Leveraging small business customer reviews and testimonials online search engine journal
LOCAL SEARCHLeveraging Small Business Customer Reviewsand Testimonials OnlineReferrals from happy customers have always been the best method for generating newcustomers. The next-best source is well-written, satisfied customer reviews andtestimonials, another kind of referral. Small businesses are uniquely positioned to obtainand leverage this form of referral being so close to their customers.This brief article describes how small businesses can obtain customer reviews andtestimonials, why they work so well, how and when to best motivate satisfied customers toprovide them and how to leverage them on the Internet. Special pages on websites make iteasy for satisfied customers to write reviews on the popular consumer review websiteswhich receive millions of monthly visitors from prospective buyers. Consumer reviews areone key ingredient in local search ranking results on Google, Yahoo and other local searchengines.Why are Customer Reviews and Testimonials so Effective?They are a powerful first step in establishing believability, credibility, and a sense of securityfor new customers. They help to break down natural barriers and distrust new consumersfeel with an unfamiliar merchant.Any opinion coming from a third party, not the business itself, instills confidence inprospective customers and dissolves buyer skepticism. Buyers increasingly tune out themind-boggling flood of commercial messages that present themselves everywhere all thetime. On the other hand when customers with no economic interest say good things, itbreaks down skepticism laying a foundation for trust.
Local Business Competitive AdvantageLocal business is much closer to its customers and their needs than large business. Dealingdirectly with customers allows a smaller business to be sensitive to what is on a customer’smind. Satisfying customers is done through direct contact not through after-the-factstandardized surveys. Obtaining great customer reviews and testimonials should be thatmuch easier.Testimonials in AdvertisingYou’ll never see an ad for a weight-loss product without a testimonial. Why? Because thoseadvertisers know that people are skeptical of all ads (not just weight-loss ads) andtestimonials overcome skepticism more than any other marketing tool.In every direct mail piece you send, include a one or two pages full of testimonials. Thislends automatic credence to whatever offer you are sending. You can make the testimonialsa part of the sales letter, but from my experience, sending loose-leaf pages of testimonialsmake a persuasive statement.Testimonial How-To’sSeveral simple methods and habits will generate well-crafted persuasive testimonials thatwill generate new customers naturally. Learning and practicing them should be automaticfor every small business. Small business has several natural advantages over the big guysin this regard since they live closer to their customers. Delivering overwhelming goodservice is easier and can generate unrivaled enthusiasm. This should not be a one-timeevent. Collecting testimonials should be a constant pursuit, an essential part of yourmarketing DNA.The challenge is to leverage the enthusiasm of satisfied customers into goodwill in well-written testimonials, whether used for promotional materials or as an all-important newcategory of local business recommendations, review websites, or portals that now generatemany millions of monthly visitors. These review websites range from restaurants,contractors, or virtually any business in any category.
If you are a new business or a startup with few or no sales, let several friends try theproduct or service for free. If they honestly like it, ask them to give you a testimonial that youcan use in your marketing.#1: Point of Sale: Try to get customer testimonials as soon as possible, even at point of saleor within the first week. Satisfied customers are most motivated during this time period.Develop a natural process for obtaining the testimonial before they leave your office orstore.Ask them if they would share their happiness. Help them by putting into words the nicethings already said and ask if that accurately reflects how they feels. Add, if relevant, yourunique selling proposition (USP) such as over-the-top-customer service, same-dayinstallation, low price value, or a money-back guarantee. If the customer agrees, then havethe customer agree to or write the testimonial. When done, thank them.#2: Telephone/Email: Contact the customer as soon as possible after the sale, whether as acustomer satisfaction follow-up or other. Make sure the customer still has the same warmfeelings. Ask if he/she would be willing to share those feelings with others in the form of atestimonial. Repeat what the customer said or suggested.Suggest that, to save time, you will draft a testimonial and the customer can make anychanges desired. Send the draft as an email. Ask for additional comments and getpermission to use the testimonial.#3: Persuasive Testimonials: Be discriminating. Personal and specific testimonials worksuccessfully. Focus on key benefits. Vague, even enthusiastic testimonials do not have anyimpact. Have your customers be specific. For instance, if you delivered your product thesame day your customer purchased it, then ask your customer to include that detail, eventhe exact time that it arrived. If you delivered some kind of incredible act of customerservice, have the customer write specifically about what you did and how it helped.Ask your customer to talk about the struggles he/she was having previous to receiving thebenefits of your product or service. Most likely, the reader will have had the same or similarstruggles and will empathize. This will only make your prospective customer moreinterested in receiving the benefits of your product or service.
