Will your customers be witnesses for you?

Last night I was a witness to a business opportunity for my home remodeling contractor.

At dinner, my friends mentioned they were going to redo their kitchen, and that things weren’t working out with the contractor they had planned to use.

“Have you called Ira Singer?” I asked. “He did a great job for us.”

My brand impression of Ira’s work is so strong that my referral of his work was almost reflexive. I witnessed a need for home remodeling and it was automatic to recommend Ira.

Your customers continually witness business opportunities for you. What happens when they do?

Do they even notice that there is an opportunity for you?

Once they witness the opportunity, will they care enough to recommend you enthusiastically, like I did with Ira?

These two questions represent the two biggest hurdles in helping your customers be witnesses for you. Let’s take a look at them.

Witness hurdle #1: Do they even notice an opportunity for you?

Do your customers really understand what you do? Or do they just understand what you have done for them, which may be only a slice of what you are capable of doing? What have you done to help your referral sources “get it?”

Your potential witnesses are some of the most important customers you communicate with. Are they part of your marketing and sales plan? Do you have a strategy in place to ensure that they understand who you are, what you do, and what you can do for others?

I was able to describe Ira’s capabilities very clearly to my friends. I “get it.”

Witness hurdle #2: Once they witness the opportunity, will they care enough to recommend you enthusiastically?

This is, in many ways, the saddest way not to get a referral. Your customer witnesses the chance to refer you, and doesn’t.

My market research experience has showed me that companies often don’t know when their customers have lukewarm brand impressions. “Yeah, they’re ok” is a phrase I have heard customers say many times.

How enthusiastic are your customers?

If a customer is going to recommend you reflexively, as I did with Ira, they need to have a powerful, compelling brand impression of you, which differentiates you from your competition.

This requires you to help your customers form brand impressions that transcend what you do (in Ira’s case that he remodels homes) and focus also on how you do it (in Ira’s case that he gave us personalized advice that helped us find the smartest, most cost effective ways to get the job done). I know a number of good contractors who can do construction work and get that work done on time, so it’s hard to be a reflexive witness for one company based only on those factors. But Ira helped me form impressions of his business that went beyond the basics and differentiated him from the pack. Because of this impression, I was able to say, reflexively, that my friends should use him. I witnessed an opportunity for him and jumped on it.

If you want your customers to witness opportunities for you, and reflexively recommend you, you must help them see that you are different from the competition in a really meaningful way. Do your customers see you that way? Do you help them see not only what you do, but that you do it in a way that is different?

Sales and marketing are hard. They are expensive. And, most sales and marketing efforts don’t work. Think of how much more effective your business development efforts will be if you are able to enlist the eyes and ears of your customers to witness opportunities for you and their voices to recommend you enthusiastically after they witness those opportunities.

Go ahead. Create better witnesses. And watch opportunities come your way that you never would have seen had your customers not spotted them for you.


  • Jeff Merkow
    Aug 23, 2011 - 14:08 pm

    It’s a fact, over the years, our best clients have been those who have been referred by others. They are the easiest to work with and, ultimately, turn into long-term, solid business relationships. Most times, they become good “witnesses” as well.
    Jeff Merkow
    Sr. Partner
    The Identity Group

  • Steve Yastrow
    Sep 01, 2011 - 23:06 pm

    Thanks Jeff. I’m sure you have lots of people being witnesses for you!

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