The words of happy customers can bring about amazing increases in conversion rates.
Think about the last time you were looking to hire a contractor or some type of professional for a service. Or, say, the last time you were about to purchase an expensive item.
Who did you consult with before making your decision? Did you ask a friend or colleague for recommendations? Did you consult a consumer report about the expensive item’s performance?
Just like you and I, most people would. You see, word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of marketing out there. Buyers want to confirm that they’re making the right decision by hearing about positive experiences from other buyers and friends.
As a business owner, you can use reviews to harness the power of word of mouth marketing. Testimonials will help overcome objections and break down barriers in the sales process. Prospects weighing their purchase decisions will have more confidence knowing that someone else has had a positive experience or seen the promised results.
A strong review program will generate more conversions, bigger sales, more credibility and more qualified leads. Sound good?
In this mini E-Class we will cover:
- How reviews boost conversions
- How asking for reviews can boost repeat business
- Types of reviews
- How to get reviews for your business
- What makes review ‘good’ or credible
The presence of reviews in your marketing materials, in your business and on your website will increase your conversion rate.
As I explained in earlier E-Classes, your conversion rate is directly related to you and your staff’s ability to build immediate trust with prospective clients and break down natural barriers. When you use reviews, some of this work is already done for you.
Reviews tell prospective customers about the opinions and experiences of other buyers, which builds trust, establishes credibility and reduces perceived purchase risk.
- Trust: People have an inherent skepticism towards salespeople and marketing collateral, and it takes time to build trust and rapport with prospective buyers. Reviews build trust because they come from third-party, unbiased sources.
- Credibility: Reviews show that you have been in business for a while and that you have a base of happy customers. This sends a positive message about the quality of your products or services.
- Perceived Purchase Risk: Another person has bought the product or service, and been satisfied or pleased with the results, so the risk involved in the purchase seems lessened. We’ll talk more about risk reversal and guarantees in an upcoming E-Class.
The process of gathering reviews naturally encourages repeat and referral business.
Clients who give reviews generally stay loyal to your product or service and will tell their friends and family about it.
Happy customers will be returning customers. However, when a customer shares an opinion or an experience and attaches their name to it, there is an added sense of loyalty created. They’ve publicly declared that they’re a supporter of the product or service in question and will back up that decision if questioned.
When you ask a customer for a reviews, you’re also asking them to contribute to the growth of your business. Customers who feel they are helping you out will feel a sense of both pride and loyalty to your product or service.
Reviews are also great indicators of word of mouth marketing. If a customer has taken the time to tell you about their positive experience or commit it to paper, they’ve also shared it with their friends. This verbal chain of reviews acts as an informal referral strategy and will boost your referral business
There are five different types of reviews you could potentially use to market your business:
- Customer: Of course, the strongest and most believable reviews will be one from a satisfied customer. When you use good customer reviews, you should expect to see strong spikes in qualified leads and sales.
- Celebrity: Celebrity reviews can increase awareness, but they aren’t as believable as customers’ reviews. Also, celebrities are paid to do what they do, so a review could appear purchased, and no one celebrity is liked by everyone so you could alienate some prospects.
- Expert: If there is an expert in your line of work, then a review from that person would be a good way to boost business. For example, if you run a health food store and a dentist or doctor sang your praises. Just be sure the expert is relevant to your industry or product.
- Expert Organization: A relevant and credible group or association in your area can offer strong reviews that will carry weight with prospective buyers. The chamber of commerce, a trade organization or a not-for-profit are some examples.
- Press: The media’s opinion can also act as a strong review. A reporter’s positive review of your service or a particular product is an unbiased opinion, so it is likely to be trusted by prospective clients. (I’ll show you how to use the press to get free publicity in an upcoming E-Class).
Here’s how you can start to gather credible reviews for your marketing strategy.
1. Create a system for requesting, collecting and organizing reviews.
Once you get rolling with your review acquisition program, you’re going to need a place to organize and store reviews, as well as to track which customers you’ve asked and which you’ve received from.
