Testimonials can add to your online presence

Feb 22, 2013
by WLJ

What people say about a product or service can have a big impact on a business’ success.

No matter whether the purchase is large or small, consumer behavior often is directed, if not driven, by what they hear from others about a specific product or about a business. In the world of marketing, customer testimonials—both formal and informal—hold a lot of sway on the behavior of other consumers.

You have probably experienced the impact of customer testimonials at work in your daily life. Are you more likely to go to a new restaurant out of the blue, sight unseen, or go to one someone you know suggested? Conversely, have you stayed away from places others warn you against? When looking for a new source of genetics, are you more likely to buy a bull from a complete stranger, or from someone your trusted neighbor recommended?

Customer testimonials have been used in marketing for years. Whether informal, such as word-of-mouth, or more formalized through print media, online or video, hearing what others say has a tremendous influence on our behavior.

However, customer testimonials are more prevalent today than ever before. Consumers can leave comments on business websites, post them to social media sites of the business, use third-party review sites such as Trip Advisor or Yelp, or simply make a post to their own online social media site. Other, not specifically business-related sites such as Google Maps even include reviews that mapviewers can read.

What comes as a surprise to many business owners is the general acceptance of such posts as legitimate. Whether you know the person making the comment or not, research suggests that well in excess of 50 percent of those seeing the reviews accept the comments as accurate. And nearly onethird of respondents indicated they have been influenced by those comments.

Yet less than 30 percent of businesses include customer testimonials in their online marketing, and even fewer include them in their traditional advertising.

The use of customer testimonials in marketing is perplexing to small-business owners. Common questions include:

• How do you get those testimonials?

• When can you get them?

• Where can you use them?

• What if the person does not offer positive comments?

The answers to these questions are surprisingly simple.

You can get tesimonials simply by asking. You can ask anytime you interact with the client, especially if he or she had a positive experience. Then you use them everywhere: online, in-store, in printed material, in advertising, etc.

Are you a seedstock breeder? Ask your bull-buying customers what they like about your bulls or why they choose you over the competition. Are you a cow/calf operator? Contact your repeat calf buyers about what they like about your calves and how they work for their feeding operation.

Though general conversation is likely the easiest way of getting customer testimonials, there are other options as well. Better yet, ask if they would do a short video. Adding a visual element strengthens the impact of their words. Give them a disposable camera to take pictures or ask them to share their videos and pictures. The key is to make providing a testimonial as easy for the customer as possible.

To effectively use customer testimonials, you want them to be authentic and specific. You also want to have a diverse set. Change them periodically.

It is important that business owners remember one thing, and that is to get written permission to use the testimonial and any pictures.

Some people do not like to see their name “in print” and having that come as a surprise can turn a happy customer into one who feels betrayed or more exposed than they would have liked. Always ask and get permission.

Also ensure the claims are truthful as outlined by the Federal Trade Commission rules and avoid misleading claims. For example, don’t promise “everyone will have the same experience.”

Customer stories or testimonials are a powerful marketing tool, so consider using them when developing your marketing strategy. They can add a valuable dimension to your ranch’s website and advertising. — WLJ