How to make the most of reviews and testimonials

Ever felt too shy to ask for a review or testimonial from a customer? Ever kicked yourself later that what they had to say could have really helped win a piece of new business?

One of the things that’s really intensified in recent years is customer desire to research solutions themselves when they have a need.  The easy access of information means customers will invariably research different solutions and different suppliers in some depth before they contact those suppliers’ sales teams.

Part of that online research usually involves checking out the ‘social proof’ they can find on a company – its customer reviews, scores and general feedback that’s in the public domain.  They may also canvass opinion from friends, colleagues and associates via their preferred social media channels.

Savvy businessses are really catching on to this and, as well as featuring customer quotes, case studies and endorsements on websites, in promotional literature and on their social network profiles, they’re also encouraging customers to endorse, rate and review them on social networks and third party review sites.

Some of the businesses leave the reviews and ratings by customers very much to chance. Others are more strategic about what picture their social proof paints to potential customers. So here’s how to make the most of reviews, ratings and testimonials in your marketing and sales approaches.

 

Think strategicallyPlan for success

Positive feedback is, of course, very nice to receive but to get recommendations that help grow a business; it pays to think more strategically.  Try and answer these 3 questions…

  1. What specific service, product or message are you trying to raise awareness of in your current marketing and sales plans?
  2. In the process of buying from you, what aspect might a potential customer need reassurance with?  What concerns would they have at this stage, that need to be addressed?
  3. Which names or types of businesses would look good and impress potential customers, if they were seen to be endorsing, recommending or even referring business to you?

Your answers to these questions will influence the types of reviews you should be trying to harness and the people who could provide them.

 

Changing perceptions

One lawyer, I spoke to recently, had thought just along these lines.  She was fed up being type-cast for one area of expertise when in fact there were several areas she was highly skilled at.  ‘I decided to ask clients I’d worked with in these other areas to write a recommendation on LinkedIn about what I’d achieved for them.  I was also careful about my profile updates and only gave examples of work relating to these ‘unknown’ areas.  It soon paid off.  Several clients came back saying ‘wow I didn’t know you did that as well, can we meet for a chat?’

 

Presenting the customer’s viewpoint

Similarly, a hotel manager I came across had really thought through their customers’ buying process and turned reviews to their advantage.  In selecting a hotel, the manager realised many customers were interested in specific details about the quality of the bedrooms and hotel ‘experience’.

Rather than profiling general comments on the hotel’s website such as, ‘we really enjoyed our stay’, he encouraged customers to describe specifics that they liked about their visit.  This generated comments such as ‘the comfy beds with the Egyptian cotton bedding gave us a great night’s sleep’ and the ‘home baked pastries you served at breakfast were divine, what’s your recipe?’ being promoted.  It also influenced some of the key words the manager built into his website’s search engine optimisation.  He soon experienced a sharp rise in web enquiries.

 

Create engaging contentEarn the right

Of course, you have to earn positive reviews, rankings and recommendations.  As well as delighting the customer with your product or service quality, you have to build up a degree of goodwill so they’ll happily invest time and energy to endorse you.  So consider what you can do for them before you ask them to do something for you.  Can you help them in any way with anything?  Can you recommend them in a testimonial or to a specific customer?

 

Go for specifics to be genuine

And if you have done a great job and a customer appears delighted, invest time to find out the specifics that they liked so much. These will help make any testimonials sound genuine, as they’ll be in the customer’s language and not yours. In fact invest time any way to capture all feedback (good or bad) as it will help your business to improve and gain a competitive edge.  Often customers are happy to give time for something they value, if they think it will a) preserve it or b) improve it.

 

Different review tactics and uses

When you receive some great customer feedback, ask if you can use it to inform others.  In doing so, it’s wise to test what the customer would be comfortable with – for example, would they be happy to:

  • Give a written recommendation that appears on your website, promotional materials, social network profile etc?
  • Leave a rating or review on a third party site that’s relevant to you, eg Google, Facebook, TrustPilot etc.
  • Act as a referee for you, if a potential client wanted to have a chat with an existing user of your products/ services?
  • Feature in a case study which you publicise?
  • Co-write an article or joint piece of publicity with you touching on their experiences?
  • Endorse you in a competitive pitch situation?
  • Refer contacts from their own network, who may be facing a similar situation?

 

Recognise and reward

Always stick to their preferences and bear in mind that, If there’s a reward in it for them (such as publicity they can use for their own business purposes or some form of reciprocity), they’ll be more willing to help. Whatever support they lend, it is important to thank them in some way.

Make sure you have got procedures and software in place that notify you when a customer has reviewed or rated you.  As well as the notifications on your Google, facebook etc accounts, you might want to set up online ‘listening’ software like Mention or Google Alerts. The quicker you can respond, the more likely you are to impress not just those giving the review but those reading it.

And what should you do with positive reviews and testimonials when you receive them?  Well it very much depends on their content and the purpose they serve.  For some you may indeed want to broadcast them all over your promotional and sales materials.  For others you may want to keep them safely hidden until a specific stage of relationship development with a prospective customer. The trick is to keep reviews and testimonials closely linked to your business plans. Think strategically and you’ll secure a better return from them.

 

For more advice on marketing your business contact us or tel. 01483 429111.