking for a reference?  
It may be the fear that if you ask the client for feedback on your service, the news may be bad, and there will be an outpouring of complaints and criticisms. If you think about it rationally, this is highly unlikely.  If you were genuinely so bad, the client would have gone to a competitor already.  Although they are happy with your service (otherwise they wouldn’t be clients at all) they may still want to let you know about things that let you down and could be improved.  For any company that is serious about listening to customers and constantly trying to improve, this feedback is vital and should be valued.
Perhaps your process doesn’t natura…