The words of happy customers can bring about amazing increases in conversion/sales rates.
Think about the last time you were looking to hire a contractor, or some type of professional for a service. Or, say, the last time you were about to purchase an expensive item.
Who did you consult with before making your decision? Did you ask a friend or colleague for recommendations? Did you consult a consumer report about the expensive item’s performance?
Just like you and I, most people would. You see, word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there. Buyers want to confirm that they’re making the right decision by hearing about positive experiences from other buyers and friends.
As a business owner, you can use testimonials to harness the power of word of mouth marketing. Testimonials will help overcome objections and break down barriers in the sales process. Prospects weighing their purchase decisions will have more confidence knowing that someone else has had a positive experience or seen the promised results.
A strong testimonial program will generate more conversions, bigger sales, more credibility and more qualified leads. Sound good?
Lets Look At The Following:
How testimonials boost conversions
How asking for testimonials can boost repeat business
Types of testimonials
How to get testimonials for your business
What makes testimonial ‘good’ or credible
The presence of testimonials in your marketing materials, in your business and on your website will increase your conversion rate.
Your conversion rate is directly related to you and your staff’s ability to build immediate trust with prospective clients and break down natural barriers. When you use testimonials, some of this work is already done for you.
Testimonials tell prospective customers about the opinions and experiences of other buyers, which builds trust, establishes credibility and reduces perceived purchase risk.
Trust: People have an inherent skepticism towards salespeople and marketing collateral, and it takes time to build trust and rapport with prospective buyers. Testimonials build trust because they come from third party, unbiased sources.
Credibility: Testimonials show that you have been in business for a while and that you have a base of happy customers. This sends a positive message about the quality of your products or services.
Perceived Purchase Risk: Another person has bought the product or service, and been satisfied or pleased with the results, so the risk involved in the purchase seems lessened. We’ll talk more about risk reversal and guarantees in an upcoming E-Class.
The process of gathering testimonials naturally encourages repeat and referral business.
Clients who give testimonials generally stay loyal to your product or service, and will tell their friends and family about it.
Happy customers will be returning customers. However, when a customer shares an opinion or an experience and attaches their name to it, there is an added sense of loyalty created. They’ve publicly declared that they’re a supporter of the product or service in question, and will back up that decision if questioned – even if they find that their decision was wrong at a later date.
When you ask a customer for a testimonial, you’re also asking them to contribute to the growth of your business. Customers who feel they are helping you out will feel a sense of both pride and loyalty to your product or service.
Testimonials are also a great indicators of word of mouth marketing. If a customer has taken the time to tell you about their positive experience or commit it to paper, they’ve also shared it with their friends. This verbal chain of testimonials acts as an informal referral strategy and will boost your referral business
There are five different types of testimonials you could potentially use to market you business:
Customer: Of course, the strongest and most believable testimonial will be one from a satisfied customer. When you use good customer testimonials, you should expect to see strong spikes in qualified leads and sales.
Celebrity: Celebrity testimonials can increase awareness, but they aren’t as believable as customers’ testimonials. Also, celebrities are paid to do what they do, so a testimonial could appear purchased, and no one celebrity is liked by everyone so you could alienate some prospects.
Expert: If there is an expert in your line of work, then a testimonial from that person would be a good way to boost business. For example, if you run a health food store and a dentist or doctor sang your praises. Just be sure the expert is relevant to your industry or product.
Expert Organization: A relevant and credible group or association in your area can offer strong testimonials that will carry weight with prospective buyers. The chamber of commerce, a trade organization or a not-for-profit are some examples.
Press: The media’s opinion can also act as a strong testimonial. A reporter’s positive review of your service or a particular product is an unbiased opinion, so it is likely to be trusted by prospective clients. (I’ll show you how to use the press to get free publicity in an upcoming E-Class).
Here’s how you can start to gather credible testimonials for your marketing strategy.
1. Create a system for requesting, collecting and organizing testimonials.
Once you get rolling with your testimonial acquisition program, you’re going to need a place to organize and store testimonials, as well as to track which customers you’ve asked and which you’ve received from.