Have your customer state his/her relevant background. This will make the testimonial evenmore persuasive because the comments will be perceived to come from a credible source.People tend to believe people in positions of perceived authority.Sometimes it is difficult, but try to get a picture or even a video with the customer using yourproduct or service. Make sure the video shows the benefits of the product or service.Pictures double the effectiveness of a testimonial and bring it to life.#4: Testimonial Mechanics: Make sure you get permission to use you customers’testimonials in your advertising. Ask them if you can not only use their name, but also thetown (suburb) they live in. Addresses, even if it’s just a city name, increase the believabilityof the testimonial. It demonstrates that they are real people who live in the same communityas your prospects. Thank them sincerely.#5: Leveraging Testimonials: It’s not enough just to receive customer testimonials. It’sknowing how to use them in your marketing activities that makes the difference. Thefollowing are several ideas you can use to implement testimonials into your marketingprogram. Handouts. Combine customer testimonials with other suitable print materials. Create your own “Customers are saying…” selling brochure with your best testimonials and give them to your prospects. This is a very powerful marketing tool. Website Testimonials. Use select customer testimonials and place them strategically on your website. While testimonials may be placed on any page, they should also be placed where they will do the most good. Place testimonials wherever you are selling something to persuade your customers and overcome their doubts. If you have testimonials pertaining to a specific product, place those testimonials near that product and at various steps in the ordering process. Another great area to place testimonials on your website is in the right and left borders. They will be a constant reminder of your credibility. If you have a sign-up page of any sort, consider including a testimonial that specifically speaks to what you are asking your visitor to sign up to, whether it be your newsletter or access to special information. Mixed Media Testimonials. Include customer testimonials as audio in your mailers. It’s one thing to read a testimonial but another to hear a real live person. You can even include the pictures and bios of those people on in your mailer. If you have captured your testimonials on
video include that. Be sure to secure the customers’ permission prior to including their videotaped and/or recorded testimonials. Small Business Consumer Review Website Testimonials. The most effective place to have customers post testimonials is on the many local, city-specific portals that accept and encourage reviews. Well-trafficked local search engines, city-specific directories, and dedicated consumer review websites allow users to rate and review local businesses and services. These reviews are important for prospective surfers, shoppers, or buyers. Consumer reviews are equally important for search engine rankings. A good consumerreview appears where it is posted and is often pulled into many of the local search enginesor aggregators and, therefore, can appear in many places.It is one thing to obtain a solid testimonial and another to get motivate customers to take thetime and trouble to visits local consumer review websites, register and submit a review, butthere are methods to simplify the process (as discussed below).Make It Easy for Your Customers to Provide TestimonialsAdd any or all of the following local business consumer review websites to a newlydedicated “Local Resources” section of your website. Satisfied customers will now moreeasily be able to review your business on well-trafficked websites that can attract localbuyers, and at no additional cost or work. It does, however, take a little time to register ifcustomers have not used these valuable resources before, so incentivize them in a mannerthat is suitable to your type of business.Well Trafficked Websites & Local Business Reviews Ask City, aggregator of reviews from many sources and a good way to shortcut reputation management to find out what many sources are saying about your business. Citysearch.com, especially important for restaurants and entertainment. Google Maps InsiderPages.com Judy’s Book Kaboodle Live Maps Local2Me.com
MerchantCircle.com MojoPages.com Superpages.com Yahoo Local YellowBot.com YellowPages.com Yelp.comIn addition, there are many industry specific consumer review websites dedicated to food,restaurants, contractors and others.Bonus: Consumer Reviews and Testimonials Are Good forLocal Search RankingsWhat more can a local business do than get twin benefits from one activity. Consumerreviews have a favorable impact on local search rankings, not only as persuasive additionsfor the ultimate consumer. Some of the major local search engines spider other consumerreview websites and include those reviews in its results. Higher rankings mean more traffic.More traffic should mean more happy consumers and more traffic and so it goes, stepsleading directly to marketing heaven.ConclusionTestimonials are powerful tools that help to establish your credibility with buyers and highersearch results with local search engines. For customers, they are as close as a businesscan get to high quality referrals on electronic steroids. They break down a prospect’sskepticism and doubts. When customers give you a testimonial, it helps to solidify yourrelationship with them because they have “gone public” with their statement of support foryour business.Small businesses have natural advantages in generating powerful testimonials as thebusinesses (and business owners) are generally close to their customer base.The Internet and the web offer many new ways to leverage your reputation by strategicallyplacing, at key customer decision-making moments on your website, local businessconsumer review websites and even a resource section that lists local search engines, city-
specific directories, and dedicated consumer review websites in one convenient place—your website.If you would like an email template we use to motivate satisfied customer to take action andmake it easier to write a review please request an email template we email@example.comSteven Brier is a local marketing expert from Local Internet USA, read his other post onSearch Engine Journal;