Local Search

Leveraging Small Business Customer Reviews and Testimonials Online

Referrals from happy customers have always been the best method for generating new customers. The next-best source is well-written, satisfied customer reviews and testimonials, another kind of referral. Small businesses are uniquely positioned to obtain and leverage this form of referral being so close to their customers.

This brief article describes how small businesses can obtain customer reviews and testimonials, why they work so well, how and when to best motivate satisfied customers to provide them and how to leverage them on the Internet. Special pages on websites make it easy for satisfied customers to write reviews on the popular consumer review websites which receive millions of monthly visitors from prospective buyers. Consumer reviews are one key ingredient in local search ranking results on Google, Yahoo and other local search engines.

Why are Customer Reviews and Testimonials so Effective?

They are a powerful first step in establishing believability, credibility, and a sense of security for new customers. They help to break down natural barriers and distrust new consumers feel with an unfamiliar merchant.

Any opinion coming from a third party, not the business itself, instills confidence in prospective customers and dissolves buyer skepticism. Buyers increasingly tune out the mind-boggling flood of commercial messages that present themselves everywhere all the time. On the other hand when customers with no economic interest say good things, it breaks down skepticism laying a foundation for trust.

Local Business Competitive Advantage

Local business is much closer to its customers and their needs than large business. Dealing directly with customers allows a smaller business to be sensitive to what is on a customer’s mind. Satisfying customers is done through direct contact not through after-the-fact standardized surveys. Obtaining great customer reviews and testimonials should be that much easier.

Testimonials in Advertising

You’ll never see an ad for a weight-loss product without a testimonial. Why? Because those advertisers know that people are skeptical of all ads (not just weight-loss ads) and testimonials overcome skepticism more than any other marketing tool.

In every direct mail piece you send, include a one or two pages full of testimonials. This lends automatic credence to whatever offer you are sending. You can make the testimonials a part of the sales letter, but from my experience, sending loose-leaf pages of testimonials make a persuasive statement.

Testimonial How-To’s

Several simple methods and habits will generate well-crafted persuasive testimonials that will generate new customers naturally. Learning and practicing them should be automatic for every small business. Small business has several natural advantages over the big guys in this regard since they live closer to their customers. Delivering overwhelming good service is easier and can generate unrivaled enthusiasm. This should not be a one-time event. Collecting testimonials should be a constant pursuit, an essential part of your marketing DNA.

The challenge is to leverage the enthusiasm of satisfied customers into goodwill in well-written testimonials, whether used for promotional materials or as an all-important new category of local business recommendations, review websites, or portals that now generate many millions of monthly visitors. These review websites range from restaurants, contractors, or virtually any business in any category.

If you are a new business or a startup with few or no sales, let several friends try the product or service for free. If they honestly like it, ask them to give you a testimonial that you can use in your marketing.

#1: Point of Sale: Try to get customer testimonials as soon as possible, even at point of sale or within the first week. Satisfied customers are most motivated during this time period. Develop a natural process for obtaining the testimonial before they leave your office or store.

Ask them if they would share their happiness. Help them by putting into words the nice things already said and ask if that accurately reflects how they feels. Add, if relevant, your unique selling proposition (USP) such as over-the-top-customer service, same-day installation, low price value, or a money-back guarantee. If the customer agrees, then have the customer agree to or write the testimonial. When done, thank them.

#2: Telephone/Email: Contact the customer as soon as possible after the sale, whether as a customer satisfaction follow-up or other. Make sure the customer still has the same warm feelings. Ask if he/she would be willing to share those feelings with others in the form of a testimonial. Repeat what the customer said or suggested.

Suggest that, to save time, you will draft a testimonial and the customer can make any changes desired. Send the draft as an email. Ask for additional comments and get permission to use the testimonial.

#3: Persuasive Testimonials: Be discriminating. Personal and specific testimonials work successfully. Focus on key benefits. Vague, even enthusiastic testimonials do not have any impact. Have your customers be specific. For instance, if you delivered your product the same day your customer purchased it, then ask your customer to include that detail, even the exact time that it arrived. If you delivered some kind of incredible act of customer service, have the customer write specifically about what you did and how it helped.