I recommend creating a list of all of your customers and indicating next to each which you have received reviews from, which you have asked for reviews, and which you should plan to ask for testimonials.
Then, create a filing system or binder for organizing and managing reviews. You can sort them by date, customer last name, or category (customer service, product, etc). Just be sure it is easy for you to find them when you need to. This is going to be an ongoing part of your marketing campaign, so prepare for a large number of reviews when you’re setting up your system.
2. Read incoming mail and email for unsolicited reviews.
Create a folder or system for keeping testimonials that come in on their own – unsolicited ones. Any kind of customer feedback or thank you could be a great reviews to use, so include them in your organization system.
You may need to go back into your files, or your inbox, to locate the feedback and reviews you read but hadn’t used or separated. As long as you get permission from your customer, any testimonial – old and new – is potentially a good one.
3. Start by asking your best customers for reviews.
While you may see a nice number of reviews float in through the mail and email, you will have to work for the majority of your reviews. You will have to ask for them.
Start with a list of your customers, organized by sales volume and frequency, and choose the top 10 – 20%. These are your best customers, and a great place to start requesting reviews.
Use the reviews request letter template in the member’s only section as a guide for creating your request letter. Be sincere, and encourage the customer to write their own letter instead of you drafting it for them.
Feel free to make general suggestions about what you would like them to write about, but try not to control the process. If you’re comfortable doing so, when you see what they have written make some suggestions or request certain sections be strengthened or more specific.
4. Make requesting reviews a part of your sales process.
Once you’ve “caught up” on your review requests, and asked your top customers for a few thoughts and opinions, you can create a system for ongoing review collecting. These reviews will be “solicited” as opposed to “unsolicited.”
The most important point here is to ask for a review as soon as possible after the sale. The longer you wait, the less inclined the customer will be to put the effort into writing their thoughts down. Besides, most customers are the happiest and most willing to help immediately after the sale.
- Ask for the review. If a customer is glowing and gushing with praise, ask them to put it in writing, on letterhead if they have it. Tell them that it would really help you (your customers will love to help!) and that you value their feedback. If they’re not gushing, but you know they’re happy, be bold and ask them if they would write down what their experience was with your business. Stay on top of your review gathering and ask as soon as possible.
- Get all their contact details. Get all your customer’s contact details you can follow up and have them send you their letter or review. The act of giving you their contact information will also establish a sense of commitment, and it will be more likely that they’ll follow through.
- Tell them when you’re going to follow up. You don’t want to be a pest, but if you don’t follow up you may never get that review. Tell them when you’re going to be in contact to retrieve their letter. If you’re going to email them in a week, or call them in a few days, let them know what your plan is.
- Offer to write the first draft. This is a last resort strategy for customers who just don’t write their own. Remember the reviews written by real customers are the most believable, so try not to offer this up front. If your customer suggests this, try to encourage them to write their own brief notes. If that doesn’t work, brainstorm some of their ideas, and then write it yourself. Make sure you have it printed on their letterhead and signed.
5. Always ask your customers for permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials, and don’t forget to say thank you.
Thank your customer for their review, and use that opportunity to gain their permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials – including your website, brochure, ads, and in-store displays.
Be sincere in your thanks, and if appropriate send a full letter or email (templates are available in the member’s only section of the site). Thank them for their time and their kind words, and anything else you may notice about their efforts.
You will want to gain permission from customers who send you solicited and unsolicited reviews. The easiest way to do this is to send a “blanket release” that allows you to use their comments – in part or in whole – in all current and future materials. This way you won’t have to ask each time you want to run an ad, or send a direct mail campaign. You’ll already have permission.
What makes a ‘good’, credible or useable customer review?
Don’t be afraid to use long reviews, they’re more believable than short ones. Too often businesses like to use one-word reviews in quotations because they’re easy to “sprinkle” all over their marketing collateral. For example, “…amazing!…”, “…couldn’t believe it…can’t wait to see the next one!”, or “hilarious…wonderful!”.
