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Seven Ways to Get Great Customer Testimonials

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I recently asked a marketing director about customer testimonials on his company website. He openly said, "The testimonials aren't real, I made them up. Everybody else does it, so why can't we?"

My second thought, after "Two wrongs don't make a right," was "Aren't you in the business of building trust? What does that say about your company?"

A company builds trust in three ways: the way it creates and delivers products, its values, and how it communicates its values into the marketplace.

One thing that's common to all those is putting the customer No. 1; and to do that, having empathy for the customer is vital. Empathy is all about putting yourself in their shoes: What are their pain points? What are their motivators? What do they consider great customer service?

That third point, what customers consider great customer service, is the basis of any great customer testimonials.


Testimonials can be inbound (customers want to provide testimonials, participate in a case study, be a reference, etc.) or outbound (we approach our customer to give that great "thumbs up").

The following are seven ways we, as marketers, can make it easy to get great customer testimonials.

1. Build and deliver great products

Everything starts with having great products. As Seth Godin noted at a recent Art of Marketing conference, "the product must be worth making a remark about."

While you are on your journey to build and deliver great products, do you always keep the customer in mind?

2. Involve customers in your beta-test program

The beta test is a great time to engage current and prospective customers: It's great for prospects because they typically get your product at a reduced rate and get to provide input on how to make the product better. It's great for you because you get to build deeper relationships. In short, it is a great way to get prospective customers in the door.

3. Ensure customers are looped into your feedback mechanism

Offer the feedback channel on your website, surveying customers about current and future product features and functionality, instructing them how to communicate with you, and the like.

Consider creating customer focus groups or even a Customer Council so that your customers can help you choose your direction and the focus of your strategy. I attended a recent CMO panel discussion, and the consensus among the CMOs was that in the future customers will be more directly involved in strategy and product development.

Always take the lead to check in with your customers on how things are going for them. If you don't, and there are issues, customers are more than tech-savvy enough to launch negative reviews of their own.

4. Offer value-adds

Provide your customers newsletters and blogs packed with information, such as techniques and tools to help them use your products more effectively. Explain new features and benefits, and cover news that affects them, as well as ideas to help them be more productive in their jobs. The sky is the limit here.

One caveat is to keep promotions about your company at a minimum: 90% value to your customer and 10% promotion about you is a good guideline.

Not every customer is the same, so consider segmenting your customer base to deliver the information they want to see.

You may want to consider providing your customers with an extranet, where they can log in to engage with you on service activities, view account information, and download thought leadership resources and other items.

Remember: The content you provide is paramount, so keep your customers' pain points and motivators top of mind as you produce thought-provoking information they will thank you for.

5. Offer social options to your customers to engage with you

Engaging and offering value are the two requisites you should keep in mind with social media. If you focus on those two actions, your customers will be coming back for more.

Every point at which you touch your customer online should reference your social media buttons. Interact with customers on your company's Facebook page and LinkedIn groups, ask and answer engaging Q&A questions, including on your company page and your company's Quora page. You get the idea...

Don't stop at social media of likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Quora. Also consider niche websites like SpiceWorks (IT professionals), Production Hub (film and video production), and others. And don't forget about local search sites like those of Google and Yahoo, City Search, etc.

6. Solicit customer testimonials in a fun way

Have you considered offering a prize for the funniest 30-second customer testimonial video on your YouTube account? Or perhaps soliciting testimonials around an event or holiday, like the Fourth of July or Christmas? Think of creativity and content as your two-pronged attack here. Perhaps the prize could be that you would do a case study on your customer. (I love case studies, because they are a win for both you and your customer.)

7. 'The Ask' becomes stress-free

If you keep your customers' welfare top of mind, "the ask" will seem stress-free. It may even turn out to be fun.

Give your customers options such as a testimonial, case study, reference, or even a quote for an article, press release, or whitepaper. Let your customer be your guide to help you determine which route to take.

Then really think about the intent of the testimonial: What do you want it to say? You'd likely want to position your company and your customer as thought leaders. You want to know that your customer thinks your company or product is good, but you also want to know why and how it is good.

In short, what do you want the message say about you and your customer? Think "forward-looking."

* * *

These techniques will help you to not only get great testimonials but also keep your customers coming back for more—and help you win new customers—even as they make the process seem stress-free.

So, what are your techniques for getting great customer testimonials?


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Sue Duris is president of M4 Communications Inc., a Palo Alto, CA-based marketing strategy and communications firmthat helps technology, entertainment and nonprofit organizations build and extend their brands. Reach her via sduris@m4comm.com.

Twitter: @M4_Comm
LinkedIn: Sue Duris

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  • by Bob SIncovich Tue Oct 23, 2012 via web

    Sue -
    I enjoyed your very informative article. I find it particularly frightening to think that people might fabricate customer testimonials to prove their value. Things like that tend to become undone after time and when the truth comes out, what becomes of the source's reputation. Once that is destroyed, they might just as well close their doors. -- Bob SIncovich

  • by Kelly Hungerford Tue Oct 23, 2012 via web

    Great post Sue. I'd like to add Customer Support to your list.

