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Using testimonials: get new customers with the help of your existing ones

Have you ever seen a website, service or app with countless positive reviews and testimonials and thought ‘wow - these guys must be good’?

Showing the right testimonials presented in the right way on your website can have a huge influence.

Reviews and testimonials are a great way to get potential clients to start a conversation. MinuteDock is one of the highest rated products in the Xero Add-on Directory, and our hundreds of five star reviews are constantly mentioned as a reason new leads considered us.

The good news is that this isn’t just for apps and software; you can use short reviews and testimonials to drive new business regardless of your industry. Showing the right reviews presented in the right way on your website can have a huge influence. Couple that with the fact that customers are now savvy enough to look for reviews on Google and around the internet as they research your company.

So what is it about our brains that makes reviews so powerful, how do you get more, and what do you do with them once you’ve got them?

How reviews work their magic

On the surface, it may seem obvious - customer see, customer do, right? True, but it is interesting to look further into what exactly it is that people reading your reviews experience which makes them take that next step. First, we need to step back and consider why people read your reviews or testimonials in the first place.

Are you trustworthy?

Customers don’t want to be the first to use your business (unless they are one of those amazing ‘early adopters’!) They’ll want to see that there are other people using your offering, and seeing that is a key part of the decision making process for a majority of buyers. There’s an old saying in the IT Industry - “No-one ever got fired for buying IBM”!

When people read reviews, they are looking for themselves with a happy outcome.

They are looking for people who are similar to them that have positive things to say about your business. They want to imagine their future successful selves, and you’re helping them do it!

Some of this is conscious, and some unconscious. Take advantage of this! Make sure you clearly present the aspects of your reviews that would a customer would relate to. What makes them see themselves in the review? For example, the industry & business size of the customer, their location, and even age can all be powerful aspects of your review depending on what you’re selling, and more importantly, who you’re selling to.

Statements accompanied by a photograph of someone were more likely to be believed.

Humans react to faces

Research published by the Psychonomic Bulletin & Review in 2012 showed that statements accompanied by a photograph of someone were more likely to be believed, regardless of whether or not the photograph was relevant. Photos of people give your customers the confidence to treat the review as ‘real’. This is especially important as people become more and more skeptical due to the prevalence of fake testimonials used by some businesses. Get a (good) photograph when you get a review!

This is all just scratching the surface of behavioural psychology. If you’re interested in this kind of topic, check out books like Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini, Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey Moore, Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely, as well as any of the wonderful books by Malcolm Gladwell.

How to ask for testimonials

Now that we know how and why testimonials work - let’s take a look at how to get them.

The first big mistake most business make is that they assume reviews & testimonials will ‘just happen’. Some customers will be so happy that they will offer up an unsolicited testimonial. But for the majority it’s unlikely that writing a review for you is going to be on the top of their To-Do list. The secret is really simple.

You have to actually ask your customers for reviews Usually, the best way to do that is to send them an email. Make this part of your process - look to get a review from everyone that would have something positive to say. If it’s for your website, they can just respond to your email directly.

Better yet, ask them to submit a review on a specific portal or website such as Google or a relevant industry directory (for MinuteDock, it’s the Xero Add-on Directory). You can even use reviews submitted on third party websites on your own site - so you get two for one! Just remember to ask for that picture too.

Qualify your customers before asking for a reivew

Only ask customers that you know are happy

Of course the last thing you want to do is ask an unhappy customer for a review and give them the directions on how to publicly berate your business! Which brings us to the next trick: qualify your customers before asking for a review. Ask your happy customers to review you straight away, and try to solve the problems for unhappy ones before you ask.

At MinuteDock, we ask for reviews from people who have either had a good experience with our customer support, or who have rated us highly on a Net Promoter Score survey we run every few months. Thankfully for us, this is the vast majority of our customers! For customers that are unhappy, we do our best to solve any issues and if necessary, even go out of our way to help them migrate to a product that better suits their needs - making sure their last experience with us is a great one.

"A happy customer will tell one person, an unhappy customer will tell seven."

Do your best to handle any negative reviews

You’re going to get angry customers and as much as you might hope against it, it’s inevitable: not everyone will love you.

If this does happen, try and resolve their problems and go out of your way to be helpful toward them - and do that publicly if the review is public. At worst, this will show other people that you’re responsive to feedback and attempting to solve the problem, and at best the negative reviewer may even change or remove their review. As the established wisdom says, a happy customer will tell one person, an unhappy customer will tell seven - so don’t forget to handle the negative reviews too.

Happy customers will often give you word of mouth referrals to friends and colleagues. One great benefit of directly asking customers for reviews is that you help those customers define for themselves exactly what it is they love about your business, right down to the key phrases. This makes it much easier for them to explain why you’re so great to their friends - they’ve already written it down!

What to do with testimonials once you’ve got them

Now that the reviews are rushing in from your happy customers, the next thing to consider is how to get the most benefit out of them.

  1. Get them onto your website and print marketing material
    Your reviews on third party directories will already be giving you a useful SEO benefit and audience. Make sure you grab those reviews and copy them for use on your own website and marketing material as well.

    When placing reviews on your website, it’s important to consider the psychology again. You’ll want to make sure that you’re showing reviews that your website’s audience is going to relate to. Keep in mind is that there may be a different audience on different parts of your website (perhaps freelancers are more interested in your basic packages, but larger business are needing more complex services). You can use that context to present reviews that are likely to be more relatable in that specific section. Always try to match the reviews you show with the current audience. This applies to all of your marketing - emails, flyers, and Information PDFs too!

  2. You can also have an entire webpage specifically for reviews
    Putting lots or all of your reviews in a single place shows off the volume of happy customers you have. This works great for us with our Xero Add-on Directory reviews. There is no such thing as too many!

  3. Show the world with social media
    You should also use these reviews on Social Media. Tweet, post to Facebook or LinkedIn, and even include them in online ads. Reinforcing your advertising message with a relevant, real success story is extremely powerful.

  4. Consider exploring the best testimonials further
    As a next step, you can use reviews to discover which customers would be great candidates for a full case study. You can tell from short reviews which customers are going to have interesting stories and lots to say - so your process of finding reviews can act as a funnel for more in-depth customer stories.

Putting it together

Letting your customers see examples of their future success engaging with your business is a great way to convert them - and all you need to do is ask your existing happy customers to help! Once you’ve got some testimonials they can be an invaluable resource for your website, your advertising, your Twitter page… just be sure to present them properly.

Go forth and use your powerful new customer reviews wisely!