When was the last time you bought something without any recommendation, without doing any research? Or went to a play or restaurant without reading a review? Is there anything that doesn’t have two or three testimonials behind it these days?
I think we’re in a world where every product or service has reviews written about it somewhere on the internet. They may be good, bad or indifferent. We’ve all seen dreadful TripAdvisor reviews, and some quite stinging responses from some owners.
All this talk about what you do might well be existing on other people’s sites. Which means searching for your brand might turn up results on somewhere other than your own site. It might turn up on Amazon, or Tripadvisor, or just Facebook. Places where you can respond, but not proactively manage. But if you’re not asking your customers to tell you what they think, to give them the opportunity, then where else can they share what they love about what you do?
And even if they don’t love what you do, you should want to hear that too.
So, why ask customers yourself for testimonials?
If you ask, then you own. It’s really that simple. You own the question, you own the responses, and you own what you do with the responses. It also allows you to talk to your customers about what they are saying, the good and the less good.
You also get to ask the questions, in your own way. It should be in a way that is just a continuation of the story you tell every day whenever you’re talking to customers. Think of it as another chapter in your story. Your testimonials build your story.
How do you ask?
Ask whatever you like, but ask it in a way that feels like it’s just part of your conversation. This is not the point to go stiff, formal and impersonal. You do not want to make this sound like something you would get from your bank.
Start by thinking about what you want to hear from customers, and how you might like to use the testimonials. If you start with the end in mind, then you can think about the right question, and the right way to ask it. Then the how you ask is so much easier.
And don’t call them testimonials. Unless that word crops up elsewhere in your business communications.
What do you want them to say?
If you’re thinking about what you want to hear back from your customers, then you should put yourself in a potential new customer’s shoes. What do they need to hear in order to overcome any doubts in their minds? What will make them excited about what your product can do for them?
If you know what the sort of objections or concerns people have ahead of buying into what you offer, from price to how it’s created or where it comes from, then you can angle your questions to focus on those areas. By taking a more strategic view, then you can think about the right question for the right results.
When should you ask?
There’s no hard and fast rules on when. I would say while they’re still excited about what you do and still remember you is the perfect time. Don’t ask the minute a parcel has been delivered, give them time to experience all of what you do.
Of course, if you make how you deliver the product something special then you could ask different kind sof questions. If you’re going to put the effort into the delivery experience, then you probably want to check that it’s having the desired impact.
My view would be if it’s important for you to have spent time working on, then it’s important to ask customers about it.
What to do with it
Be creative! If you’re going to spend time asking, then make sure you that a) you use the stuff you gather and b) use it in different ways. It might be anonymous stuff, or you can celebrate the customer and what they’ve said. I see this a lot in business to business marketing (I like this page from Shopify) but there’s nothing to really stop you doing something inspired by this when you’re a consumer goods company.
Of course, make sure you’ve understood all the legal requirements on using customer names and details, but then you can really find a way to make it fascinating. Most of us are “curious” (or nosey, if you’re less polite) so reading what others think has a fascination, if you do it in the right way.
What to do with the negative stuff
You can’t make everyone happy. If you’re doing you, then you definitely won’t, and that’s ok. You don’t want everyone in your tribe, but you want to make everyone who does want to be in the tribe happy.
That doesn’t mean you have to hide what people are saying about you that is less than positive. In fact your most loyal customers will possibly leap to your defence. By trying not to hide, by showing all the elements of what you do, then you can actually reinforce the reasons they chose you, and why they should perhaps continue to choose you.
Just remember, you might pick and choose what you feature on your own sites and channels. But you can’t hide from the negative stuff. It’ll be being said somewhere. Best to tackle it head on.
Ask your customers, in the right way and tell their stories to tell yours. How do you ask your customers currently?