Ppower your business with customer testimonials

Focus – Customer testimonials

Don’t take our word for it – power your business with customer testimonials

By David N Russell

One of the most effective things you can do for your business is to create powerful customer testimonials and, when you have them, get the most from them. There are some simple steps that you can follow to generate those all-important gems and to make sure they have the greatest impact…

People buy from people – no doubt you’ve heard that many times before. That’s why having someone in your sales team who customers really like can make a huge difference to the bottom line.

But there are other people who a potential customer you will be influenced by too and they are the people who have already bought from you.

No matter how big or how small your business, you will increase your sales by simply letting your customers do the talking for you, through the use of testimonials.

As a marketing technique, it’s old - very old indeed. But the thing is, it has always worked and it will work for you too.

So, how do you go about getting testimonials from your customers and, when you have, what do you do with them so that they help you sell more?

The good news is that it is quick, it’s simple and it isn’t going to cost you very much, if anything, to do.

The key to getting a testimonial from a customer is – to ask for one. That might sound almost too simple, but it really is as easy as that. However, it’s amazing how many companies just don’t bother.

The next time you are in front of a customer or on the phone to them and it’s clear that they are a happy bunny, ask the question.

"I just wondered if you would be happy to help us in the future by letting us tell other people what you think of our company.”

One way to generate more testimonials is, of course, to talk to more customers!

An easy way to do this is to plan to talk to your new customers a month after they have bought a product from you. There are a number of advantages to this. The first is that you are providing really good customer care and if there is anything worrying them about the product they have bought from you, it will be picked up early. The second is that you will have the opportunity to introduce other products to them that they might be interested in.

One of the best sales people I ever worked with always called his customers a short time after he had sold them a product. Apart from making sure that they were happy, he used it to generate recommendations of friends of the customer who had seen the product and expressed an interest. It was very clever and very effective.

For small businesses, calling every customer may not be an option but you could commit to calling a specific number of customers each month – maybe those that have bought the higher value items.

So, getting positive comments from a customer is the first step. The second is to get something from the customer that will work for you. That can be slightly trickier. The vast majority of your customers aren’t used to writing what is essentially sales copy and so this is where you have to help them out.

Most of the testimonials that I have used in various companies over the years have been written by me.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s not fraudulent - the customers have all been very happy to see their names under the words that we have used, which have been based on their original comments. It’s just that they have been ‘tweaked’ to be more powerful or more relevant. Each of the customers has approved the words that have been used and have been happy to associate themselves with them.

Of course, if you have had a glowing recommendation through an email or even maybe an old fashioned letter, then you can use that material, but even then you may want to change a few words so that it reads better and then send it back to the customer to get approval to use it.

Remember, if someone does send you an email or a letter that contains something that could be used as a testimonial, then you still have to go back to the customer to check that they are happy for you to use it to promote your company. Kind words without permission to use them are not worth anything to you.

So, back to the customer and how to go forward. If they think that you are the bee’s knees and want to tell the world about you, take down the details of why they are such a fan and then ask them if it’s OK for you to write something that reflects their thoughts. Once you have something that you would like to use, make sure that they are happy for you to use it. You could go as far as getting the customer to sign a piece of paper to say that they agree to their comments being used, but that really isn’t necessary the vast majority of the time.

If you have a great testimonial, then say thank you. A small token of appreciation such as a box of chocolates, a bottle of wine or bunch of flowers won’t do any harm.

Words are one thing, but what is going to make your new testimonial even more powerful is a nice photo to go with it. Reading something positive from a customer is one thing, but seeing the customer at the same time makes it real.

Not every customer will want their face plastered all over your website or leaflets, but you’ll be surprised how many of them will agree. If you are going to use a photograph, then make sure it’s a good one. A photo taken on a mobile phone might not do the trick, especially for print and so using a decent camera is a good idea. It’s also good practice to let the customer know which photograph is going to be used too.

Now that you have a great testimonial, what do you do with it?

Well, there are endless places that you can use them. For example:

  • On your advertising
  • On your website
  • On a notice board in a showroom
  • On your email marketing campaigns
  • On all your printed material
  • On your letterheads and compliment slips

The list is endless, but there is one place that testimonials rarely get used and for me, it’s one of the most powerful places. Where is it? On quotations for jobs and pricelists.

Why? Well, anything that has prices on is where you need to be ‘justifying’ yourself as a supplier. At that point, customers need the re-assurance that they are dealing with a reputable and customer focussed company and there’s nothing better to do that than a good old fashioned customer testimonial.

And, if you are going to use them – don’t hide them away. For example, on your website, they need to be on the home page if possible.

Finally, just a quick tip about producing a customer testimonial that reads well. Make sure that the words used are words that someone would actually say. Sometimes when people write, they use words and phrases that they would never, ever say face to face. So, when you have your testimonial read it out loud and if it doesn’t sound ‘natural’ take another look at it.

Spending a few minutes talking to your happy customers with a view to getting a few words from them could be the most productive time that you spend in the future.