By Tracy Williams – Olmstead Williams Communications

It’s not a secret that having a solid reputation instills trust or that a bad reputation travels faster than a good one. How do you get the word out about your credibility? The answer is third-party endorsements. They include customer and user testimonials, expert and celebrity endorsements and all news articles.

Before the internet, small businesses relied on word of mouth to gain trust with the public. While that may have evolved to fit our world today with online reviews, it certainly hasn’t died. The first thing overwhelmed consumers typically do before purchasing is read customer reviews and recommendations on company websites, Yelp, Facebook, Twitter and more. Surveys rank legitimate customer reviews as more persuasive to buyers than advertising or paid celebrity endorsements.

Reviews Validate and Legitimize Your Brand

Ninety-three percent of online review readers seek to determine the quality of a business, and 85 percent say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. People naturally distrust what they aren’t familiar with, and positive reviews—and even positive company responses to negative reviews–instill confidence. Third party endorsements are the life blood of a political campaign with candidates seeking backing from school boards, law enforcement and civil rights groups as well as their own parties.

People today are alert to advertising in all its forms. Third-party endorsements come from sources with nothing to gain and attain the highest level of public relations effectiveness. In fact, almost all such high-credibility endorsements can be solicited without detracting from their value. For example, an Oprah book endorsement often means the best-seller list and is seen as a powerful third-party authentication.  

Building relationships with reporters who cover your market earns street cred too. Being quoted as an expert in a news article is interpreted as an endorsement by the publication and positions you as a credible source.
 
Highlighting Third-party Endorsements

Adding a tab to your company website with testimonials, reviews and endorsements makes your site active and useful. Testimonials are made even more impactful by interviewing your clients and posting a short video of their success stories.

Professional execution is important. Vagueness, paraphrase and gush are less effective than direct communication. Verifiable information is the currency.

Ineffective testimonials lack names, dates, locations and identities of the reviewers. Fake reviews are destructive to reputation and should be avoided at all cost. Most clients are comfortable being named if given the chance to confirm and approve. The more specific the citation, the more powerful the credibility.

Don’t be afraid to ask for a review.

Your competition probably already has reviews, considering that 74 percent of businesses ask customers to share their experience online. Surprisingly, 68 percent of consumers have left a review after a business asked them to, so make it a policy to ask for these testimonials each time you develop a relationship with a client or have a big win. They help marketing, build reputation and tell you what you’re doing right.

Third-party endorsement is critical to B2B buyers. In fact, 97 percent say that “user generated content such as peer reviews is more credible than other types of content.” Companies can promote reviews through industry awards, speaking at industry events, getting included in research analyst reports, earning news coverage, getting ranked on top & “best of” lists (see below), and asking customers to endorse you through online social platforms such as Google and Yelp reviews and active social media platforms. Get employees to tell the world what a great place to work the company is at Glassdoor.com. These sites further enhance your SEO scores on search engines. 

Take the summer months to make third party endorsements a part of your marketing efforts.

Tracy Williams is CEO and founder of Olmstead Williams Communications. Technology, life sciences and professional services businesses rely on OWC to drive brand awareness and revenues. For more information, visit www.olmsteadwilliams.com.