It’s a bit of a dramatic title, I know. But, I’m going with it to draw attention to two facts.
First, as business owners, we want to promote the good work we do for our customers. Sharing success stories is one of the most effective marketing tools we have. It’s the reason why there are so many review websites all over the internet. The customer experience told in their own words is a very powerful sales tool.
Second, customer stories belong to your customers, not you. Receiving a glowing testimonial feels great. But, you can’t post it to your website, share it on social media, or print it on your company literature without express consent from that customer.
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There are a few easy ways to use reviews and testimonials without crossing the line. You can ask your customers for their feedback. I know, this one is pretty obvious. Yet, forgetting to ask is easy when you’re busy. Make asking for reviews a natural part of the check-out process. Print your ask on the receipt and direct customers to your website. Embed a simple survey on your website asking customers whether they would recommend your product or service to others and why. Add a note under the survey so respondents understand that their comments and their names might be used in your promotional material, including on your website.
As for reviews about your business posted on review websites, like Yelp or Google reviews, just post a link to those pages on your website. Not only will you benefit from customers spreading the love, you will also benefit from the fact that they have sung your praises on a widely read review website. The backlinks from those websites can raise your Google page rank, too, so more potential customers will be able to find you.
There really is no question when it comes to deciding whether to use reviews and testimonials in your marketing strategy. Authentic social sharing is a powerful way to generate more business. Most consumers read customer reviews (particularly those posted to review websites) before deciding to purchase a product or service. You want potential customers to see how your products or services can help them. Encourage your customers to share their experiences on those websites.
Be aware, though, that you may not like every opinion. Approach them with an open mind. Take negative reviews to heart and conduct an honest assessment. Does the customer have a point? The customer may not always be right. But, their opinions do matter. Using them to guide your growth is a good business practice.
Some businesses have tried to game the system by paying for fake reviews. Please don’t go down that road. When customers find out that the testimonials and reviews of your business are not legitimate (and they will find out), they may express their anger on those same review websites. If they report your website to Google, Facebook, or any other channel where you’ve posted fake reviews, your website could be blacklisted.
Most importantly, posting fake reviews and testimonials is illegal. The Competition Act lays out a list of unlawful ways that advertising can be misleading. Among them are posting fake reviews and testimonials.
When your business is small or medium-sized, you want as much positive publicity as possible to help you reach your goals. It can be disheartening if customers don’t provide you with the written social proof you need to promote your business. Sit tight. There are legitimate ways to speed the process along.
- Hire a writer/researcher to produce a case study. The writer will interview willing customers and put together a professional story highlighting how your business solves problems. Post the case study to your website. You might even want to invite local media to interview you about how well you can help people.
- Grow your social media following. Develop an effective social media strategy to attract people who want to associate with the ideals your business represents. Most of us are attracted to social accounts that have a core of dedicated followers. Humans are social animals. We want to be where everyone else is. When a business posts genuine updates, more people will want to be associated with them.
- Post your customer count. If McDonald’s can do it, you can, too. You may not have served up to 9 billion customers to-date, but the hundreds or thousands you have served counts for a lot of social proof.
- Advertise your awards. Have you been recognized by your local Chamber of Commerce or community association? Let everyone know. Customers are much more willing to do business with a company that has roots in the community.
If you just stop for a moment to think about it, you will likely be able to uncover a whole array of genuine customer satisfaction examples that you can use to bolster your marketing efforts. Just remember to ask permission before using them.
Over to you: How have you been finding social proof for your business?