thumbs-up-500

Image from Flickr by .reid.

Testimonials and reviews are brilliant selling tools. They offer social proof to potential customers, and they can praise your services or products in a way that you’d never get away with.

(Technically, testimonials tend to be ones you hand-pick and post on your own site; reviews tend to be posted on other sites. Both are very similar and very useful, so we’re covering them together in this post.)

The problem for many businesses, though, is that customers and clients often won’t leave a review or send a testimonial. There’s nothing wrong with asking them to do so – but you need to do that the right way.

Before you begin

Don’t ask for testimonials until you know your company is doing as good a job as possible. If there’s a consistent problem that customers raise, then tackle that. You don’t want to encourage testimonials and reviews only to end up with neutral or negative ones.

Step #1: Get your first few testimonials

If your business is brand new, it can be a good idea to give out a few freebies to encourage your first testimonials. (This is also a useful way to get and use feedback before you start charging for your services or products.)

You may want to target charities, non-profits, students, or any causes you consider particularly deserving. This has the added benefit that these groups will often be especially grateful and enthusiastic!

Tip: Let people know that you’re hoping for feedback, and if possible, a positive testimonial … but also make sure they know that the freebie is in no way conditional on them writing you a glowing review.

Step #2: Ask for testimonials and reviews consistently

One of the main reasons customers don’t leave reviews is because they’re not asked to, so they don’t think of it.

By asking – politely, and clearly – you can hugely increase the number of reviews you get.

Let’s say you run a hotel. A few days after customers have checked out, you could email them saying that you hope they enjoyed their stay, and that you’d be very glad if they’d write a short review to let others know about their experience.

You may need to ask more than once (though don’t pester).

Beware of what I call the “kitchen table effect” – where your request for a review sits on the place where your customers sometimes eat dinner with their families but more frequently pay bills and pile junk mail.  Some people will need to be asked more than once to review you

(The Complete Guide to Google+ Local Reviews – and Especially How to Get Them, Phil Rozek, Local Visibility System)

Here are a couple of examples that you’re welcome to tweak and use for your own business.

Example #1:

We hope you had a great stay (and please let us know if anything wasn’t quite up to scratch). If you have a couple of minutes to leave us a quick review on TripAdvisor, we’d be really grateful.

(Don’t have a TripAdvisor account? Click here for our quick-start instructions.)

Example #2:

We hope you enjoyed our Meditation 101 course last week – don’t forget that you can download all the audio tracks from our website, so you can continue with the techniques you learned.

If you have a minute to send us a testimonial, we’d be really grateful. Just hit “reply” to this email and write a couple of sentences (or more, if you want!) about your experience on the course. Thanks!

As you can see, there’s no need to be formal or stilted when requesting a review or testimonial (unless you know that your customers will appreciate a formal approach).

Tip: Depending on the number of clients and customers you have, you’ll want to put some sort of automation into place to (a) save you time and (b) prevent you forgetting to contact them.

Step #3: Make it easy for your customer

People are much more likely to take action if you make it as easy as possible for them. Instead of simply telling them “please write a review on Trip Advisor”, give them instructions on exactly how to find your business there, and even how to create an account.

If you’re a local business (e.g. a restaurant, shop, hotel) then it’s a great idea to make sure your Google+ page includes as many reviews as possible. You may need to explain to customers how to create a Google+ account – or you could simply target those who already have a Gmail address.

Tip: Of course you’ll want to put reviews and testimonials on your site too, but if you can get your customers to post them on TripAdvisor, Yelp, LinkedIn or Google+ first, that benefits you twice! You can take a screenshot and put them on your site.

Should you offer incentives for reviews and testimonials?

Some companies encourage reviews with a prize draw (or similar), giving away a gift to a randomly-chosen review each month.

There’s nothing wrong with doing this, but keep in mind that you mustn’t ask for a “favourable review” or a “positive testimonial” – you have to encourage your customers to be honest. You also have to include any negative reviews and testimonials in the draw!

The negative press and attention that you could receive if you’re seen as “buying” reviews definitely outweighs the possible benefits of only encouraging positive ones.

Tip: Make the prize something that your customers / clients would happily pay money for. A t-shirt with your company logo on probably isn’t going to be much incentive!

 

Have you found a great way to encourage reviews and testimonials? Drop a comment below to tell us about it…