Ask your customer to talk about the struggles he/she was having previous to receiving the benefits of your product or service. Most likely, the reader will have had the same or similar struggles and will empathize. This will only make your prospective customer more interested in receiving the benefits of your product or service.

Have your customer state his/her relevant background. This will make the testimonial even more persuasive because the comments will be perceived to come from a credible source. People tend to believe people in positions of perceived authority.

Sometimes it is difficult, but try to get a picture or even a video with the customer using your product or service. Make sure the video shows the benefits of the product or service. Pictures double the effectiveness of a testimonial and bring it to life.

#4: Testimonial Mechanics: Make sure you get permission to use you customers’ testimonials in your advertising. Ask them if you can not only use their name, but also the town (suburb) they live in. Addresses, even if it’s just a city name, increase the believability of the testimonial. It demonstrates that they are real people who live in the same community as your prospects. Thank them sincerely.

#5: Leveraging Testimonials: It’s not enough just to receive customer testimonials. It’s knowing how to use them in your marketing activities that makes the difference. The following are several ideas you can use to implement testimonials into your marketing program.

  • Handouts. Combine customer testimonials with other suitable print materials. Create your own “Customers are saying…” selling brochure with your best testimonials and give them to your prospects. This is a very powerful marketing tool.
  • Website Testimonials. Use select customer testimonials and place them strategically on your website. While testimonials may be placed on any page, they should also be placed where they will do the most good. Place testimonials wherever you are selling something to persuade your customers and overcome their doubts. If you have testimonials pertaining to a specific product, place those testimonials near that product and at various steps in the ordering process.
  • Another great area to place testimonials on your website is in the right and left borders. They will be a constant reminder of your credibility. If you have a sign-up page of any sort, consider including a testimonial that specifically speaks to what you are asking your visitor to sign up to, whether it be your newsletter or access to special information.
  • Mixed Media Testimonials. Include customer testimonials as audio in your mailers. It’s one thing to read a testimonial but another to hear a real live person. You can even include the pictures and bios of those people on in your mailer. If you have captured your testimonials on video include that. Be sure to secure the customers’ permission prior to including their videotaped and/or recorded testimonials.
  • Small Business Consumer Review Website Testimonials. The most effective place to have customers post testimonials is on the many local, city-specific portals that accept and encourage reviews. Well-trafficked local search engines, city-specific directories, and dedicated consumer review websites allow users to rate and review local businesses and services. These reviews are important for prospective surfers, shoppers, or buyers.

Consumer reviews are equally important for search engine rankings. A good consumer review appears where it is posted and is often pulled into many of the local search engines or aggregators and, therefore, can appear in many places.

It is one thing to obtain a solid testimonial and another to get motivate customers to take the time and trouble to visits local consumer review websites, register and submit a review, but there are methods to simplify the process (as discussed below).

Make It Easy for Your Customers to Provide Testimonials

Add any or all of the following local business consumer review websites to a newly dedicated “Local Resources” section of your website. Satisfied customers will now more easily be able to review your business on well-trafficked websites that can attract local buyers, and at no additional cost or work. It does, however, take a little time to register if customers have not used these valuable resources before, so incentivize them in a manner that is suitable to your type of business.

Well Trafficked Websites & Local Business Reviews

In addition, there are many industry specific consumer review websites dedicated to food, restaurants, contractors and others.

Bonus: Consumer Reviews and Testimonials Are Good for Local Search Rankings

What more can a local business do than get twin benefits from one activity. Consumer reviews have a favorable impact on local search rankings, not only as persuasive additions for the ultimate consumer. Some of the major local search engines spider other consumer review websites and include those reviews in its results. Higher rankings mean more traffic. More traffic should mean more happy consumers and more traffic and so it goes, steps leading directly to marketing heaven.

Conclusion

Testimonials are powerful tools that help to establish your credibility with buyers and higher search results with local search engines. For customers, they are as close as a business can get to high quality referrals on electronic steroids. They break down a prospect’s skepticism and doubts. When customers give you a testimonial, it helps to solidify your relationship with them because they have “gone public” with their statement of support for your business.

Small businesses have natural advantages in generating powerful testimonials as the businesses (and business owners) are generally close to their customer base.

The Internet and the web offer many new ways to leverage your reputation by strategically placing, at key customer decision-making moments on your website, local business consumer review websites and even a resource section that lists local search engines, city-specific directories, and dedicated consumer review websites in one convenient place—your website.

