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Has this ever happened to you? You decided to go to a new restaurant to eat dinner, but when you arrived at the establishment there were no cars (or very few cars) in the parking lot and so you changed your mind about going there. I know I have done this many times figuring that if there weren’t very many customers at the restaurant; it must not be a very good place to eat. I didn’t want to take a chance and have a bad experience.
The same is true with our potential customers. Dr. Robert Cialdini is his book, Influence: Science and Practice, calls this phenomenon the “Power of Social Proof” which basically says that people will follow the actions of other people because if others are doing it, it must be good, right, or true.
Social proof is one of the most powerful marketing strategies a small business owner can tap into. And one great example of social proof is testimonials from previous or current customers.
Here are some statistics:
- 92% of consumers are more confident in online reviews that information from a salesclerk.
- 70% of consumers check online reviews or ratings before making a buying decision
- 69% of consumers trust online reviews as much as recommendations from their friends or family
- 29% more consumers prefer a businesses that has over 50 reviews over a business that has 6-10 reviews
- 20% more people will buy from a business that has testimonials on their website.
So how can a business owner tap into the power of social proof and use testimonials to attract new customers? Here are ten tips.
1. Ask for testimonials consistently.
One of the hardest things for many business owners to do is to ask for anything, let alone ask for testimonials. But if you don’t ask, most likely you won’t receive. Some business owners will even reward customers for giving testimonials by giving them an added bonus in return, such as a free dessert, or an added discount. Make it a habit to ask every customer to give you a testimonial and you will soon find you have a slew of them to choose from. You can never have too many testimonials.
2. Make it easy for customers to give you testimonials.
Even though you’ve asked, you’ve also got to make it easy for customers to give you testimonials. Post a form on your website, put links to review sites in your email newsletter, on your invoice or receipts. Ask for reviews on your business cards, stationary, or on social media. Make it even easier by suggesting what they should say by giving them a template to fill out. For example, your template could say:
“In the past, my experience with other companies has been _____________. But then I found __________ and all that changed. I’ve been doing business with this company for over ____ years because _________. What I love about working with them is ___________________. I’ve had the following results: ______________________________________. I would highly recommend them because_______________.”
3. Use real names as much as possible.
A testimonial is more credible when it shows the full name of the person giving the testimonial as well as their company, city or other affiliation. If you are not able to get a full name, get at least a first name and a last initial as in “Frank R.” If you can’t give the name of the company they are with, give their position and industry. For example, “Frank R. Marketing Director, Major US. Pharmaceutical Company.
4. Tell customers what kind of testimonials you want.
The more specific a review is, the more credible it is. For example, Marie Osmond said, “I lost 50 pounds on Nutrisystem.” When you read it, you know in your mind what an extra 50 pounds looks like. Her testimonial would be far less powerful if it said “I lost weight on Nutrisystem.” When asking for testimonials, give your customers clear instructions to make them as specific as possible.
5. Timing is everything.
The best time to ask for a testimonial is immediately after you have done business with them while the experience is still fresh in their minds. It’s also the time that they are most likely to give a testimonial.
6. Don’t forget to get their permission to use their testimonial.
This can be as simple as pointing them to an online review site such as Google, or Yelp.com, where people know that their reviews are for public use. But if you are gathering reviews in any other way, make sure you ask for and receive their permission to use them.
7. Testimonials don’t have to be in writing.
In fact 67% of the adult population says they are visual learners and prefer images over words. A testimonial can be as simple as a customer holding your product in a photo and looking very happy, or as complex as a two minute video created on your mobile phone. Be creative.
8. Once you receive them, put them front and center.
Testimonials are so powerful, they can and should be used anywhere and everywhere: on your website, social media, business cards, stationary, invoices, receipts, shopping bags, front door, advertising, and more. And make sure that they are front and center. For example, you only have about 9 seconds to capture a potential customer’s attention when they visit your website. Don’t hide your testimonials on a page that they have to click to find. Put some testimonials right on the home page so it’s one of the first things a potential customer sees when they get to your site.
9. Monitor and follow up.
Because testimonials have such major impact on your business, it’s important to monitor the Internet 24-7 to make sure you keep up on any kind of review about your business. I use a tool called Postling.com to monitor some review sites. You can also use Google Alerts. It’s important that you respond to any and even all reviews you receive. Say thank you for the positive reviews. Always follow up.
10. What to do about negative reviews.
Negative reviews are not necessarily bad for your business. It’s how you respond that will make all of the difference. Last summer a restaurant owner in Phoenix received a negative review on Yelp.com. The owner responded in a very negative manner, attacking the reviewer, claiming they were hired by the competitor to review their restaurant etc. But the attacks didn’t stop there, they continued on and on for several posts back and forth between the reviewer and the business owner on Yelp.com. It wasn’t long before traditional media picked up the story and then suddenly the online tirade was in front of all of Phoenix. I don’t know what happened since then, but I know it certainly wasn’t good for that restaurant owner’s business.
When you get a negative review, the first thing to do is to take a deep breath and do nothing. Resist the urge to respond right away to defend your business. One of the important things I learned long ago about unhappy customers is that they don’t necessarily want to be right, they just want to be heard and understood. Give yourself 24 hours to respond. Try to contact the person privately to resolve the situation. If you are not able to, then respond with something like “Thank you for your feedback. We value the comments of our customers and we certainly want to resolve the situation for you. Please contact me at my business so we can work it out.”
Even if you are not able to resolve the situation, don’t let it bother you. At one time or another, we all will have an unsatisfied customer. Customers take that into consideration. If you have one negative review and several positive reviews, it’s going to have minimum impact on your business if any, and if you respond appropriately, it may even have a positive effect. So don’t let negative reviews upset you. Turn them into an opportunity.
Question: How (and where) can you leverage testimonials in your business? How have testimonials helped you? What other tips do you have? Please leave your comments here by May 20th. I will pick a random commenter to receive a free copy of my book “How to Build Buzz for Your Biz.”
“Wendy, I know I have said it 100 times but thank you so much for everything you’re doing for our company. You’re truly are a blessing!” -Lauri Leadley, President, Valley Sleep Center
Wendy Kenney is the best selling author of How to Build Buzz for Your Biz, Tap into the Power of Social Media, Publicity and Relationship Marketing to Grow Your Business, available on Amazon.com. She has been featured in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and Newsday. Grab your free ebook; How to Build Buzz for Your Biz; 23 Creative and Inexpensive Marketing Strategies That Will Get Your Noticed, at http://23Kazoos.com/free. (No sign up required.)