Before the days of the Internet, businesses relied on word-of-mouth among their satisfied customers to keep their client base growing and strong. Operating in the same communities where their customers lived and worked, local businesses were in a prime position to understand the needs of their target audience and to develop long-term relationships with them, free from too much competition. That atmosphere provided the ideal opportunity for word-of-mouth advertising.
But when the Internet came along, all that changed. The marketplace was suddenly much larger, and face-to-face interactions were far less common. The Internet changed the business landscape including the level of competition, yet one thing has remained the same: Personal recommendations still hold tremendous influence in helping business attract new customers and build strong, long-lasting relationships with existing customers. That’s because recommendations from friends, relatives and coworkers already have the trust factor built in, and that makes potential customers feel more confident in selecting your business.
Online, personal recommendations generally come in two varieties: Testimonials on your website or 3rd party sites like Google+ or Yelp and comments on social networking sites. Here are some tips to make the most of both:
Asking for testimonials
If you have long-term, loyal customers, testimonials from them can be like marketing gold. Let them know in an email or note that you’re asking a few loyal customers for recommendations to post on your site, and you’d love to hear from them.
Let them know the tone should be conversational and explain exactly what you’re looking for, ideally providing an example. It can also be helpful to provide a deadline. To avoid appearing pushy, explain that you’re updating your site to include testimonials within the next couple of weeks and you’d love to have their content to include on your new testimonials space.
You can even prepare a customer review form to make it easier for people to write a review. Check out the form that Angies List uses to encourage reviews and to grade their quality of work.
The wonderful world of comments
When it comes to comments, there are two things your business needs to be concerned about: How to generate positive comments and how to respond to negative ones.
To generate positive comments, you can ask customers to share specific experiences they’ve had, either directly on your social site or by emailing them to you to post in the future. You can short-circuit potentially negative comments by keeping your requests specific, like “Tell us about your favorite feature of our product in the comments section below.”
When it comes to handling negative comments, ideally your business will have a standardized social media policy that clearly spells out what verbiage to use to avoid misstatements. The most important thing to remember is not to become upset or resort to angry or defensive language. Recognize the customer’s frustration and provide a solution, perhaps by directing them to your company’s email or phone number so the conversation continues outside of the social media space.
For both positive and negative comments, the most important thing to remember is to be responsive so customers feel valued and as though their thoughts have been heard.
In the relatively anonymous world of the Internet, today’s “word-of-mouth” advertising may be more like “click-of-mouse” advertising, but whatever you call it, the results are the same: Increased trust, increased customer loyalty and increased revenues for your business. Take steps today to make sure you’re doing all you can do to take advantage of this highly effective type of marketing.