BY JULIE A. PALM
Customer testimonials are one of the most effective marketing tools.
Here’s how to solicit them from satisfied shoppers at the end of a sale:
Happy customers can do more to drive business than the cleverest ad campaign because, as consumers, we trust the recommendations not only of friends and family but trustworthy-seeming strangers, too. In a 2012 survey, New York-based research firm Nielsen found 92% of consumers trusted “recommendations from people I know” and 70% trusted “consumer opinions posted online”—far more than had faith in paid ads.
But you can’t just sit back and hope that shoppers write good reviews of your store on Google or tell their sister about their great new bed. You need to actively solicit customers for feedback and you need to have a regular, systematic way of seeking them. Here are some ideas for doing so:
Reach out quickly.
The most obvious place to start is by following up with customers who still have their shopping experience and new mattress top of mind. Have retail sales associates or managers make phone calls or send emails to customers a day or two after delivery. If they’re happy, you can ask them to share their comments. And if they’re unhappy, you can fix the problem then and there. Gardner’s Mattress & More in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, effectively asks for feedback right away, using a form it leaves when the bed set is delivered. (See story on page 37.)
And then reach out later.
Writing for the Content Marketing Institute in June 2017, digital marketing expert Sujan Patel suggests sending a follow-up email to customers who didn’t respond to your first inquiry. He also recommends reaching out again even to those who gave you a testimonial at the start. A couple of months after they’ve purchased their bed, they may have something new they’re willing to share.
Make the process easy and comfortable.
Even satisfied customers may decline to provide a testimonial because they don’t know what to say, so it’s best not to ask, “Hey, can you give us a testimonial?” Rather, pose a few “product- or service-specific questions that guide your customers toward writing testimonials that aren’t just complimentary but informative and inspirational, as well,” Patel says.
Ask to use their photo.
“Hearing from another customer goes a long way, but seeing a real person alleviates the nagging feeling that the high praise they’re reading is falsified or exaggerated,” writes Gregory Ciotti in the HelpScout.com August 2016 blog post “How to Make the Most of Your Customer Testimonials.”
Create a video star.
Some customers are especially outgoing or have an extraordinary testimonial and, in those cases, you may want to ask them to record their comments on their smartphone. “Once upon a time, video testimonials were reserved for companies with six-figure marketing budgets,” writes Sam Thomas Davies, content marketing manager at marketing firm Sleeknote, in an April 2017 blog post. “Today, however, anyone with a smartphone can record a video anywhere, anytime, and capture their thoughts on their favorite brand.”