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How to Use Customer Testimonials to Boost Sales

  • Aug 9, 2015 | Lee Polevoi

Online shoppers are deluged with third-party marketing and advertising messages. After awhile, these messages become merely "background noise" that do little to boost sales. So when it comes to attracting the interest of prospective buyers, few techniques are as effective as a well-crafted first-person customer testimonial.

As prospective consumers, we tend to trust people who have done business with a company and come away satisfied with the transaction. The comments of an individual with no clear vested interest in a business serves as a trustworthy indicator of the likely quality of the product or service on offer.

The challenge for online retailers is coming up with effective ways to invite and compile testimonials from happy customers and make them part of an overall marketing strategy.

An unscientific survey of online sellers has produced an array of helpful tips for soliciting and highlighting customer testimonials.

How to Compile Testimonials

Start with credibility. Consumers are naturally wary of anonymous or semi-anonymous testimonials. That's why Ron Yates of Yates & Co. Jewelers advises asking satisfied customers to volunteer both their first and last name, as well as city and state. "This gives legitimacy to the testimonial," he says.

Send an email request. Soon after a sale is probably the best time to approach someone about offering a positive review. Author and family coach Lisa Baker-King of LBK Kreatives sends customers an email, thanking them in advance for a quick endorsement and asking for specific information: name, title, and company; name of the service and product ("and briefly state why you love it"); and advice for others considering a purchase.

"At the end of the email, I thank them again for their awesomeness and have a copy-paste of a good, prior endorsement," Baker-King says. "This jogs their creative thoughts and helps them craft their words."

Think video. Even better than written quotes are videos of enthusiastic customers. "Ask your happiest customers if you can video them talking about their experience," says Michael Bremmer of TelecomQuotes, a technology solutions provider. "The video doesn't have to be perfect, but the fact that you have someone who will testify about how good you are is amazing."

Seek out diversity. The broader the range of testimonials, the more likely it is that they will resonate with different audiences. "The testimonials on my site feature construction companies, insurance agents, retail shops, and others," says Micah Fraim, CPA, of FraimCPA. "It is key to have an assortment of testimonial givers. If someone comes to your site, you want them to hear from someone that they can easily relate to, since this increases their chances of trusting you and wanting to buy from you." 

Use social media to solicit testimonials. Esti Chazanow of LIV-Swiss Watches invites customers to post testimonials on Instagram --"pictures that include your product/service with a caption that includes your Instagram handle and specific hashtags."

Zander Aycock of Skyvue, seller of outdoor TVs, agrees with the social media approach. "In my experience, posting a brief testimonial along with a picture of a product to a social media platform gives potential buyers 'social proof.' It's a great way to drive people towards the sale."

Feature Testimonials in Eye-catching Ways

Once you've compiled a host of useful reviews, what's the best way to showcase them?

Make testimonials easy to find. Never bury customer testimonials on pages no one is likely to visit.

"You want to make customer testimonials easy to find on your website, whether that means having a review page or even a list of reviews under each product," advises Jake Lane of Lawnstarter, a lawn care provider. "This will help a prospective consumer know what they are getting into and what they should expect from the product."

Ron Yates concurs with this approach. "Put the testimonials where they will be seen quickly on the page, usually above the fold. We like to put them up on top of the page."

Feature testimonials in your business emails. Incorporate brief snippets of customer reviews as part of your email signature. "Doing this re-emphasizes why people should trust you," notes Yuimi Vashum of WiseCalvin, a digital marketing and SEO consulting firm. "If your customers open the email, then they are likely to read the trust value there," as opposed to simply browsing your website.

While soliciting and featuring testimonials, it's good to think outside the box. Bryan Clayton of GreenPal ("best described as Uber for lawn-mowing"), takes a unique approach. "We send a handwritten thank-you card to each customer who completes three transactions. We also spray the cards with a scent that smells like freshly cut grass. This engages the strongest sense we have--the sense of smell."

Mitch Goldstone of the photo-scanning service ScanMyPhotos sends copywriters on staff to interview satisfied customers. "Once added to our blog and social media channels, these customers become raving, loyal fans and forward the interviews to their entire social media family," he reports. "This awareness campaign is our sole marketing effort, as the emotional stories and word-of-mouth compels others to scan their nostalgic photo memories."

With every transaction, look for ways to invite customers to provide a testimonial and then use your imagination to highlight these favorable reviews in new, enticing ways.

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Avalara Author
Lee Polevoi
Avalara Author Lee Polevoi