24/7 Social Proof - How to achieve a huge increase in customer endorsements

15 Sep 2015

Your customers rave about your business to their friends, but when it comes to lifting fingers to keyboard, testimonials are often difficult to come by. Customer endorsements on your website and social media are crucial in providing 24/7 social proof. In this article, we provide our battle tested strategies for achieving huge success in securing online customer testimonials and endorsements.

Step 1 - Commit to asking for testimonials

Many business owners hate asking customers for anything other than their business. To secure new testimonials, you have to get comfortable with asking for them. Be prepared to follow up with multiple requests. We have found 3 requests for a testimonial is typically needed per (happy) customer. Don't give up or get embarrassed about asking - your business is worthy of a great testimonial!

Step 2 - Ask at the right time

Typically there are ideal times to ask for a customer testimonial. Often this may be at completion of a well executed project or delivery, where the customer expectations were exceeded. Ask at the right time, and if possible ask face to face or on the phone. If you are asking over email or using a letter, make it as easy as possible for the testimonial to be given. For example, include a pre-addressed and stamped envelope with your pre-filled testimonial form. Ask in a way that shows how important testimonials are to the growth and success of your business, many satisfied customers will be happy to help!

Step 3 - Make it easy to give a testimonial

Provide a basic one-page printed form to your customer explaining your request for a testimonial, what it will be used for, a few lines to write in a testimonial, as well as some examples of great testimonials that you have received from other customers. Other tips include:

  • Provide your form to the client in person at conclusion of a transaction, or post the form to the client with a pre-filled out return envelope including stamp.
  • Testimonial requests are often effectively combined with a feedback form. Many people love to give tick-the-box feedback. Ask for a testimonial at the end of the feedback form, ensuring there is a tick-box allowing you to use this testimonial publically.
  • If appropriate for your industry, incentise return of your feedback form with a free offer, such as a free movie ticket or small thank-you gift.
  • If appropriate, prepare a testimonial for the given client and ask them to sign-off or edit your supplied testimonial, using it as a base. For the time-poor client, this can be a highly effective approach over email, particularly if they see you have gone to some trouble to make it easy for them.
  • If your customer is in their own business, let them know that you will link back to their business website from your testimonial page, acting as a free advertisement for them. Promote the win-win!

Once a testimonial approach has been adopted, put the necessary processes in place to ensure testimonials are asked for by your staff and then followed up on until a testimonial is secured!

Step 4 - Present testimonials in a compelling way

Once you have done the hard work of securing a positive testimonial, it is important to make the best use of it in your online and offline marketing materials.

Many websites have a single page on their website with a long list of text only testimonials. These testimonials are not likely to be ever read. Use testimonials through-out your website and in conjunction with client logos, images of client projects, case-studies and videos. Extracts of testimonials are also very powerful on the home-page of your website and in flash animations near the top of the screen.

Our best tips for powerful online testimonials:

  • Present the testimonial with the before and after story of what you achieved for your customer - a case-study backed-up with a testimonial. Ideally include before and after pictures, videos or statistics.
  • If the customer is willing, add their phone number along with the testimonial, indicating they are able to speak briefly to prospective customers. Only use this approach with your most articulate and enthusiastic supporters.
  • List testimonials top to bottom on a web-page by hotness. Hot testimonials are those that sound fantastic, are from well-known businesses or people and are relevant to the content of the given web-page.

Step 5 - Video Testimonials

The combination of video and text testimonials on your website is rarely used and is a powerful technique. Video testimonials are harder to get, so are best obtained on-site at your business location after a successful interaction with the customer. In a video testimonial the customer should say their name and explain their before and after story and interaction with your business. Would they come back? YES!

If you don't have access to a digital video camera, video testimonials can also be uploaded directly to youtube using the live recording function in youtube, combined with a web-cam on your laptop. Youtube videos can easily embedded in your website by your developer.

Step 6 - Use Linkedin to obtain testimonials

Linkedin provides advanced functionality for requesting recommendations from your Linkedin contacts. Many of the same strategies used here can be applied to linkedin. Once you obtain a linkedin testimonial, ensure you transfer it to your website!

Step 7 - Direct visitors to your testimonial page

It is our standard policy to direct new email enquiries to our portfolio of our clients and testimonials page. For example, http://www.ideabank.com.au/clients

By using this page as the go-to page on your website, it acts as powerful social proof for potential customers.

Also include a link to your testimonial page in your email signature and in online quotes sent to customers (why not have testimonials listed at the end of all your quotes and marketing letters?)

Step 8 - Use your mailing list to obtain testimonials

If you have taken the time to build a customer mail / email database, you have a great opportunity to request a testimonial from your subscribers. Explain in a broadcast email that you would love to get a testimonial from them and what a great help it would be to your business in these difficult economic times. Depending on your industry, it may be appropriate to incentise testimonials with a free gift or offer. If you ask for a testimonial in a non-pushy way, it is often surprising how many testimonials can be obtained from a customer mailing list. Ensure that it is easy for your subscribers to send you their testimonial, ideally via an online form on your website.

Step 9 - Use review websites to secure new testimonials

Depending on your industry, many websites such as tripadvisor.com (accommodation), urbanspoon.com (food guide), google.com.au allow reviews to be added about your business. Ensure your profiles are setup completely on these sites and that negative reviews are responded to. Reviews listed on these websites should be re-used on your own website.

Step 10 - Addressing objections to giving a testimonial

I don't write well. It is surprising how often we hear this objection. This can be often overcome by offering to edit the testimonial for the client and agreeing to obtain approval of any changes that you make before using the testimonial publically.

I don't have time. Provide them with a suggested testimonial for them to edit as a base or for sign-off. If they are in business, indicate that you will link to their website from their testimonial. Create a win-win and they will find the time!

I'm worried about the legal implications. For those concerned about the legal implications of giving a testimonial, we recommend you simply ask them to provide a testimonial that states facts about their personal experience with your business. A positive interaction with your business speaks for itself, without the need for an explicit endorsement.

I don't want my testimonial to be plastered all over your website. Show the customer what good company they will be in by directing them to your testimonial page. If you already have several testimonials the customer will realise that their testimonial is not going to be the only one on your website.

Step 11 - What not to do

What NOT to do:

  • Anonymous testimonials are a waste of space on your website.
  • Over-editing supplied testimonials. These don't look real if they all have perfect English and grammar.
  • Make up testimonials!
  • Include luke-warm testimonials. Only include testimonials that make you proud and excited to promote your own business.

Some Final Words

Building trust online needs to be achieved within seconds of the first visit to your website. As such, don't hide testimonials at the bottom of a product page. Paste testimonials all over your website and in big bold writing, especially on the home-page. Testimonials are crucial to your online presence, their importance cannot be understated in achieving rapid online social trust.

Alternatives to the word testimonial - recommendation, endorsement, reference, review

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