Testimonials and Referrals – Powerful Marketing Tools


Handshake between Joseph Addison and Richard Steele

Testimonials and referrals can be powerful tools to help you build your brand and sell more art.  A testimonial is either a written, verbal or video statement from somebody about the virtues of you and/or your art. Testimonials can take the forms of a letter, an online post, or a review. Today we are seeing testimonials in the online world in such services as Yelp as well as the many sites such as Amazon that allow visitors to post comments and reviews. For many companies these online reviews may mean quite a lot for their brand and their success.

A referral is different than a lead. A referral is someone who is expecting your call and they have been briefed on what you offer and there is a potential to do business. A lead is merely a mention of somebody who “might” be interested in your art. Clearly a referral is much more powerful than a lead.

There are many successful artists and businesses where testimonials and referrals make up a large part of their marketing efforts. These are very powerful tools that you should consider using.


Testimonials are much more powerful than an advertisement because of the fact that they are not paid for which distinguishes them from a paid endorsement.

Many years ago when I was starting out as a management consultant I had the pleasure to meet one of the top management consultants in the nation. He was kind enough to share with me some of the secrets that he used to get new clients.

He said to me, “Here is the best tool I have for getting new clients” as he produced a 3” thick three ring binder. Inside the binder were dozens and dozens of testimonial letters from his past clients saying how much he helped them out, his level of expertise and their willingness to recommend him and his services.

I asked the consultant how he got all of these letters. His answer was simple. “I asked for them, before I accept a consulting engagement I tell the client that if I do a good job and provide the agreed upon services that I expect a letter of recommendation at the end of the project”

When the consultant would meet with a prospect and it was determined that there was a fit, he would bring out the binder with the letters and show them to the prospect – more often than not he would make a sale and eventually add another page to the book.

You can use this technique for your art business! Ask your satisfied clients or others in your industry who know you well to write a testimonial about you and your work. Don’t be surprised if some agree but will ask you to write the testimonial which they will produce on their letterhead and then sign – go ahead and do it! Once you have your testimonial letters be sure to incorporate them into you sales presentations, marketing materials and don’t forget you online presence.

If you keep doing this, soon you will have your own binder with letters of recommendation to use in your next sales presentation.


Town Crier Lanfant de Metz Ausrufer und Kinder


It is important that you understand the difference between a referral and a lead. A referral is someone who is expecting your call and they have been briefed on what you offer and there is a potential to do business. A lead is a mention of somebody who “might” be interested in your art.

You should make referrals an integral part of your overall sales and marketing strategy. Many successful businesses and salespeople develop the bulk of their new business from referrals and you can too. Building a successful referral network will require continued effort on your part and will not happen overnight; although there are several things you can do to speed this process up.

Here are some tips on how to generate referrals for your art business:

  • According to Bob Burg, author of Endless Referrals – “all things being equal, people will do business with, and refer business to, those people they know, like and trust.” The key idea here is to get to “know” people. You don’t get to know people by pitching them on you and your art. You get to know people by listening and finding out “their” story and then sharing your story with them.
  • Use your in person and social networks to let people know what you are up to and take an interest in what they are doing.
  • Follow up with your contacts and customers and ask them for a referral – don’t be shy.
  • It’s a two way street, ask others what you can do to help them and how you can refer business to them.
  • Tell others what you are looking for and make it easy for them to refer people to you. If they can’t figure out what you do then how can they tell someone else?
  • Follow through on referrals and be sure to thank the person who gave you the referral.
  • Position yourself as an expert or the “only solution” to a problem or need.
  • After making a sale ask for a referral, “Do you know of others who would appreciate the kind of art I produce?
  • You may want to consider offering some type of reward for a referral. You could offer a reward to the person generating the referral, to the person being referred or both.

The Bottom Line(s)…

Testimonials and referrals can make a big impact on your business. They will help you generate more prospects and close more sales, so make these tools a part of your marketing and sales efforts.  In order to make testimonials and referrals work for you, make sure that you have very satisfied customers, you provide exceptional customer service and the customer’s buying experience is something that they want to tell others about.

Here are some resources to help you learn more about referrals and testimonials:

Bob Burg – Endless Referrals

7 Sure-Fire Ways to Build Your Referral Business

7 Creative Ways to Get Customer Testimonials

Ten ways to get the most out of customer testimonials

One of the more intangible aspects of these tools is that they will let you know you are on the right track with your art and that people appreciate your work. In some respects the fact that people like what you do and are willing to tell others may be as valuable as the money you take to the bank.  Good Luck!

By Neil McKenzie

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