I try to follow one basic rule when buying products or services: I never send more constructive complaints than compliments. The negative feedback hopefully provides vendors with a list of needed improvements. The positive feedback identifies things that don’t need changing, and seems to put a bit of sunshine into someone’s day (and probably earns me a coupon, too).
If you’re on the receiving end of positive customer comments, understand that this type of feedback provides more than just sunshine. If you can turn a customer comment into a testimonial, it can help you attract more happy customers.
How to Get Customer Testimonials
First, understand that testimonials are statements from named customers who agree to let you use their stories and statements within your marketing materials. They are not the same as positive product reviews.
Of course, those positive reviews are a great way to find the customers who might be interested in providing a bona fide testimonial to support your great products or services. This is one more reason to monitor reviews on your website or on other sites where your products are for sale.
Your customer support team can be an amazing source of testimonial prospects, as well. They are probably the ones who read customer emails. Plus, each representative can name a few customers with whom they have formed a positive relationship on the phone, or even through social media.
Make sure that they tell you about the customer contacts that brighten their days. If you think that it will work best, it might make sense to use that relationship by asking the representative to make the initial testimonial request.
Finally, don’t ignore happy customers who are shopping in your store, or those who are exceptionally complimentary to consultants who assist them. As long as you don’t pressure them for testimonials — and you willingly take “no” for an answer — it never hurts to ask.
Ways to Turn Testimonials Into a Powerful Sales Resource
Once you have some testimonials, it’s worthwhile to make liberal use of them as part of your marketing campaign. Here are some ideas to get you thinking about creative ways to use testimonials.
- Put the best short ones on your home page. Since many are bound to be lengthy, however, you might consider taking a snippet (such as “XYZ Company’s support doubled my company’s profitability in a year.”), and providing a link to the entire text.
- Put all of them on a Testimonials page. Then, offer prominent links to that page from other pages on your website.
- Add separate Testimonial pages to your print marketing materials.
- Ask customers to offer their testimonials in radio and TV advertising. If they’re willing to be recorded, they benefit by obtaining a bit of free PR for their business every time your commercial is on the air.
- Make them a prominent part of your social media presence.
Understand that testimonials do more than just promote your brand. Properly placed (and timed), they can convince consumers to buy something that they never considered before. For example, homeowners who typically care for their own yards might recognize the benefits of the professional services offered by your landscaping business.
Keep it Legal
Even most online stores review customer comments before they publish them. But testimonials need a more legal approach and a formal or informal signed, written contract. While it’s always best to consult with a lawyer to obtain the legal details, here are some key points that you must follow to the letter.
- Get permission — and keep a paper trail: Even if a customer writes you a nice letter that would work well as a testimonial, don’t use it without requesting authorization in writing. If you make any alterations, you must also get written approval.
- Compensation is generally forbidden: You cannot offer anything of value in exchange for the testimonial. This includes (but is not limited to) direct payment, free or discounted products, or even a gift card to a local restaurant. Although this practice is not recommended, you can compensate a customer for a testimonial if it clearly notes the compensation, and the content follows all legal rules. The one exception is the free PR that customers might receive when their businesses are named within your testimonial.
- Accuracy is critical: You certainly should not plan on writing a fake testimonial, even if it’s a compilation of general customer sentiment. Real testimonials must be fully accurate, too, and you should check every superlative claim. For example, if the customer claims that no weeds ever returned once they used your lawn service, you’ll have to find out if they did anything else to achieve this result — and mention it in the testimonial.
- Do not coach the customer: Testimonials must come fully from the customer, so you cannot request that they mention special benefits or withhold negative points. Again, you can make small edits for grammar or readability, but you should obtain their signoff before you go live with the testimonial.
Not All Marketing is Expensive
As a small business owner, you understand that getting your message out to potential customers is as important as producing your products or services. Just as important, however, is getting the most out of every marketing dollar.
The Small Business Administration advises small businesses with revenues less than $5 million to allocate 7 to 8 percent of revenues to marketing. While that percentage seems huge, it’s probably necessary to help you develop a loyal customer base.
But not all marketing strategies need to be costly. Well-placed testimonials are often free; yet, they can offer convincing reasons to choose your business over the competition.