Your clients don’t want you to talk about them — what now?

In my previous post, I covered the benefits of showcasing your work.  You build trust.  You demonstrate quality.  I also emphasised how, to demonstrate credibility, you have to name your clients.

Sometimes, though, you encounter a hitch. “I know we should have a client list,” my colleagues say, “but our clients don’t want us to talk about them.”

I hear this most often for two types of services:

Commercially sensitive

IT companies’ clients often resist being named. The clients don’t want the details of their server hosting put up online where hackers and miscreants can find it.  There can also be a reputational element.  For example, you run a structural engineering company that fixes faulty foundations for commercial real-estate.  A deluxe hotel doesn’t want the world to know that their building wasn’t up to scratch.

Personally sensitive

There may be a stigma around seeking your help. If you’re a psychologist, your clients may not want to put their name to a case study describing their battle with depression, even if it’s a battle that you helped them win.

Those are the barriers.  So what are the solutions?

Don’t give up

It’s industries where social proof is hardest to get that this evidence is also the most valuable.

Services that are commercially or personally sensitive often have a higher trust threshold. You need to do more to demonstrate credibility and resolve doubts. How much caution would you exercise in choosing a lawyer? Now compare that with choosing a chocolate bar.

New clients will feel more comfortable knowing you’ve helped people like them.  I covered this concept in detail in my post on social proof: we use other people’s experience as evidence when faced with uncertainty.  That’s why professional service providers like lawyers and accountants get a lot of business through referrals.

If you’ve encountered resistance from clients, then it’s safe to assume that your competitors have too.  They’ll have given up at this point, and won’t feature clients in their marketing.

That creates a window of opportunity.  In a sector where building trust through social proof is most important, few of your competitors are doing it.

Find clients that will say yes

You may have asked a few clients and been rebuffed.  From this experience, you generalized and assumed that none of your clients will say yes.  Your competitors may have made this same assumption.

I often work through this with my clients when I’m pulling together their web content or capability statements. Even in highly-sensitive industries, my clients have usually found one or two businesses that are happy to be named.

The client that you name doesn’t have to be a direct match for your target market.  As long as your target market sees them as relevant.  For example, if you’re targeting lawyers, you may find that an architect client is happy to be featured. If a lawyer would take this evidence seriously, then use it.

Talk about them in a way that they’re comfortable with

You’ve got options for how you talk about your clients.  I outlined the options in my previous post. Your client may agree to being featured in a case study if they get to approve the content before it’s published. Or if that’s not an option,  they may still be quite comfortable with having their logo displayed on your website.

A simple client logo definitely doesn’t have the level of depth and persuasiveness you’d get from a case study.  But it’s better than nothing.  And in an industry where your track record counts, it may be just enough to make you stand out.

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