I recommend creating a list of all of your customers, and indicating next to each which you have received testimonials from, which you have asked for testimonials, and which you should plan to ask for testimonials.
Then, create a filing system or binder for organizing and managing testimonials. You can sort them by date, customer last name, or category (customer service, product, etc). Just be sure it is easy for you to find them when you need to. This is going to be an going part of your marketing campaign, so prepare for a large quantity of testimonials when you’re setting up your system.
2. Read incoming mail and email for unsolicited testimonials.
Create a folder or system for keeping testimonials that come in on their own – unsolicited ones. Any kind of customer feedback or thank you could be a great testimonial to use, so include them in your organization system.
You may need to go back into your files, or your inbox, to locate the feedback and testimonials you read but hadn’t used or separated. As long as you get permission from your customer, any testimonial – old and new – is potentially a good one.
3. Start by asking your best customers for testimonials.
While you may see a nice number of testimonials float in through the mail and email, you will have to work for the majority of your testimonials. You will have to ask for them.
Start with a list of your customers, organized by sales volume and frequency, and choose the top 10 – 20%. These are your best customers, and a great place to start requesting testimonials.
Use the testimonial request letter template in the member’s only section as a guide for creating your request letter. Be sincere, and encourage the customer to write their own letter instead of you drafting it for them.
Feel free to make general suggestions about what you would like them to write about, but try not to control the process. If you’re comfortable doing so, when you see what they have written make some suggestions or request certain sections be strengthened or more specific.
4. Make requesting testimonials a part of your sales process.
Once you’ve “caught up” on your testimonial requests, and asked your top customers for a few thoughts and opinions, you can create a system for ongoing testimonial collecting. These testimonials will be “solicited” as opposed to “unsolicited.”
The most important point here is to ask for a testimonial as soon as possible after the sale. The longer you wait, the less inclined the customer will be to put the effort in to writing their thoughts down. Besides, most customers are happiest and most willing to help immediate after the sale.
Ask for the testimonial. If a customer is glowing and gushing with praise, ask them to put it in writing, on letterhead if they have it. Tell them that it would really help you (your customers will love to help!) and that you value their feedback. If they’re not gushing, but you know they’re happy, be bold and ask them if they would write down what their experience was with your business. Stay on top of your testimonial gathering and ask as soon as possible.
Get all their contact details. Get all your customer’s contact details you can follow up and have them send you their letter or testimonial. The act of giving you their contact information will also establish a sense of commitment, and it will be more likely that they’ll follow through.
Tell them when you’re going to follow up. You don’t want to be a pest, but if you don’t follow up you may never get that testimonial. Tell them when you’re going to be in contact to retrieve their letter. If you’re going to email them in a week, or call them in a few days, let them know what your plan is.
Offer to write the first draft. This is a last resort strategy for customers who are either too busy or too lazy to write their own. Remember the testimonials written by real customers are the most believable, so try not to offer this up front. If your customer suggests this, try to encourage them to write their own brief notes. If that doesn’t work, brainstorm some of their ideas, and then write it yourself. Make sure you have it printed on their letterhead and signed.
5. Always ask your customers for permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials, and don’t forget to say thank you.
Thank your customer for their testimonial, and use that opportunity to gain their permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials – including your website, brochure, ads, and in-store displays.
Be sincere in your thanks, and if appropriate send a full letter or email (templates are available in the member’s only section of the site). Thank them for their time and their kind words, and anything else you may notice about their efforts.
You will need to gain permission from customers who send you solicited and unsolicited testimonials. The easiest way to do this is to send a “blanket release” that allows you to use their comments – in part or in whole – in all current and future materials. This way you won’t have to ask each time you want to run an ad, or send a direct mail campaign. You’ll already have permission.
What makes a ‘good’, credible or useable customer testimonial?
Don’t be afraid to use long testimonials, they’re more believable than short ones. Too often businesses like to use one word testimonials in quotations because they’re easy to “sprinkle” all over their marketing collateral. For example, “…amazing!…”, “…couldn’t believe it…can’t wait to see the next one!”, or “hilarious…wonderful!”.
