The words of happy customers can have a significant impact on both your lead generation and conversion rates. One of the simplest ways to gain testimonies? ASK!
Here’s how you can start to gather credible testimonials for your marketing strategy:
1. Create a system for requesting, collecting and organizing testimonials.
Once you begin your testimonial acquisition program, you’re going to need a place to organize and store testimonials. You will want to track the customers you’ve asked and those who have responded.
I recommend you begin by creating a list of all of your customers in an editable spreadsheet. Place four columns beside each name and label them: (1) Will ask, (2) Have asked, (3) Have received and (4) Refused. Mark each name appropriately and update as needed.
Then, create an electronic filing system or binder for organizing and managing testimonials. You can sort them by date, customer last name, or category (customer service, product, etc). Just be sure it is easy for you to find them when you need to. This is going to be an going part of your marketing campaign, so prepare for a large quantity of testimonials when you’re setting up your system.
2. Read incoming mail and email for unsolicited testimonials.
Create a folder or system for keeping testimonials that come in on their own – unsolicited ones. Any kind of customer feedback or thank you could be a great testimonial to use, so include them in your organization system. It is best to get the customer’s permission to use their testimonial and you may want to protect their identity by only publishing first name and the initial of their last.
You may need to go back through your old files, or your inbox, to locate feedback and testimonials you received in the past but haven’t used. Any testimonial – old and new – is potentially a good one.
3. Start by asking your best customers for testimonials.
While you may see a nice number of testimonials float in through the mail and email, you will have to work for the majority of your testimonials. You will have to ask for them.
Start with the list of your customers you created and organize them by sales volume and frequency. Choose the top 10 – 20%. These are your best customers and should be the first from whom you request a testimonial.
Create a simple “Testimonial Request” letter or email that you can use over and over again. Be sincere, and encourage the customer to write their own letter instead of you drafting it for them.
Feel free to make general suggestions about what you would like them to write about, but try not to control the process. If you’re comfortable doing so, when you see what they have written make some suggestions or request certain sections be strengthened or more specific.
4. Make requesting testimonials a part of your sales process.
Once you’ve “caught up” on your testimonial requests, and asked your top customers for a few thoughts and opinions, you can create a system for ongoing testimonial collecting. These testimonials will be “solicited” as opposed to “unsolicited.”
The most important point here is to ask for a testimonial as soon as possible after the sale. The longer you wait, the less inclined the customer will be to put the effort in to writing their thoughts down. Besides, most customers are happiest and most willing to help immediate after the sale.
· Ask for the testimonial. If a customer is glowing and gushing with praise, ask them to put it in writing, on letterhead if they have it. Tell them that it would really help you (your customers will love to help!) and that you value their feedback. If they’re not gushing, but you know they’re happy, be bold and ask them if they would write about their experience with your business. Stay on top of your testimonial gathering and ask as soon as possible.
· Get all their contact details. Get all your customer’s contact details so you can follow up with them once they have agreed to submit a testimonial. The act of giving you their contact information will also establish a sense of commitment on their part, and it will be more likely they’ll follow through.
· Tell them when you’re going to follow up. You don’t want to be a pest, but if you don’t follow up you may never get that testimonial. Tell them when you’re going to be in contact to retrieve their letter. If you’re going to email them in a week, or call them in a few days, let them know what your plan.
· Offer to write the first draft. This is a last resort strategy for customers who are either too busy or too lazy to write their own. Remember the testimonials written by real customers are the most believable, so try not to offer this up front. If your customer suggests this, try to encourage them to write their own brief notes. If that doesn’t work, brainstorm some of their ideas, and then write it yourself. Make sure you have it printed on their letterhead and signed.
5. Always ask your customers for permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials, and don’t forget to say thank you.
Once you receive their testimonial, reach out via email or phone and thank your customer. Use that opportunity to gain their permission to use their name and words in your marketing materials – including your website, brochure, ads, and in-store displays. You may want to provide a small token of your appreciation – a percentage off a purchase, a small gift, even some candy – the next time they visit your place of business.
Be sincere in your thanks, and if appropriate send a full letter or email. Thank them for their time and their kind words, and anything else you may notice about their efforts.
You will need to gain permission from customers who send you solicited and unsolicited testimonials. The easiest way to do this is to send a “blanket release” that allows you to use their comments – in part or in whole – in all current and future materials. This way you won’t have to ask each time you want to run an ad or send a direct mail campaign.