Nearly every company – from very big ones to the smallest neighborhood vendor – can benefit from good testimonials. Testimonials have been used in advertising for more than a hundred years as they are a simple way to inspire confidence in a potential customer. A testimonial acts as a third-party endorsement of your product or service. They can be even more valuable than advertising.
In 2002, two authors named Jack Trout and Al Ries published a book that described a major shift in the way people perceive advertising. In the book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, the authors explained that the environment had become so cluttered with advertising messages that the public largely tuned them out. As a result of this glut of ads, in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer arenas, buyers began to trust third-party endorsements more than ads. A feature or even a positive review in PC Magazine began to mean more than a full-page ad by Microsoft as it was seen as an impartial endorsement. Quickly, the game became getting editorial attention and reviews for products and services.
Currently, online reviews provide a ready source of testimonials that can benefit just about any business. Google, Yahoo, Angie’s List, Yelp, Yellowpages.com, TripAdvisor.com, Citysearch.com – the number of sites that accept customer reviews keeps increasing. Even feedback on Amazon and eBay constitute third-party endorsements. There are also special sites that accept doctor, dentist and other professional reviews.
Posting testimonials in your office or place of business where other visitors can see them is a good thing – but getting online reviews is even better. Encourage your customers to provide online reviews if they like the service or the products you have provided. You can also remind them to check in via Facebook when they arrive and comment on your service when they leave.
For a business like a hair salon, restaurant or even a tire store, you could give your customers a brightly colored slip that reminds them that a positive review would be appreciated. Just hand it out with the receipt. While you can suggest some sites where a review would be valuable – Angie’s List is highly regarded by many consumers – you should not mount a vigorous campaign to generate reviews. Some sites may step in and remove a flurry of positive reviews that appear to have resulted from an aggressive campaign by a business.