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 of these is they put 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 testimonial.
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 building and delivering great products. Does your product fulfill a need, resolve a pain, make life easier? Through the inception, development and launch phases, have you kept your customer in mind? Does your product deliver a great experience when customers and prospects interact with it? As Seth Godin notes, “the product must be worth making a remark about.”
2. Involve customers in your beta-test program
The beta test is a great time to engage current customers and prospective buyers: It’s great for customers and 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
Survey customers about current and future product features and functionality, instruct 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 be proactive and check in with your customers on how things are going for them. If you don’t, and there are issues, customers are keenly aware of how 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 and relevant information that resonates with them. They will thank you for it.
5. Provide social options for 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 and Twitter pages and LinkedIn groups, ask and answer engaging Q&A questions on your Linked In company page and your company’s Quora page, etc.
Don’t stop at social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google+, and Quora. Also consider niche communities like SpiceWorks (for IT professionals), Production Hub (for film and video production professionals), and others. And don’t forget about local search sites like Google Places, Yahoo Local, City Search, Yelp, 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. Make ‘The Ask’ 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, product review, 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 to say about you and your customer? Think “forward-looking.”
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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.
What are your techniques for getting great customer testimonials?
A version of this article originally appeared on Marketing Profs.