Referrals, endorsements, testimonials, reference accounts, awards; they have many different names but all involve the same basic principle — it's more believable when someone else says something nice about you than when you say something nice about yourself.

There are many ways to use the “someone else“ third party testimonials, and we should find ways to build their use into our letters, e-mails, advertisements, publicity and sales presentations. Here are some thoughts:


We know a talented real estate broker in Richmond, VA, Claire Shaffner, who reminds us in letters and e-mails that she will take good care of any prospects we refer to her. She always writes, after her signature, “Oh, by the way, I'm never too busy for your referrals.“

A slightly different twist to using referrals is to ask your best customers, “Do you have one or two friends I could contact regarding their small meeting needs? I'll take good care of them.“

This type of referral is fantastic because it allows you to book business a lot faster than starting from scratch.

Your list of reference accounts

Keep a current list of references and send it along with every proposal. If you wish, include a customer's quote regarding your hotel from each.

Some hotels have several lists by type of business to keep the reference accounts as close as possible to the business being solicited. Call the contacts on each list and get permission to list them and for prospects to call them.

The customers' names themselves are important because they tell the prospect what kind of company they'll keep at your hotel.

Form advisory boards

On several occasions, I formed advisory boards of distinguished people to again impress prospects with the kind of company they would be keeping at my hotel if they joined the club we were promoting. This approach was especially effective if the people are well-known and their names are printed on stationery for maximum exposure.

Testimonial letters

In a major proposal I like to send one or two current testimonial letters. A letter can cover many important needs of the group that coincide with the prospect's needs.

Publicity reprints

Major features in top media regarding events at your hotel are very effective because people really believe what they read in legitimate publications.

Refer business to your competitors

When your property can't handle a piece of business, refer it to your competitor and let them know that you would appreciate the same courtesy. Don't forget to keep score. These referrals can result in a considerable amount of business.


Certain awards should be used in advertisements and collateral as excellent third-party endorsements of your product. J. D. Power Awards is a good example. One caution: Don't apply every third-party approach for every situation. You'll find that certain ones are more appropriate for specific situations.

However, make sure that you are using the third party to say positive things about your product. As believability increases, you'll find that bookings increase as well.

Tom McCarthy, CHME, CHA, spent half his career with Hilton and Marriott in sales, advertising and public relations and half in his own training and consulting business, Hotel Professional Education and Consulting of Falls Church, VA. He is a past president of Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and is a member of the HSMAI Hall of Fame. He can be reached at or 703-379-4488.

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