Use Customer Testimonials To Drive Sales

March 9, 2015

We both know you’re great. Whatever you’re selling is great. You believe in the product and the value it adds to the lives of other people. Your marketing is on point. Your network is growing. And now you just sell to the right people. Right?

Not quite.

In an age where people are used to marketing at every turn, they’re not easily convinced they need you or your service. People are smarter about the way ads work and how companies use ads to sway you. They’re harder to fool and they don’t trust advertisers nearly as much as they used to. Unless you’re Apple, you’re brand probably doesn’t inspire blind loyalty.

But how do you reach people turned off by traditional advertising? How do you convince them that you have what they need?

Customer testimonials.

Your potential customers are immune to your advertising, but not to the opinions of their peers.

*Word-of-mouth marketing is the primary factor behind 20 to 50 percent of all purchasing decisions.

In other words: If you want to sell to more people, use customer testimonials. Your potential customers trust your current customers to help them make buying decisions. Providing an easy route to positive customer testimonials will making the decision-making processes even simpler for your potential customers.

Not sure if this type of advocate marketing is right for your business? Fun fact: *word-of-mouth marketing generates more than two times the sales of paid advertising. So think about whatever you’re spending on your Google Ads or your Geocities banners. Then think about the return you see on them. Then double that return and subtract the cost of the traditional marketing.

I majored in “wordsing” and not in math, but even I can tell you that the return on the investment with customer testimonials is worth the work.

mckinsey stats

Source: ReferralCandy

Providing a venue for customer testimonials

There are plenty of ways to share testimonials depending on your online presence and your business. You can add a webpage to your site. You can create a slideshow. You can write a blog post. You can do all three or something completely different. Find a venue that fits your brand and will reach your potential customers where they exist.

The great thing is that the kind of people that jump at the opportunity to provide a great testimonial aren’t getting nothing out of it. This isn’t a one-way street. Brand advocates – the kind of customers happy to publicly declare their love for your business – are more than 150 percent more likely than the average web user to value their perception as a good source of information (BzzAgent). You want potential customers to trust current customers and current customers want to be considered a valid source. You both get value out of customer testimonials.

mckinsey stats

Source: ReferralCandy

How to ask for customer testimonials

Make it personal. Don’t send out a link to your Google Form asking customers to give feedback. If you know a customer that loves what you’ve done for them and has a great story, make the effort to personally ask for a testimonial. Tell them why you think their story matters and ask as nicely as possible. They will be much more inclined to talk about you when they realize that you care about them and not just about using the testimonials for more sales.

Get permission. Always get written permission to use your customer’s testimonial (and in a perfect world, their high resolution headshot). Just having a testimonial isn’t enough. Your customer needs to given written consent for you to use their words and their likeness in your marketing materials. Forgetting this step could lead to some angry customers.

Be thankful. Okay, this doesn’t really qualify as asking for a testimonial but you need to remember that this interaction doesn’t stop at the testimonial. Thank your customers profusely, tell them how much you appreciate them and their business, and consider doing something wonderful to surprise and delight them. Make them feel like they’re special to you and your business. Because they are. They didn’t have to write nice things about you, but they did. Appreciate them for that.

harry potter excitement

Happy Customers: Your own personal Quidditch cheering section.

What makes a great testimonial

When you’re reaching out to your customers and asking for testimonials to help expand your customer-base, encourage them to keep their testimonials:

Sincere. If your customer isn’t Thoreau then he shouldn’t try to write like him. Your customer shouldn’t try to write like your brand or like anyone other than himself. This may mean that some of the grammar isn’t quite right or that commas show up where they don’t need to be; however, consider keeping as much of the authenticity as possible when editing for public consumption. Your customers should sound like themselves and they should all sound different. Speaking in their own words will allow the sincerity to shine through.

Specific. “Mandy’s Widget Factory was great!” isn’t going to convince potential customers to buy what you’re selling. Potential customers want to identify with a specific person or a pain point. Explain what each customer does and a little about who they are as a professional. Encourage your customers to be specific about their experience with you. It makes their testimonial more believable and more relatable.

Succinct. No one wants to read War and Peace to find out if your product is a fit. No one reads everything on page (web or otherwise) anymore. We’re a generation of skimmers. If the testimonials are rambling your potential customers will lose interest quick. Keep their attention with succinct testimonials that share a story and get to the point. Don’t lose their interest before they can get to the paragraph about how much value you can add.

mckinsey stats

Source: ReferralCandy

If you feel weird asking for customer testimonials, just remember that you’re not alone. Plenty of professionals with full faith in their products and services get ansy when asking for testimonials and referrals. It feels like part of a hard sell process and for many that can be discomforting. Don’t let the discomfort get to you. Push through it and ask anyway. *Customer testimonials can increase a company’s market share by as much as 10 percent.

Since you’re reaching out to customers personally, you know for a fact that these people have had great experiences with your business. Don’t be afraid to mine their great experiences to help your business grow. If they like what you do they’ll want to share it with other people (unless what you do is give out winning lottery numbers) and they will often be happy to help.

Your happy customers want you to stick around. Let them help you do that.

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