    Depending on the size of the organization, marketers may not think of the Support Team as a go-to source because they are isolated from that department. However the support team sits on a lot of great feedback that can be reused.

    When users come back and give us a compliment on the service I ask if we can use their feedback as a testimonial down the road. I mark the ticket as a "Rave" and export data every couple of weeks. It's working well for us as a source.

  • by Anita Tue Oct 23, 2012 via web

    This is a good article. My company had touched on most of the items listed in your blog. My company owned by women and we have developed a natural Health product for women in menopause. We have three websites one for the product (we've temporarily closed for updates), one static website about the company, the third, is the support and information website is still operational with great blogs. We've included women in all aspects of development but it still remains challenging to get the 'start' traction for the websites we need. We have a "0" budget so we cannot afford any more consultants, so we need to pull a miracle out of our hat!

    Why don't you folks put your words and blogs to the test and use my company as a prototype to prove your techniques work? If you can prove your theories can show significant improvement in traffic, you can use my company to promote how effective your recommendations are in whatever way you wish! It can be a win, in situation.

    Anita Dyrbye, CEO

  • by David Tue Oct 23, 2012 via web

    Check out our new app VocalReferences in the Appstore which allows merchants to collect video testimonials from their mobile device and share them and integrate them with your online marketing programs.

    Would be very interested in having interested parties try out the app and get some feedback.

  • by Anita Dyrbye Tue Oct 23, 2012 via web

    Vocal References? Hummm interesting, I'll have to look into it. Tell me how it works and would the average customer know how it works in a world floooded with new app's? My age demographic is women aged 45 - 65. Average woman are not always quick to pick up new app's

  • by Anita Dyrbye Tue Oct 23, 2012 via web

    Oh and if a company is to use someones testimonial on their website, we need to have signed authorization by that person to do so (for liability issues). How has your app addressed this?

  • by David Tue Oct 23, 2012 via mobile

    Anita,

    The purpose of VocalReferences is to make it easy for ALL merchants to capture, display and share video references. Everything you'll need to do is controlled through the app. Re: customer agreement. Ultimately that's between you and your customer. Because you'll be the one recording the reference you'll be able to verify the willingness of your customer firsthand.

    If you have further questions or feedback I would be most interested in hearing them. You can email me at David.wenner@localhitsmedia.com

  • by Lee Mozena Tue Oct 23, 2012 via web

    These are excellent ideas and I'll add one: JUST ASK. When I do a follow up call to a client to check in on how the strategies we developed together are going in real life, I say:

    "Since my services are soft skills I'd really appreciate an endorsement with your name, about how Zenith improved your business in measurable terms."

    The client is usually flattered and happy to oblige. I do sometimes send an outline of what I'm looking for because these folks are very busy and favors need to be done quickly.

    Inevitably the client has an insight or compliment I wouldn't think of. Make it up? That invites bad karma.
    yy a7 ask in a low key bhave aour consulting/coaching strategies are


    Lee Mozena, Principal of Zenith Communication

  • by Dan Lindblom Wed Oct 24, 2012 via web

    Studies prove again and again that customer testimonials and references are THE best marketing content that influences customer decision. However, this content needs to be treated as business sponsored advertising and thus must adhere to FTC advertising guidelines. Knowingly falsifying testimonials constitutes fraudulent advertising and is subject to legal action by FTC or a private entity. Very serious offense even beyond the clear loss in customer trust when exposed.

    Since we are a Customer Testimonial platform (Reach150) we put in place accountability measures to solve this. It is also in perfect alignment to this blog post suggestions. Particularly #5 and #7. Here are the three ways we address this:

    1) Make is easy for the customer to write. We get 40% of clients that are asked, write a testimonial. It is far easier just to ask a customer in Reach150 than be a fraud.

    2) Make it personal and highly public. By making the testimonial about the person who provided the service and make them front and center in search & social, there is a fundamental accountability to being truthful. It's analogous to providing a college degree on a resume - utterly foolish not to be truthful.

    3) Have an explicit approval process by the person in the business. There is no hiding or plausible deniability, and approving it means they stand behind it as being truthful and accurate.

    With this process a customer can get 40 times the amount of authentic customer written testimonials vs. organic reviews. Google 'BMW of Mountain View' to see an example of their Reach150 testimonial site. They were able to get more than 1,000 customer written testimonials over a little more than a year and a nice boost to their business.

  • by Sue Duris Wed Nov 21, 2012 via web

    Thank you all for your comments. It is appreciated!

  • by Lynn Morris Tue Jan 1, 2013 via web

    Great article Sue! We thought you had such great advice and tips in this article that we created an abstract so that people will come take a look at it! Customer testimonials are a must in any business whether they be good or bad. Good testimonials mean you are obviously doing something right. A bad testimonial means that you have room to improve!
    Here is the twitter post we created with a link to your article.
    Every business wants great customer testimonials. This great articles shows 7 ways to help your business get them http://dreambiz.ws/TuH1Lz
    Thanks!
    Lynn Morris

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