I’ve written about this topic for a couple different outlets. The latest incarnation ran this week at the Thesis Theme blog (with thanks to Derek Halpern and Chris Pearson). The concept has become a mini-passion of mine, mostly because it’s incredibly powerful and incredibly underutilized.
Our companies have garnered real, measurable return because of customer testimonials and a coherent, attractive showcasing of positive feedback. Prospective consumers crave credibility and authority — they’re also in search of peers who not only understand their problem but who have also found a worthwhile solution.
Enter your deliriously thankful consumers.
Create a Testimonials page
Gather all the praise-laden emails, weepy handwritten letters and notes of thanks you’ve received unsolicited from genuinely satisfied customers. Drop a bug on your site or interact directly with consumers to seek feedback, both positive and negative (study the hell out of the negative, but don’t, um, make a prominent and public home for it on your site). Hire a designer or use your in-house experts to build a customer testimonials page.
Here’s the one for our mortgage company. Notice the real names. The locations. The photos (and video). They’re each building blocks of credibility, helping assure readers and prospective borrowers that we’re not just conjuring these folks from thin air. As I noted in the Thesis piece, consumers see themselves in the faces and fears of these satisfied customers. You can’t buy that kind of authority and trust.
Consider Longer Pieces
Some companies have expanded the concept beyond the realm of snippets and blurbs. More in-depth customer profiles can prove incredibly powerful for prospective consumers. There are a few challenges with this method, as it’s a bit more involved than just sitting back and watching positive feedback roll in:
- First, you’ve got to identify existing consumers who are willing to share their story and their identity
- Second, you’ve got to ensure that the story is worth conveying
- Third, you’ve got to make time (or pay someone) to interview the consumer and then tell their story in a compelling, unobtrusive fashion
The key here is to let the subject’s story unfold naturally. Provide general themes and problems that scores of consumers might face. Instead of writing a glowing account of your product or services, focus on the consumer and his or her own unique circumstances. Allow the subject to talk about how your company provided the perfect solution. Stay out of the way as much as possible.
Allsup, the nation’s leading Social Security Disability Insurance representation company, does an exemplary job of this (and not just because I write some of their profiles, in the spirit of full disclosure).
You don’t need to write 1,500-word stories, mostly because no one will read them. Aim for the 500-word mark as a good initial benchmark.
Look into Additional Domains
There’s no such thing as too much positive consumer feedback. Don’t cram your testimonials page with hundreds of consumer voices. Pick and choose the best ones (maybe those with video or that include high-value keywords if you’re dropping links) and display those cleanly and prominently with a crisp design. Then see if you can obtain a separate domain to house your leftovers. It’s an excellent, proactive measure in the never-ending battle of online reputation management.
For example, consumers will no doubt search your business name in conjunction with words like “reviews” and “scam.” At the same time, Google Suggest is throwing out all manner of automated suggestions, including some that might put your company in a negative light. Having a domain that incorporates your company and those kinds of words can help battle negative reviews and online complaints. We recognized this reality and built a separate site to solicit feedback and showcase VA loan reviews of our company.
The bottom line is this: Positive feedback and praise from consumers is inherently — and incredibly — valuable. Find a way to use it to boost your credibility and authority. And if you’re not actively soliciting feedback via your site, your employees and your social media channels, you should be. Now.