When a review is super short, your readers will suspect that they’ve been edited to sound positive and that the “…” are masking neutral or negative comments. Be sure to give at least a full sentence, if not two or three, to really let the review illustrate the message.
AUTHENTIC! EXCEPTIONAL! PROFESSIONAL!
We had Santa Ed and Mrs. Claus at our world record attempt for the most snowmen built in an hour. We had 800 employees and 400 kids and Santa and Mrs. Claus were a hit with everyone one of them! They engaged the kids and adults alike! We will not hesitate to use them in the future!
El Segundo, CA
It’s longer and won’t squeeze in as easily in a brochure or small ad, but it will have a much stronger impact on the target audience.
Get specific, detailed reviews whenever you can. Ask your customers to provide as much color and description about their experience, and speak to any minuscule aspect they may have been impressed by.
Specific reviews are better than a vague or typical-sounding review. Too often when you receive a review, you skim through it looking for the summary line that paints your business in the best light, like “We were thrilled with our experience.” This leaves questions in the readers’ mind, like “why?”, “when?”, “what was your experience all about?” and “what thrilled you?” If it only says, “Best service in town,” how will the reader’s know what makes it the best service in town?
The strongest reviews share specific information and paint descriptive pictures or tell stories that engage the reader. They mention points about the product or service that matter to other prospective customers, as well as describe the problems they were having before they found the product or service. Detail will help the reader relate to or identify with the satisfied customer’s struggles and frustrations that have been solved with their purchase.
Don’t try to edit or “polish” the reviews you receive from customers. Punctuation and grammar errors contribute to the believability of the statements.
Also, be cautious when editing the reviews for brevity or when cropping statements from a letter or long email. Remember that the customer signed off on you using their words verbatim, so make sure you do. Small edits could change the meaning of the sentences, which could upset customers when they see their names in print.
Back up each reviews with a clear, specific description of who said it, and where they’re from. Attributing statements to vague names like “T.M in Oregon” or “Jim F, Small Business Owner” will dramatically reduce the believability of your reviews. People are naturally skeptical and will be more likely to believe reviews that don’t attempt to conceal the identity of the author and include more than the first name.
Attribute each quote to a person’s full name, city, state, and (if relevant) their business name and job title. For example, “Christopher Ford, Seattle, WA” or “Tim Wilson, Winnipeg, Manitoba – Owner of Fancy Meat & Deli Ltd.” The more detail, the more chance of a prospective customer recognizing the name or business and trusting the statement.
Location can be important depending on the market reach of your business. If you have a local business, prospects may look to see that others in the community have been pleased with your service. If you serve a national or international market, you can use reviews to show your client reach.
If you have a review from an expert (like a doctor or politician), be sure to include their credentials to make the most of their endorsement of your business.
It may also be helpful to include the company’s website address, especially if your business markets to other businesses. This is also a nice gesture of thanks to the person who gave their review, since it may encourage your customers to visit their site.
An image of the customer who wrote the testimonial will enhance the impact and believability of the words. The statement is enlivened by the image, and thus carries twice as much validity and impact.
Video & Audio reviews are also highly effective. Consider asking customers if they would contribute their testimonial on video or audio recording, and then use that clip on your website or in store.
Ask customers if you can take a picture of them to accompany their words, and take a few simple shots yourself so you have a few to choose from.
If you’re going to go to the effort of collecting reviews, do what you can to make sure that they’re credible ones you can use.
At the end of the day, asking for a review is often like asking your customers for a favor. While you want to make sure their review is detailed and specific and all the things that make it credible, there’s a limit to what you can ask for, and that’s okay.
Sometimes you’ll get two-line emails, and other times you’ll get five-page letters. Work with what you can gather, and remember that reviews are always most believable when they’ve been written organically by the customer.
I couldn’t fit everything I wanted to say about reviews in one E-Class, so next week I’m going to show you how to use your testimonials in a way that supports the message you want to communicate to your customers.
Congrats for tuning in!