You’ve probably done it yourself: followed a link into an online store looking for that thing you really need, only to be met by a mash-up of flashing lights, over-hyped text hawking sales that are ENDING IN 5 MINUTES!, chat windows spawned by Employee Janice, and pictures of 50 different versions of that thing you really need. What do you do?
If you’re like most of us, you dive into the comments to find out what’s really going on. According to Search Engine Land, 88% of e-commerce customers trust online reviews as much as they do personal recommendations. Part of it is a distrust of sales people and marketing pushes in general. Couple that with the concept of social proof — these people are all loving this, so it must be good — and you have stumbled upon a powerful tool within easy reach of all consumers.
Online comments and reviews, or testimonials, can also be a boon to businesses. Not only can testimonials help you move products, but they can also bolster your legitimacy as a business. Having an online testimonials page is one of the best marketing tools that you should be using. But where do you start?
How To Get Testimonials
There are a number of ways to get testimonials rolling into your site. Some of our favorites include:
Point of sale. This is probably the best way to solicit testimonials. A customer recently placed an order on your site and has received your product. Give them a week or two to try it out, and then send them an email asking if everything meets their needs, if they have any questions, etc. Then hit them up for a testimonial. The easiest way to do this is to give them a URL to a web form, Google Form, or other online way to collect feedback. Be sure that you include an opt-in field for their email address, as well as a field for their website address so you can offer then a backlink incentive. You can also include links to your social media accounts, which they may be more familiar and comfortable with (more on this in a bit).
Look back through your email. Perhaps customers have already told you how wonderful your product or service is? Go back through your old emails and other correspondences and pick out snippets that sing your praises. Be sure that you contact the original source and get permission to use the feedback snippet on your site.
Monitor your brand. If people are talking about you on the Internet – whether they are saying good things or bad – you should know about it. Set up notifications on Google Alert and Social Mention to keep an eye on your brand. This will help you to address the bad and harvest review snippets from the good.
Social Media Opportunities
The various social media channels provide you with a range of opportunities for collecting testimonials. If you are active social sites, send your customers to them to leave feedback, and monitor them for comments that come in organically (note: we have only included a couple, but look into testimonial opportunities for your favorite social platforms).
Facebook. This social media heavyweight is a must have for most small businesses. You should set up a page for your business and encourage people who follow you on Facebook (or visit your website) to leave reviews.
YouTube. If your business is producing videos (and it should be), YouTube is a great way to encourage fans to leave reviews. Videos can be uploaded to YouTube and used to generate a wide variety of comments and other feedback.
Directories and Niche Sites
Local Business Directories. Google Places, Yahoo Local, Yelp, Merchant Circle, CitySearch… the list of local business directories is large (as we’ve noted in The Business Directories You Need to Submit to Today), and you should spend some time both developing these sources and encouraging people to use them. Claim your listings on these sites, fill them out fully, and point to them from your website. This is not only a good source of testimonials, but will also help your placement in search engines.
Niche Review Sites. Whether you design posters or mass produce pet sweaters, there are probably a number of sites in your industry where people can leave reviews. Seek them out and send your customers or clients there to spread the word.
What To Do With Testimonials
As soon as they start coming in, gather your customer comments together on one testimonial page that is accessible from your primary navigation menu. Credit each review with where it came from, and include a backlink if appropriate. Again, make sure that you have permission for anything you include.
Dealing With Negative Reviews
Not all your feedback is going to be glowing. The adage “you can’t please everyone” comes to mind. The best way to deal with negative reviews is… to deal with them (note: we are talking here about reviews on sites you have no control over. Make your testimonials page glow with nothing but praise). Don’t ignore negative reviews! You may not please the person who wrote the negative review, but at the very least other potential customers will see you trying, and this counts for more than you might think.
Think Outside The Box
Every business is different, so consider what you and your business could uniquely do to get more testimonials. See what your competitors are doing; how are they collecting testimonials?
Some businesses offer incentives for leaving feedback (ex. monthly prizes drawn from all feedback received, coupons given to those leaving comments, etc.). We’re a little leery of such practices, but tastefully done, they may be worth exploring for your business.
Do you have a favorite way to gather customer or client testimonials? Share it in the comments!