How to Make the Most of Customer Reviews

It’s time to stop worrying about the perfect Instagram feed and focus on maximizing customer reviews instead – because even if you have a curated collection of pictures, you are going to need to prove your business is worth your customers’ time.

The restaurant scene is a perfect example of this that almost everyone has experienced – but with the rise of service providers entering the scene in the last several years, this now extends well beyond restaurants and into many different industries. Recently, my family was traveling to a new city we had never vacationed in before. After a full morning of museums and sightseeing, we were on the hunt for a lunch option within walking distance so we wouldn’t have to give up our prized parking spot. We walked into the nearest restaurant, and I immediately gave my husband a sideways glance as the hostess seated us. There were only two other people in the entire restaurant! I immediately thought that there must be a good reason for it. The food and service were likely to be terrible! There was no proof that the restaurant would provide us with a desirable experience.

On the other hand, I have heard everyone rave about the new donut shop in our town. Driving by on the weekend at least two months after their grand opening, I saw a line out the door and extending down the block. Of course, this place must have amazing donuts; look at all the people who were dying to get in!

If you are in a field where satisfied customers are a little less evident than a crowded restaurant – such as consulting, financial or legal services, or even lawn care, your customers are likely looking online for social proof. The annual Local Consumer Review Survey conducted by Brightlocal showed that 87% of consumers read online reviews for local businesses in 2020, an 81% increase from 2019 (source). Blame Covid-19 or the rise of digital resources at our fingertips, but either way, as a service provider, you should be considering how customer reviews can make you stand out in the market.

Why Are Customer Reviews Effective?

Build trust.

With so many new businesses popping up and a myriad of communication channels at our fingertips, it is easy to understand why we hold more value in what others say when reviewing a business than just it’s own messaging alone. A recent study by Wyzowl revealed that “9 out of 10 people say they trust what a customer says about a business more than what that business says about itself” (source). Testimonials show that you have a solid track record. By bringing in another perspective, the tone of testimonials is different from your own sales copy, which helps to establish trust. 

Increase SEO.

Using testimonials on your site creates more opportunities for content packed with keywords. More content with rich words helps search engines like Google confirm that your website is about a specific topic or service. Additionally, if your past customers post their reviews directly to Google instead of just sending them to you in an email, you are increasing your chances of ranking hire in search results. Google favors businesses with higher volumes of quality reviews as their goal is to provide searchers with the best experience in finding what they are looking for. 

How to Collect Testimonials?

Incorporate testimonial collection into your client process.

We are big on workflows and processes around here. It helps us make sure we aren’t letting anything slip through the cracks. I recommend adding a step to your workflow for collecting testimonials. This can be automated or done manually depending on your preference, volume of clients, and type of service provided. A CPA may choose to add a reminder on the calendar after filings are due to send out emails to their client list asking for their reviews. A bookkeeper providing ongoing services may prefer to use their CRM software to automatically send out a customer review request after three months of working together.

If you choose to go the manual route, I’ve recorded a quick tutorial on utilizing templates (or canned emails) in Gmail to save you time. Watch it here:

Ask the right questions.

The best testimonials are specific, address concerns and the results. Your customers are busy and may not have the time or experience to formulate such a thoughtful review – there is no problem with providing them with a few questions to get started.

Don’t ask yes or no questions. Instead, give them a prompt. Here are a few ideas:

  • Why did you choose our [insert service you provide]?
  • What was your life or business like before hiring us for [insert service]?
  • What results did you experience after [insert service]?
  • Is there advice you would share with others who are contemplating investing in this service?

These are just a few ideas, but you can absolutely customize them to fit your business and needs. For example, I have sent out an email to past clients asking for their review that looked something like this:

Client Name,

I hope you are doing well! Thank you again for allowing us to collaborate with you on ___________. I would love to work with other business owners just like you, so I wondered if you could take a minute or two to provide a testimonial that I could feature on my website and in my marketing materials?

If you feel you could address any of these common questions or hesitations small business owners have when it comes to investing in their _____________, I would be so grateful. 

  1. List a common concern or hesitation of potential customers here.
  2. List another concern here.
  3. Are there questions your potential customers frequently ask? List it here. 

Simply reply to this email with your review. Don’t hesitate to let me know if you have any questions. Thank you!

Consider visuals.

Of course, I will tell you that visuals are powerful – the numbers don’t lie! CodeFuel’s study showed that 70% of marketing professionals report that video converts better than any other medium. You might want to consider asking your past clients to record a 1-minute video detailing their answers to some of the questions listed above. Tools like Loom or Boast.io make this a breeze. If video isn’t a good fit for your past customers, don’t hesitate to ask them if you can include their headshot as part of the review on your website – it helps your audience know that the testimonials are authentic!

How to Maximize Your Customer Reviews?

Sharing a little tough love with you here… there is a chance you wasting some perfectly good and helpful testimonials. Having designed websites for the past 7+ years, I have come across many small business sites that copy and paste all of their testimonials on a single page on their website titled “testimonials.” If this is something you have done on your site, I recommend looking at the analytics for that page. More often than not, your site visitors are not clicking on that page of your site. The testimonials are completely overlooked. From the stats I have reviewed, if users visit this page, they quickly click away as a long page of text overwhelms them.

Tip 1: Use customer reviews strategically throughout your site.

If you are a service provider offering different services, packages, or tiers, I recommend placing a few relevant testimonials on each page of your site that describes that service. For example, the page on my website that details our website design services includes a few testimonials from past website design clients. They are speaking to specific concerns, questions, or interests my potential customers have.

Tip 2: Link to another review platform.

A Nielson Company study showed that “two-thirds trust consumer opinions posted online—the third-most trusted format.” Instead of placing all of your testimonials on a single page on your site, I recommend linking to another platform that shows reviews, such as Google or Yelp. This way, you build trust by showing all of your reviews and preventing your visitors from suspecting that you have removed negative feedback. You can see an example of this at the bottom of our website, where we link to Client Reviews which opens our reviews on Google. If you aren’t familiar with Google My Business, I recommend you check out this post.

Tip 3: Use your customer reviews in case studies or proposals.

Customer reviews should be used in places that are part of your sales process – beyond your website. If you share case studies or custom proposals with your leads, I recommend strategically placing relevant testimonials on these documents in the same way you put them on the services pages of your website.

Tip 4: Use your customer reviews on social media.

Testimonials make a great social media post! If you find yourself running out of content ideas, share a recent review! This can be as simple as taking a screenshot of the review in your inbox or on Google, or you can add the text to on-brand graphics made in a design software.

Final Thoughts

  • Make customer review collection a part of your workflow, so you don’t forget to ask your past customers.
  • Use videos or headshots whenever possible.
  • Ask prompting questions that encourage your past customer to address common concerns or hesitations your audience has regarding your industry or service.
  • Include testimonials throughout your site/marketing materials and place them strategically based on the content around them.
  • Always ask permission from the creator to use a testimonial on your website or in your marketing materials.

Testimonials are FREE and often overlooked by businesses when it comes to their marketing and conversion rates. Make customer reviews a strategic part of your website and maximize them throughout your marketing materials.

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