Testimonials are a powerful tool for many small business owners. Marketing Land found that 90% of customers admitted their purchasing decision was influenced by online reviews. You can be great at communicating to your target audience, but few things are more convincing than hearing about a product or service from an experienced customer. It is a concept called social proof. This is why all of the major online sellers and restaurant listings put such a high priority on reviews. When executed correctly, testimonials confirm the new customer’s purchasing decision. By having access to testimonials that address specific issues and concerns, your audience will be able to identify with your past customers.

Where to Use Testimonials

This depends largely on your industry and target market. Think of your sales cycle and what mediums of advertising your audience comes in contact with during that process. Generally, those that perform their business online rather than a storefront (think online retailer, service-based and business-to-business companies) must use a tasteful number of testimonials on their website. Restaurants and attractions should utilize testimonials on social media and major business review sites (Yelp, Trip Advisor, etc.) as well as their website. Think on a detailed level. Yes, it might be a good idea to include testimonials on your home page, but do your users often visit a services or about page before making a purchase? Add a rotating testimonial to the sidebar on those pages. Perhaps as an attraction or service based industry you use pamphlets as part of your sales cycle – those could benefit from a testimonial as well. The key is to use a few testimonials. Choose ones that outline specific issues that your audience often deals with and that sound authentic.

Google reviews should be utilized by any business looking to improve its local SEO. Google has released that its current strategy

How to Prompt Testimonials

Every business will need to utilize different questions to prompt their past customers to provide specific and helpful information. Testimonials that are too generic such as; “Company XYZ was great. I highly recommend working with them,” aren’t as effective as those that include details about the customer’s experience. I suggest following the basic format of: problem, experience, and solution. Ask your past customers to explain their problem or the reason they sought out the services/products you offer. Next, they should describe their experience with your company/product. Most importantly, ask past customers to describe the solution you provided to their problem. This is also a good time to find out how the client heard about your business and if they would make any suggestions about how your product or service could be better. Be sure you get their written permission to use their answers in your promotional items.

Here is an example:

  1. First and last name
  2. How did you hear about [insert business name]?
  3. What were you in need of when you sought out the services [insert business name]?
    Was there a specific problem that needed to be solved?
  4. Please describe your experience with [insert business name]?
  5. Would you use [insert business name] and/or recommend it to others?
  6. What improvements do you feel could be made to [insert business name]?
  7. Do I have your permission to use your answers in my promotional materials?


Collecting Testimonials

There are several different ways to collect testimonials from your customers, but one rules remains true for all of them; simplicity. Make it insanely easy for your customers to provide feedback. Choose an option that fits best for the size of your business, the number of customers/clients you assist and where your perform business.

    1. Hand the customer a card with their receipt. This can be filled out in-store and collected. Include a url at the bottom so that customers can respond at their leisure. If you need to collect reviews on a specific platform (ie yelp, facebook) be sure to direct customers there.
    2. Do you have a product that needs reviewed after some time has passed from the purchase? Collect the customer’s email at check out and send them a digital form to fill out after the appropriate time has passed.
    3. If you send invoices, include a link to your online form with your invoice.
    4. A link to online review sites or your online testimonial collecting form is an easy addition to the bottom of your email newsletter.

Include their name, title/company (if relevant to your product/service) and a headshot whenever possible. Whether you use paper or digital methods to collect your testimonials, brand them to match your business.
If you don’t have web development experience nor the funds to hire someone to develop a testimonial form on your existing website, I suggest using GoogleForms


Handling Bad Reviews

The risk that concerns most small business owners is receiving a negative review on a site like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, etc. There are several steps you can take to keep a bad review from negatively impacting your sales.

  1. Respond to the review promptly. Make sure you give yourself enough time to cool down but try to respond within a day.
  2. Identify the true issue. If untimely service was pointed out in the review, be sure to address those employees responsible. Get to the root of the problem and address it. If the review was too generic to identify the issue, ask the reviewer to contact you at their earliest convenience as you value and opportunity to address the problem and prevent it from happening in the future.
  3. Insert a positive aspect about your company. Use the following script: “[Insert Company Name] takes pride in [quality related to customer’s complaint]. We are extremely sorry that is not the experience you had. Thank you for making us aware…” Try to incorporate a strength such as years you’ve been providing service, relevant awards or ratings you have received, etc.
  4. Do not get into an argument. Respond to the review but do not allow the discussion to turn into an ongoing battle. If the reviewer would like to continue the conversation, politely request the option to contact them personally so you can resolve the issue. Viewers will see this as your company going above and beyond in providing quality service/products.