How to get great testimonials and put them to work for your small business website
In today’s highly connected and competitive marketplace, social proof—such as testimonials and online reviews—is an integral part of any customer’s decision to buy products or services. Let’s take a look at the numbers:
- According to a recent survey by Dimensional Research, 90% of customers said positive online reviews influenced their decisions to make a purchase.
- A CompUSA survey recently indicated that 63% of customers are more likely to purchase from a site that displays reviews.
- A Search Engine Land study recently reported that 39% of consumers read reviews on a regular basis to determine whether a local business is a good business.
This type of social proof generated through testimonials helps small businesses boost their credibility. But the use of testimonials is often overlooked when small businesses are building their websites—either because they don’t recognize the value or are unsure how to gather them.
Experts warn not to make this mistake. In his book, Duct Tape Marketing: The World’s Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide, John Jantsch strongly advises small business owners to harness the benefits of testimonials:
“Customer testimonials are a powerful form of content. Every business today should seek customer content in multiple forms—written, audio, and video. This content adds important trust-building endorsements and makes for great brand-building assets out there on Google and YouTube.”
The reality is testimonials are easy to collect and, most importantly, are likely to have a positive impact on your small business.
Why: The power of testimonials on your small business website
Testimonials offer small businesses several marketing benefits that conventional advertising and marketing just can’t do as quickly and effectively.
1. They build trust.
Potential customers who see positive reviews of your product or service not only see that your small business has customers, but also that they are satisfied—so much so that they put themselves out there to recommend you to others. They see you as trustworthy and deserving of other clients.
2. They are unbiased.
Another great attribute of a strong testimonial is it’s not your voice. Your potential customer sifts through your site reading all of the great marketing language you’ve provided them to sell your product or service, but let’s face it: That’s all you’re one-sided opinion about how great your business is. The third-party testimonial isn’t “salesy,” and it stands out as candid and unbiased.
3. They appeal to skeptics.
Testimonials that are well-articulated, highlight the benefits of your offering and substantiate your claims can push a potential customer who’s on the fence over it. For example, when employment website WikiJob added testimonials to its website a few years ago, it increased conversion rates by 34%.
What: Getting great testimonials for your small business website
It’s important to understand that not every testimonial is a strong one. “I love working with Rob” and “Fitness for Life has great personal trainers” hold little weight when you’re trying to communicate the value of the product or service you offer. Great testimonials—those that help convert a potential customer into an actual one—have several specific attributes:
- They specify your product or services benefits. Testimonials should directly address the benefits your small business offers. Instead of saying “I love working with Rob,” which tells the potential customer nothing, a great testimonial is specific to how Rob helped the customer. For example, if Rob is an accountant, a great testimonial may be, “After hiring Rob as our accountant, my family paid less in taxes than we have in the previous three years.”
- They substantiate your claims. If your marketing materials say you offer a great service, your testimonials should support those claims.
- They are credible. The most powerful testimonials shouldn’t be anonymous. They should always include a first name, last name and another factor attributed to that individual, such as the name of their business (for B2B) or hometown (for B2C). And having a photo of the individual to accompany the testimonial adds significant value.
- They are comparative. Testimonials that communicate how your product or service is better than the competition are also very powerful. Prioritize them if you get them.
How: Gathering Testimonials
Now that you understand why you need great testimonials and what attributes they possess, gathering them is the easy part. And there may be a few steps in the process.
1. Reach out and ask your satisfied customers for testimonials.
E-mail, phone and face-to-face—these are all great ways to start the testimonial conversation with your satisfied customer. Simply connect and ask them if they would be willing to write up a positive review or testimonial for your product or service. Also, be clear that you will like to use their full name and other information in their testimony. At this point, you should also ask for permission to include their photo alongside the testimonial.
2. Ask them to be specific.
Be sure the testimonial they provide follows the guidelines (see “What: Getting great testimonials” above). The more specific testimonials are in highlighting the benefits and substantiating your claims about your product or service, the bigger influence those testimonials will have on potential customers and the more powerful they will be in affecting your conversion rates.
3. Offer to write a “first-draft” testimonial for them to tweak and finesse.
People are busy, so it’s not uncommon for your customers to turn down your request for a testimonial simply due to lack of time—or say they will and be unable to get around to it. In this case, offer to write a first draft of the testimonial for them. When you send it to them to approve, give them the option to fully edit and change it as they see necessary. More often than not, a truly satisfied customer will agree to this approach.
To clarify, writing a first-draft testimonial for your customer to review and approve isn’t the same as fabricating a testimonial. So a quick warning: Don’t make up fake testimonials. It’s misleading, unethical and can quickly have a substantial negative impact on your business. Credibility is the lifeblood of any business.
Where: Testimonials on your small business website
It’s common to see small businesses use separate pages on their websites to build credibility. These may include press mentions, awards and the classic “Testimonials” page. This approach won’ hurt you; it may even help a bit. But it’s important to know that these separate pages are often among the lowest visited pages on marketing websites, which means visitors are missing these valuable messages.
There are strategies small businesses can use to ensure their testimonials are effective.
1. Put testimonials on your visitor’s path.
A potential customer visiting your site has his own agenda when he gets to the site, and it’s unlikely that one of his priorities is finding the great things your satisfied clients have said about you. Be sure to include those testimonials on pages that customer is most likely to visit, such as your homepage and product or service pages—anywhere your customer is likely to want to visit.
2. Use excerpts of testimonials to place the focus on the quality you’d like to highlight.
A four- or five-sentence testimonial is likely to call out a number of your strengths. But it may take focus off the critical fact you’d like to highlight. And the longer a testimonial is, the less likely it will be read—a fact that’s true of any text.
“You can’t find a better, more reasonably priced accountant anywhere else. The fact that John is a pleasure to work with is a wonderful bonus! I felt I had my own in-house accountant who was looking out for my business’ best interests. If you are looking for someone to help you save money at tax time, Anderson Accounting is the perfect choice.”
Focus on financial benefit:
“You can’t find a better, more reasonably priced accountant anywhere else … If you are looking for someone to help you save money at tax time, Anderson Accounting is the perfect choice.”
3. Place all of your testimonials on your “About Us” page.
Testimonials on your “About Us” page will seem perfectly relevant to your website visitors. And your customers are much more likely to visit your “About Us” page than a Testimonial page. Therefore, this is a great place to have a more comprehensive list of unexcerpted testimonials for your visitors perusal.
4. Carefully place testimonials in locations you want your visitors to take action.
There are places on your site you want customers to take action (or convert), such as filling out a form or adding an item to a shopping cart. But naturally, some people may hesitate to take that next step. Research has shown that if you address their concerns with the appropriate testimonial, you can improve the conversion rate, i.e. push them past their hesitation to take the action you want them to take.