Here’s a weird thing. How come there are so few sites that use testimonials?
In the print world, testimonials have been used for decades. They provide a great way to add credibility to your promotional message.
“Hey, don’t just take our word for it – listen to what our customers are saying!”
“You don’t trust us? Then trust our customers. Folks like you.”
Here’s the mystery. Creating trust online is a big, big thing. So why don’t we see more sites using testimonials?
To be fair, the Net has taken the concept of testimonials and evolved it in a few interesting ways. Deja.com, Epinions.com and Productopia.com are all places you can go to find ‘peer-reviews’ of sites, products and services.
But that’s not quite the same thing.
And Amazon.com does invite reader reviews.
But that’s not quite what I have in mind, either.
So let’s see how we can put testimonials to work for us at the imaginary nicksGifts.com, a small online gift store.
Well, the first thing is to encourage customer feedback. If you want to publish customer comments, you need to receive some first.
So here’s what we’ll do at nicksGifts.com.
- I’ll build a form that gives people the opportunity to rate all of our products and services as being Poor, Satisfactory or Good. Just three choices to keep things simple.
- I’ll also add a field in which people can type up to 30 words in comments.
- This ‘Tell Us What You Think!’ form will be accessible at all times.
- The results of this feedback will be shown whenever you make a purchase. Want to know what other people think of our nicksGifts.com Santa Teddy Bear? Click on the bear, and you’ll see the complete item description, plus a brief ‘Here’s What People Tell Us!’ summary. The bear will be rated as Poor, Satisfactory or Good. Plus I’ll show a couple of customer comments.
What if I get lots of horrible comments about the bear? Should I publish them all? Nope. I’ll just withdraw the bear from my product line. If my customers don’t like it, why bust my buns trying to sell it?
- I’ll publish my own replies to some of the comments. If someone says that they saw the same bear elsewhere for $10 less, I can add a comment of my own. “Thanks for the heads-up! I’ll look into this and see if we can match the price!”
We’ve got five things happening here.
First, I’m adding credibility to my site by publishing customer comments. New customers are more likely to trust their fellow shoppers than me.
Second, I’m getting invaluable information about what my customers like and dislike. Now I can start stocking my store with items that will really sell.
Third, I’m getting a heads-up on customer dissatisfaction. If someone sends in a comment saying the bear’s arms fell off on the first day, you can be sure I’ll be all over that customer like bees on honey. I’ll replace the bear, give back the money, give her a gift certificate – whatever I have to do in order to turn that unhappy customer into a lifelong advocate.
Four, I’m building a sense of community. People will likely come back to the site to see if their comments have been published. If they find their comments on the site, they’ll perhaps tell a few friends about it. (Using our ‘Tell A Friend’ feature, of course.)
Five, I’m going to become a much smarter online marketer and businessperson – because I’ll always be listening to my customers.
- Final thing to do – create a critical mass of customer activity to make this whole thing take off.
How about a weekly competition with a $500 prize? Once a week, I’ll award a $500 Gift Certificate for the customer comment that is most valuable in improving the nicksGifts.com shopping experience.
This whole model will work best for the small business site, because the real benefit is derived from the site owner being able to participate. That individual needs to be reading the comments and replying when necessary. Every day. And if you have employees – get them to handle a few replies as well.
Marketing online is about working the network. This is one way in which you can do that and build yourself a much smarter, longer-lasting online business.