In his popular book of Proverbs, King Solomon inadvertantly makes a case for testimonials when he says: “let someone else praise you, and not your own mouth; an outsider, and not your own lips.”
At Compass, we believe that marketing is all the combined effort and activity that goes into making your phone ring. By this definition, every single function in your business, however large or small, has a marketing aspect to it. Your ability to deliver outstanding value to your clients and provide a positive experience for them throughout the process, can and will result in phone calls. Satisfied customers call again. They also tell their friends, family, and colleagues to call you when they have similar needs. Simply doing great work and treating people right is the bedrock of building a solid brand. And word-of-mouth is the bedrock of any successful marketing plan. Referrals then, are a great metric to measure customer satisfaction while a lack of referrals may be a red flag indicating that you have deeper issues with your product and/or the way you treat your customers.
Referrals – or the lack thereof – are not the only measure of customer satisfaction. Here are some more types of customer advocacy your brand may leverage:
A satisfied client will often refer your company to their circle of influence (friends, family, colleagues, etc.). Just be careful if you’ve over-delivered on a project because while your client may be thrilled with your service, their praise could land you a string of leads from people who have unrealistic expectations - expectations that you cannot guarantee or exceed. If you’ve gone the extra mile on a project, explain this to your client. Explaining that they received extra value will accomplish two things: First it will help them better appreciate your efforts, and secondly, it will shape the conversations they will have with their friends and family. It will also reduce the risk of your overjoyed customer making others believe they should expect the same level of attention, value, etc.
Social Media Mentions
Social media gives people a sense of anonymity - a wall to hide behind if you will. We share our thoughts on everything from renovations to our most recent – and slightly hectic – trip to Costco. Because people are so comfortable sharing such thoughts online, you will potentially find more honesty in the posts about your company. Even if you’re not the “social media type” it’s important to be listening to what people are saying about your brand there. If people are saying good things: like and share their comments. If they’re saying bad and nasty things, there are a couple things you can do. First, take what is being said to heart and examine if there is any truth to the comments. If so, apologize publicly and offer to make things right, then go and make it right. Sometimes the way you deal with a dissatisfied customer creates a powerful brand experience in people’s minds, which may inspire others to post more positive comments about your brand. If someone remains combative and doesn’t want to let you make it right, don’t freak out. Dealing professionally with someone on social media will get noticed by others and you may, by your grace and poise, be establishing a good reputation simply through your handling of such delicate situations. Ignore trolls, they belong under bridges. Everyone else ignores them too.
We use review sites because we believe they are objective. We expect your brochure to say good things about you - you wrote it! But you don’t write the reviews, so review sites offer us an unbiased glimpse of your brand. Not everyone uses review sites though and fewer people contribute to them than read them. When you know you’ve done a good job, especially when your customers mention to you that they appreciate your work, ask them to leave a review on sites where your customers hang out:
- Yellow pages
- Reader’s choice submissions
So you’ve received a bad review.
Turn that frown upside down. Negative reviews are opportunities to promote your brand (see Social Media Mentions). Now, assuming you have strong positioning, some people will naturally be attracted to your company while others will shy away. This dynamic of positioning is critical for qualifying leads. Most of you want to spend less time on the phone with “tire kickers” i.e.: Inquiries that will never turn into a sale. And what can seem like a negative review could actually be a good thing for you. For example, let’s say that you have positioned your brand as a landscape design firm that focusses on large design/build projects. One day your ideal customer reads a review that states: “I had a sod repair in my front lawn and called this company but they said they were too busy to even look at it. They seem really big and expensive. If you have a small project you need help with fast, don’t call these guys”. See how that can work to your advantage? Your ideal client isn’t someone with a small project or little budget. This “bad review” just discouraged the “tire kickers” from calling you and wasting your precious time while highlighting the fact that you are well established, exclusive, and manage time resources well.
“Assuming you are fairly well positioned, making promises you can keep, doing good work, and you’re not a complete pain to work with, you probably have more clients than you know who are willing to provide a written or video testimonial”
If referrals are an indication that you’re doing something right, then testimonials are referrals on steroids. A testimonial is an indication that your customer is not only satisfied enough with your company to talk about you privately within the safety of their personal network but that they’re so impressed by you that they’re willing to help you attract more potential customers. They’re willing to advocate for you and be a spokesperson for your company.
What does that tell potential clients? At the very least it tells them that your company satisfies its clients, at best it says that your clients are consistently satisfied to the degree that they’re willing to publicly endorse and advocate for you. That is huge! That advocacy builds brand trust. But where can you get a good testimonial?
Here’s a little secret: Assuming you are fairly well positioned, making promises you can keep, doing good work, and you’re not a complete pain to work with, you probably have more clients than you know who are willing to provide a written or video testimonial. Want to know another secret? You will never know who they are until you ask! Ask for a testimonial? Doesn’t that sound a bit needy? Won’t people be put off? Yes, ask. No, it doesn’t. And no, they won’t.
People will talk to their family and friends and maybe post something on social media but most do not go out of their way to share their positive experiences outside of those circles. But with a little encouragement, they might. Encouragement of this sort can happen very naturally in conversation if you’re engaged and attentive. If you hear your customer say something positive about you and/or your crew, casually ask if they wouldn’t mind writing you a short note that you could share with other prospects, or ask them to share their experience with their friends online. Train your team to be attentive to positive comments too and have them encourage clients to write those comments down.
Finally, if written testimonials are good. Video testimonials are great. Why? Because people are self-conscious. Putting themselves on video to say good things about you or your brand is a strong indication of their appreciation of your work. This takes a little while to organize and your client won’t always know what to say so here are some questions to ask to get them talking:
- What led you to us?
- Why did you choose us over someone else?
- Was there anything that you were concerned about using our product/service?
- What was your experience with our product/service?
- If you could describe us in a word, what would that word be? Why?
- How has working with us improved things for you?
- Would you recommend us to others? Why?
- What would you want others to know about our product/service/company?
Record their answers, you may use all of them, you may not. Once the digital files are rendered and web-ready. Share them on your YouTube channel, your company website, your Twitter feed or Facebook page. The point is, get those testimonials in front of your future clients wherever they might be found.
Word of mouth, Referrals, and testimonials are all proven ways to improve your leads and conversions (often at no cost!). If you’ve done the work of delivering value to your customer and making it a pleasant experience, ask them to help you promote your brand so that you can do more good for people like them.