As the Web and Social Networking have rapidly become the valuable business tool, small businesses have new opportunities for selling their products and services. The good news — and it is largely good news — is that everyone has a chance to stand out. Everyone has a chance to learn, improve, and build up their skills. Everyone has a chance to stand up and be counted.

One way is to build influence and trust so that you can increase sales of your product or service. Influence is the new catch word. Angie’s List and Yelp have made a business out of it. There is even an award that recognizes influential companies that provide products, services, and support  to the small business market. (I had a request from Get Response to vote for them.)

You can even get rated by KLOUT.com, “the measure of influence.”  The Klout Score measures influence based on your ability to drive action. Every time you create content or engage you influence. Your Klout Score uses data from social networks in order to measure: How many people you influence; How much you influence them; The influence of your network. Only you can measure the actual ROI (return on investment) when you review your sales and profit numbers.

So what is “influence?” It is a companies’ ability to affect or prompt action among its key constituents. To influence is to motivate customers, prospects and industry opinion leaders to take specific actions in support of a specific request, or in support of a series of requests. Influence predisposes consumers into entering a business relationship with you.

Obviously all the social networking sites help to create this influence. But customers and clients still do business with people they trust. One of the best tools for building that trust is the testimonial from a happy customer. It is one of the most effective (and affordable) marketing tools you can have. Those words from someone who has done business with you goes a long way to establishing trust, then anything you can say about yourself or your product.

Here are some tips on getting testimonials:
1. Ask for the testimonials
2. Ask people to share them on their social networks
3. Ask what the bottom line results were that they got from your product or service
4. Ask if you or someone else can interview them
5. Ask if you can quote them on something they casually said or wrote in an email
6. Ask if you have their permission to post it on your web site, BLOG, or any other promotional material you put out.

Testimonials are extraordinarily important; so important that, you can build your whole marketing strategy around them both on line and off. They grow your “influence” exponentially!