If you would like an email template we use to motivate satisfied customer to take action and make it easier to write a review please request an email template we use from support@localinternetusa.com

Steven Brier is a local marketing expert from Local Internet USA, read his other post on Search Engine Journal;

Comments are closed.

15 thoughts on “Leveraging Small Business Customer Reviews and Testimonials Online

  1. Very true – there is no better way of getting more business than by making sure your customers are raving about you! Thanks for the tips on how to get testimonials & how best to deploy them.

  2. I can’t agree any less, Get your customers talk about you – Especially about what services you offer others aren’t. It always goes a long way. Microsoft’s model when they first started…

  3. Steven, what do you recommend for someone like me who has small local business as a face painter for kids parties. Right now my husband does PPC advertising for me and it’s worked pretty well but I want to get more exposure.
    Thx

  4. More than anything I find that new customers look for lists of current clients on sites – if nothing is there that signs a problem of some sort or a marketing issue for the site owner. I found in the beginning this area dificult as I did not want to ask – training one self is a must.

  5. Keith what you presented is a truly great resource. The correlations are wonderfully useful as the search engine relations.

    However I would argue that optimizing free listings is least about your estimated 13 hours of submissions and much more about the research and writing before the submissions so you stand out.

    To do all that is required in order to be both found by local search engines and be sales-worthy to humans is the real challenge. Overwhelming I believe for most non-professionals and many professionals in local search.

  6. What a great post. You started off by saying… “Referrals from happy customers have always been the best method for generating new customers. The next-best source is well-written, satisfied customer reviews and testimonials, another kind of referral.”

    I whole heartedly agree however find that most people put the cart before the horse by trying to get that ever so elusive customer referral first. Getting customer referrals is much easier after your happy customer has taken the time to write a glowing review and solidified their commitment to tell others about their experience with your company.

    On another note, I’m always amazed at how many business owners I run into that are afraid to have their business listed on a rate and review site. The most common fear is that one of their customers decides to right a less then positive or even perhaps a bad review. I try and explain in simple terms that not all bad reviews are a reflection of a bad business, many times its simply just a matter of a bad match between a customer’s tastes and preferences and the businesses offerings or service. Similar to how people gauge the quality of a movie differently.

  7. Thanks for the great tips, Steven. As you’ve mentioned, Direct Mail is a great way to share customer testimonials – and part of what makes it so effective is that it gives customers a personal and tangle way to interact with your brand. Consumers like to receive Direct Mail – in fact, research shows that 55 percent of consumers look forward to discovering the Mail they receive and 67 percent feel mail is more personal than the Internet.

    Most marketers agree that Direct Mail is not only a great way to go, but an undeniable value leader for customer acquisition and retention.

    Rod DeVar
    Manager, Direct Mail
    United States Postal Service

  8. Too many SEOs worry about keyword density if users are allowed to type their own reviews etc.

    They really should stop worrying as the google algos look like they can give great credit to sites that offer reviews.

  9. Another way to build trust and credibility through testimonials, would be with video testimonials. Then you could upload these videos to several video sites. My favorite right now is http://www.adwido.com just because of the attention they give to marketing. Plust the account is free, it’s perfect for the small business owner and marketer.

  10. Couldn’t have said it better myself. The impact on customer reviews in organic local search simply cannot be overstated. As the internet gets more and more inundated, customer reviews continue to be the simplest means for a local business to stand out in a crowd. It seems like each update to the Google Maps algorithm places more and more emphasis on reviews. Just wish more business owners would realize the benefit. Thanks for the resource!

  11. I use a service called Ratepoint to collect customer feedback. This has made it easy for us to manage this process and gives us a constantly growing stream of quips to add to our site.

    Also, in some user testing, we had 60% of respondents specifically mention the use of testimonials. We have them setup to rotate on each page.

    However, this is not what we have been doing:

    “Use select customer testimonials and place them strategically on your website. ”

    We’ve just been pulling from a pool but I think if we craft pools targeted to each service they will be much more effective.

  12. I know that this post might be a little old but the information is excellent still. I consider this some evergreen stuff that is making it into my Evernote for sho.

    No wonder you were voted for a Semmy. Love it.

    p.s. – love the new site look.