Ninety-two percent of consumers say they trust word-of-mouth recommendations above all other forms of advertising, according to Nielsen.

Needless to say, customer testimonials are among the most effective marketing tools available, because they:

  • Serve as social proof.
  • Build credibility and trust.
  • Transcend platforms and marketing channels.
  • Allow you to pinpoint your company’s strengths.

Below are five strategies and tips for convincing your customers to leave meaningful testimonials.

1) Strive to “Wow!” Your Customers

This may seem obvious, but it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day necessities of operation and place customer satisfaction on the back burner.

That’s a recipe for disaster.

If you want customers to feel compelled to write a testimonial, their expectations and satisfaction must be your focus at every single moment of interaction.

And thanks to the Internet, that interaction no longer stops when customers exit your place of business. The relationship has the potential to continue online, which means you need to have eyes and ears on social media ensuring customers are happy.

2) Don’t Shy Away from Admitting Mistakes

Often times, our first instinct is to avoid responsibility and blame when we’re told we made a mistake.

That’s a sure-fire way to lose a customer and gain a poor reputation. Instead of trying to downplay the mistake, take responsibility and quickly fix the problem.

You’ll often find those customers are the first ones willing to leave a positive review.

As a personal anecdote: We regularly use Buffer to manage aspects of our social media presence. Recently, we ran into trouble adding new social profiles and needed to transfer ownership of our Buffer account to a different email address.

This transfer probably would have been a major pain with most companies, but Buffer (as usual) made it incredibly easy. Within 12 hours and a few emails exchanged, we were running smoothly.

Soon after, I took to Twitter and gave the Buffer support team a shoutout for being easy to work with and for quickly solving the challenge.

That’s the true power of acknowledging a problem, placing the customer’s satisfaction first, and quickly meeting their needs.

3) Get to Know Online Review Sites

“78% of online Americans aged 18-64 agree that online reviews help them decide whether or not to purchase a product.”

Yelp, Angie’s List, Google+ Local, Yahoo Local, and on and on. These review sites have the potential to be your business’s “best friend.”

Take the time to sign up for these sites, complete your profile, upload pictures, and promote them in your business.

Warning: Asking customers to leave reviews on these sites seems like a great idea, but it could in fact hurt you. Review sites (especially Yelp) often have filtering algorithms and they’re a lot more advanced than you think.

For example, Yelp’s automated review filter monitors user review history and activity. It also monitors the average number of reviews submitted both for your business and for your industry. That means Yelp notices “unnatural” review patterns.

If you’ve received two reviews per month for the past year and all the sudden you received ten new 5-star reviews (from customers who probably haven’t left reviews before), Yelp will likely start filtering these reviews and penalize your profile by filtering reviews more strongly going forward. Even if these reviews are legitimate and honest, you could hurt your business by soliciting to customers.

You should also never, never, never have a kiosk set up in your business for people to leave reviews. Review sites monitor IP addresses and locations where reviews come from. For example, if Yelp reviews are coming in from a location that is also listed as your official address on your Yelp profile, that’s an immediate red flag for Yelp’s algorithm.

The key is to avoid unnatural review patterns and try to motivate current users to leave reviews rather than encouraging new users to do so. This way, you attract people who already have a solid review history and the algorithm doesn’t raise a red flag.

4) Prepare a Testimonial Questionnaire

Writing a good testimonial is challenging for many people, even if they’ve had nothing but positive experiences with your business.

The problem is with the vague nature of the question, “Will you write a testimonial?”

Most people will say, “Yes!” and then think, “What in the world should I say?”

When the answer doesn’t come easy, they avoid the task altogether. A way to avoid this problem is by providing people with specific questions.

For example, ask customers what challenge they were facing prior to using your product or service. Ask them to list three benefits of your product or service. Ask if they would recommend the product to a friend, and why/why not.

These questions are much more specific than, “Could you write a testimonial about your experiences?” and this will increase the success of your testimonial requests.

Be sure you let customers know their replies could be used for a public testimonial. Always disclose!

5) Provide an Incentive for Testimonials

As with everything in marketing, if you want people to take an action, you need to provide a value-added incentive.

Houzz runs a monthly promotion to get more reviews for Houzz users, most of whom are interior designers, architects, and similar professionals. In exchange, Houzz raffles off an iPad each month to users who leave reviews.

The incentive doesn’t have to be costly, though. It could be recognition, such as “Customer of the Month”. You could raffle off a $20 gift card. You could even get generous and offer to make a donation to a charity in the name of anyone who leaves a testimonial.

Offer something of value to people so they’re more likely to take the desired action: leaving a review or testimonial.

Let’s Go!

Do you have a strategy in place for encouraging customers and clients to leave testimonials for your business? Keep an eye on our blog for upcoming posts about creating a testimonial and referral system!