When a testimonial is super short, your readers will suspect that they’ve been edited to sound positive, and that the “…” are masking neutral or negative comments. Be sure to give at least a full sentence, if not two or three, to really let the testimonial illustrate the message.
“I was truly impressed by the quality of products I was offered at such a low price. The products I saw were exactly what I was looking for, and delivered the promised results. Plus, the customer service was outstanding. I’m going to be spending a lot more time here!”
It’s longer and won’t squeeze in as easily in a brochure or small ad, but it will have a much stronger impact on the target audience.
Get specific, detailed testimonials whenever you can. Ask your customers to provide as much color and description about their experience, and speak to any miniscule aspect they may have been impressed by.
Specific testimonials are better than vague or typical-sounding testimonials. Too often when you receive a testimonial, you skim through it looking for the summary line that paints your business in the best light, like “We were thrilled with our experience.” This leaves questions in the readers’ mind, like “why?”, “when?”, “what was your experience all about?” and “what thrilled you?” If it only says, “Best service in town,” how will the reader’s know what makes it the best service in town?
The strongest testimonials share specific information and paint descriptive pictures or tell stories that engage the reader. They mention points about the product or service that matter to other prospective customers, as well as describe the problems they were having before they found the product or service. Detail will help the reader relate to or identify with the satisfied customer’s struggles and frustrations that have been solved with their purchase.
Details get remembered. Think about the Sleep Country testimonials on T.V. where a customer mentioned and thanked the company for the little “booties” the delivery men wore to protect the carpet. Don’t overlook these little gems that will stick in people’s minds.
Don’t try to edit or “polish” the testimonials you receive from customers. Punctuation and grammar errors contribute to the believability of the statements.
Also, be cautious when editing the testimonials for brevity or when cropping statements from a letter or long email. Remember that the customer signed off on you using their words verbatim, so make sure you do. Small edits could change the meaning of the sentences, which could upset customers when they see their names in print.
Back up each testimonial with a clear, specific description of who said it, and where they’re from. Attributing statements to vague names like “T.M in Oregon” or “Jim F, Small Business Owner” will dramatically reduce the believability of your testimonial. People are naturally skeptical, and will be more likely to believe testimonials that don’t attempt to conceal the identity of the author and include more than the first name.
Attribute each quote to a person’s full name, city, state, and (if relevant) their business name and job title. For example, “Christopher Ford, Seattle, WA” or “Tim Wilson, Winnipeg, Manitoba – Owner of Fancy Meat & Deli Ltd.” The more detail, the more chance of a prospective customer recognizing the name or business and trusting the statement.
Location can be important depending on the market reach of your business. If you have a local business, prospects may look to see that others in the community have been pleased with your service. If you serve a national or international market, you can use testimonials to show your client reach.
If you have a testimonial from an expert (like a doctor or politician), be sure to include their credentials to make the most of their endorsement of your business.
It may also be helpful to include the company’s website address, especially if your business markets to other businesses. This is also a nice gesture of thanks to the person who gave their testimonial, since it may encourage your customers to visit their site.
An image of the customer who wrote the testimonial will enhance the impact and believability of the words. The statement is enlivened by the image, and thus carries twice as much validity and impact.
Audio testimonials are also highly effective. Consider asking customers if they would contribute their testimonial on video or audio recording, and then use that clip on your website or in store.
Ask customers if you can take a picture of them to accompany their words, and take a few simple shots yourself so you have a few to choose from.
If you’re going to go to the effort of collecting testimonials, do what you can to make sure that they’re credible ones you can use.
At the end of the day, asking for a testimonial is often like asking your customers for a favor. While you want to make sure their testimonial is detailed and specific and all the things that make it credible, there’s a limit to what you can ask for, and that’s okay.
Sometimes you’ll get two-line emails, and other times you’ll get five page letters. Work with what you can gather, and remember that testimonials are always most believable when they’ve been written organically by the customer.