In times as challenging as the ones we face today, small business owners need to up their marketing game. There are many ways to do this, ranging from automated digital strategies to the tried-but-true, old-fashioned tactics like customer testimonials.
In fact, given Americans’ increasing reliance on others’ opinions when buying everything from lipstick to enterprise-level software, testimonials may be more important than ever. Here’s how you can put your customers to work for you and generate customer testimonials for maximum marketing impact.
Crafting a customer testimonial strategy
The goal of customer testimonials is to help convince prospective customers to take a leap of faith, if you will, and decide to do business with you, even though they might not be familiar with you or your business. Start planning your testimonial strategy by identifying the most common stumbling blocks that prevent prospective customers from doing business with you.
Let’s say you’re a personal trainer. Obstacles that can keep people from hiring a personal trainer include beliefs like, “Personal training is too expensive;” “I’m too out of shape to work with a personal trainer;” “I don’t have time to work out every day;” or “This isn’t a good time to meet with people face-to-face.”
Once you have a list of common objections, your goal is to identify your customers who had those same concerns and ask them to give you a testimonial. This not only helps you get testimonials from a wide range of customers, but those endorsement are from people your prospects can more easily relate to.
What to include in customer testimonials
Good testimonials should be authentic and relatable, and should also explain who the people giving your testimonials are. If you sell B2B, that could include the person’s name, company, and title; if you sell to consumers, it could include demographic factors such as the customer’s age, city, job, marital status, whether they own their own home, and if they have children—whatever is relevant to your business. When prospects see people like themselves in your testimonials, it puts them one step closer to doing business with you.
Good testimonials should also be specific about how your business, product, or service helped the customer. Vague generalizations like “This is an amazing product!” won’t convince anyone to buy from you. Instead, you want to show the need or problem that the customer had, and how your business solved it.
For example, a personal trainer could use a testimonial like “I couldn’t lose the baby weight, and my youngest child was 8 years old! I didn’t think I had time to get back in shape, but in just three sessions a week, X Personal Fitness helped me lose 35 pounds.”
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Soliciting good customer testimonials
How can you get those great testimonials? Start by asking your most loyal customers if they’re willing to provide a testimonial. Then reach out to customers who say nice things about your business on social media or give you positive reviews online. Sometimes those comments may be testimonial-ready; other times you may need to flesh them out a little bit.
Very few people think they are good writers, and most get nervous when asked to write something for the public. That’s why asking customers to write their own testimonials actually creates an obstacle. Your customers will stress out, and you’ll end up with bland, generic testimonials.
Instead, offer some guidance to get the kind of testimonial you want. Initiate your testimonial request via email or on your social media platforms, and then ask if the customer is willing to get on a quick phone call (5-10 minutes) to chat. Make it clear you’re not going to be calling to sell them something. Once you have them on the phone, the following questions will help elicit good customer testimonials:
- What problem or need did you have that made you consider our business?
- Why did you decide to choose our business instead of the competition?
- What has our product or service helped you accomplish?
- What do you like the most about our product/service/working with our business?
When you’re talking to your customers, don’t be afraid to ask them to be more specific. For example, a personal trainer could ask clients how much weight they lost, how many dress sizes they lost, or how much weight they can bench press.
Recording your conversation has a couple of benefits. You capture the customer’s exact wording so you can use it in the testimonial, which makes it more authentic. You can also pay more attention to your conversation since you won’t be racing to take notes. (Be sure to ask the customer for permission; recording a phone conversation without permission is illegal in some states.) Once you’re done, write the testimonial and show it to your customer. Be sure to get their approval in writing before you use it.
These days, if you have customers who are willing to share their testimonials on video—that’s even better. Videos are powerful marketing tools and you can put them on your website, your social channels, and in ads. Pull out a few quotes from the video to use as text testimonials.
Depending on the type of business you have, you can tape a Zoom or Microsoft Teams conversation and use that as a testimonial.
What to do with customer testimonials
Your options for customer testimonials are really limited only by your own imagination. Of course, you can post them on your website, use them in marketing materials such as brochures or flyers, or include them in advertisements. However, I’ve also seen customer testimonials printed on employee T-shirts, or framed and displayed in a business’s lobby. Social media is the perfect place to share customer testimonials in a natural way.
Finally, get in the habit of asking satisfied customers for new testimonials regularly. Once you’ve discovered the power of customer testimonials, you’ll want to make it a permanent part of your overall marketing strategy.
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