Gathering and Using Testimonials

Image Gathering and Using Testimonials
By Vanessa Salvia, 11/14/07

If you watch an hour of television today you’re bound to see a commercial featuring someone speaking sincerely and earnestly into the camera about how wonderful Brand X headache pills are. We don’t know who this person is, but we see someone on screen who is just like us, with a life that’s truly too busy for headaches and we empathize. We trust them, and we buy their message and their product. The reason advertisers spend millions of dollars on these ads is because they work, and what works for television works for websites—and costs a lot less money.

When a person visits a website for the first time, or is buying a product they’ve never used before, seeing a testimonial from someone who bought the product and liked it is potent incentive for them to continue shopping on your site. Reading what other customers have to say calms their fears about the unknown, allows them to trust buying from you, and generally helps customers to overcome their natural skepticism about buying something they can’t see and feel in person. You can have your potential customer reading all about how great your business is and all the wonderful things you do, but because you’re not saying it yourself and tooting your own horn, it’s much more believable.

Collecting testimonials

Hopefully you’re already collecting testimonials, but if not begin now! There’s no harm in asking some of your recent customers if they would provide some comments for you. Often, satisfied customers will not make effort to provide feedback, but they will if they are asked to.

There are a few easy ways to collect testimonials. One suggestion is to create a special page on your website where you have a feedback form. You can send out a coupon code when a customer's order ships offering them 10% off their next order if they return to your site to provide you with their opinion on your products or services. Note that you’re asking them for their opinion, and not a glowing review of how great your product is and how they can’t live without it now. You want their honest opinion in their own words, even if it’s not 100 percent perfect. If you are willing to listen to the negative reviews, you may be able to improve your products or services.

If you sell products that don’t often get repeat business, send an email follow-up about one week after sending your product. Invite your customer to visit your feedback form. Sending out an unadvertised bonus gift of some sort with a request for replying with their opinion is a great way to create happy customers and get some great testimonials for your site. Surveys are a great way to gauge your customer happiness. Send an email survey to your customer list and again offer a discount or special deal of some sort as an incentive. You can easily create the survey to allow your customers to enter in their thoughts in a text field. See MightyMerchant’s article, "Customer Contact Through Surveys," for more information about creating and sending surveys using Constant Contact. Some products are naturally suited to people sending emails and asking questions before they buy, such as anything custom made, vintage clothes, or items that have several different varieties. When people communicate with you about your products, ask them to let you know their thoughts about the product after they’ve used it for a while.

And certainly, if you receive unsolicited praise, send a reply email asking if you can use it as a testimonial. We have gathered many testimonials for our services that way.

Negative Feedback

You may receive negative feedback at some point, because it is impossible to please everyone all the time. If a customer leaves a negative review on your site or on another product reviews page, take that as an opportunity to contact the customer and fix the problem. That negative review or negative feedback can be turned into a positive PR move by smoothing over whatever bothered them. You can use your site as a forum for responding to the negative comments and demonstrating your customer support. Instead of telling ten friends about your horrible product or service, they’ll tell ten friends about how you sent them a replacement to make them happy. And if the people who buy your products aren’t happy with them for some reason, wouldn’t you like to know why, rather than wonder why no one buys them again?

Using testimonials

Create a special page for some of your testimonials on your site. Call it “Rave Reviews,” “Client Testimonials,” or something like that. If you have testimonials about different products, don’t lump them all together. Create different pages for each product category. Your site can also be set up to pull a different testimonial from a file each time the page reloads, so repeat visitors to your site will see different testimonials. (This is how the our site is set up. Visit the MightyMerchant home page and click refresh to see the testimonial and featured site change.)

And leave the whole quote, in the customer’s own words, rather than just plucking out the part that says, “fantastic product.” It is much more believable and reassuring to read a complete thought that says, “I wasn’t sure if I would like this when I ordered it, but it arrived and was better than I expected. I think this is a fantastic product.”

One thing to keep in mind…always make sure you ask permission before using the testimonials that you’ve collected. Most people will be happy to comply.

Do testimonials really work to drive sales?

Absolutely! Product reviews from “ordinary people” really do make a difference. There are a few things you can do when designing your website to increase consumer confidence and provide trustworthy website content. Being able to offer reviews like this is just one more thing that makes it easy for people to trust you. Combine testimonials with a thorough FAQ (frequently asked questions) page, and you’ve taken a giant step toward building a relationship of trust with your customers.

About MightyMerchant

MightyMerchant specializes in developing e-commerce and database driven, content-rich websites for small business customers across the US. The company as listed as one of Practical eCommerce Magazine’s “Top 100 Notable Shopping Carts” in September/October 2007. Hundreds of site owners use MightyMerchant to manage their online stores. For more information visit www.mightymerchant.com, and for ecommerce knowledge and tools visit the MightyMerchant eCommerce Blog.
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