Are you harnessing the value of online reviews and testimonials in your marketing?
According to Inc., “Research shows that 91 percent of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. And they make that decision quickly: 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews.” With that information, you should be proactive in using testimonials as effective lead generators in your marketing plan. Of course to do that you need to ask for the testimonials! Make sure that asking past and present clients, vendors and other partners for a testimonial becomes an automatic part of your business and marketing plan.
Start with the foundation
Following are some suggestions to incorporate as an automatic part of how you do business even before requesting testimonials to ensure that those testimonials are as effective as possible.
- Expand the request for testimonials beyond just your clients. Usually you will have developed a positive relationship with those industry partners you work with on a regular basis. Asking them for reviews or testimonials (and offering to do the same for them) is a great way to strengthen your reputation and identify you as “the” designer with whom to work.
- Be sure to build client rapport. You may think this is automatic, but just because they have worked with you does not mean that you have “connected” with them in such a way that they truly understand the culture of your business. You want them to understand why you are so focused on customer service and satisfaction and how involved your entire team (including the vendors you use) is in reaching that goal.
- Improve the experience of the client. If you are focused on improving the client experience, don’t forget to get feedback from them throughout the process and capture their positive stories. This interaction offers opportunities to ask for testimonials. Surprisingly many businesses never even ask for a testimonial and sadly negative reviews are more likely “volunteered” than positive unless someone is actually asked.
What to ask to get outstanding testimonials and feedback
- Make the process as simple as possible for people to leave feedback.
- The process might be using a form they can fill out with specific questions that are easily answered. Definitely avoid questions that are yes/no. Share up front how long it will take them to fill it out – and keep it short! Five or ten minutes will get a much better rate of response than a form that takes an hour!
- Send a feedback form with a text box for feedback.
- Send the link to your Google My Business account.
- Prepare a testimonial for your client using things they said or shared with you throughout the design process. Then, send it to your client for them to review and, if they are happy with the testimonial, ask if they would post it to your preferred review site.
- People like stories. So let the testimonials tell a story – a “before and after” in words. How they felt before working with you and then how they felt once the project was complete. What was the most positive part of the project for them? What surprised them? What pain points were resolved?
- Remember that interior designers are problem solvers. Use testimonials that showcase the problem that brought the client to you and how you solved it and gave them a positive result.
- Let them know during the client onboarding that you will be asking for feedback during the project as well as at the end and ask if they are open to sharing feedback with you. Always ask for their permission to use their words and their names and tell them how and where they will be used. Be aware that sometimes clients may prefer you use their first name with only their last initial.
Where should you use testimonials?
First, ask yourself where your ideal clients would be looking for reviews. It may not be Houzz or Yelp, but rather they may check Google as well as ask their friends and associates. Focus on where you will attract those ideal clients. Because many people begin their search on Google, setting up a Google My Business Account would be a good idea. Keep in mind, though, that you need to regularly update it and be sure that it effectively highlights what is unique about your business – what makes you stand out from others in your field.
Definitely post testimonials on your website, and pull one or two that are truly outstanding and incorporate them into your marketing materials. Think about rotating them on your website periodically rather than putting too many up at once. Keep them updated and current. You want to be sure they are fresh and relate to the status of your current work and design firm – rather than referring to something you no longer offer.
Use the questionnaire feature in your CRM so you can trigger a thank you email once they do hit submit! You also might want to offer a thank you gift for completing the testimonial –an eBook you have created, a list of some of your favorite local vendors, a list of some favorite holiday decorating ideas, unusual gift ideas, summer entertaining ideas, etc. Think of what would appeal to your ideal client or vendor to encourage them to complete a testimonial.
One final tip about seeking testimonials is to follow the advice of Walt Disney: “Do what you do so well, that people can’t resist telling others about you.”