Beyond the Build

Customer Relationships

New Business from Word of Mouth Endorsements

To me, most service businesses–whether construction, real estate, legal, financial or other–are like buses traveling the road. If you do not like the bus you are on, just get off. There will be another bus to pick you up in a few minutes. We all think we’re better than the competition. That’s true for some, not for others.  

I often liken business to a party. To get the invitation, one has to do the job well. But unfortunately, that’s not the only element. One needs existing customers talking to other prospects about your services, creating “organic” endorsement. In my opinion, a word-of-mouth sales pitch is the best your business will ever generate.

It’s always easier for someone else to talk your virtues than yourself. It’s much more believable. The best business we have obtained is from our customer referrals. Three things I do and we do to keep that alive:

1. Make your business uncommon. It’s not good enough to do a good job. That may get you an invitation to the party, but to generate third party endorsement, you must differentiate your services.

  • Give advice to prospective customers whether they use you or not. It’s not just about the money, it’s about helping people. In the end this gets recognized.
  • Routinely communicate projects which have the greatest impact on the community.

2. Write your story. Don’t just tell what happened. Give it a personal and a real connect: Have empathy. Show true interest. We try to continuingly tell our story, but not in a boisterous way.

  • Share the good, the bad  and the ugly, the successes and the not so successes.
  • Be real. If this is not communicated, you’ve accomplished nothing.
  • Routine and continually are key ingredients to telling a story.

3. Ask for the business, but not too fast. We never just show up and ask for business right away.

  • Get to know the prospect and ensure there’s a solid fit.
  • Give them time to understand that you are for real, and honest about wishing to be of service.
  • Stay connected, not just when a prospect or existing customer has a job coming up.

I remember several years ago we had a new project start and an acquaintance from a civil engineering firm called me to get the business. He acknowledged we had not spoken in a while, but wondered if his firm would be considered. It had been five years since we had spoken. We used someone else.

Merrill Stewart Jr.

Merrill Stewart is Founder and CEO of The Stewart/Perry Company, a commercial building contractor based in Birmingham.