Screen Shot 2014-09-27 at 1.08.52 PMGetting customers to provide testimonials of your business can be tough. It requires their time, thought, knowledge of technology and motivation, yet many company’s are losing the ratings war in their category before they even get started. Don’t let your company be one of them!

Let’s first understand why this organic (free) strategy is a critical element to your business growth strategy.

Testimonials are super powerful for your business because they provide the #1 piece of evidence that others need in order to make a purchasing decision.  This critical evidence is what we call in marketing, “Social proof”, and this serves as the psychological tipping point in a purchasing decision.

There are directory websites that curate ratings & reviews about your business. That’s right, people are talking about your business online. Sites like Yelp, Trip Advisor and Google+ are popular directories and when a prospect lands on these sites they’re looking for one thing: Stars… lots and lots of stars (5, to be exact).

Social proof online is just like social proof in the physical form. Example:

Imagine that you’re walking down a street in a city that you’ve never been to before, and you’re looking for a place to eat. You walk past a restaurant and look in the window and notice that there are only a couple of tables occupied, and the waiters are standing together in the back talking. On a subconscious level we’re thinking, “Hmmm, if this restaurant was good, people would be here.”

Just as you’re having this thought you hear laughter and music from further down the street. You look up to see that people are milling about with a glass of wine in their hands, they’re clearly with people they’re enjoying and they’re standing outside a restaurant… waiting to get in. Now, what does this tell you?

It tells you that this restaurant where people are willing to wait is better than the restaurant that has open seats. They both serve food, but that’s not the point. People are waiting because they like this other place better – for whatever reason. We don’t care why, what we care about is going where other people go because that is an indication of quality and value.

This is social proof.

Now let’s take a look at the all-too-common way of requesting a testimonial that may be damaging your business.

Asking people to provide a review by scanning a QR code

In brief, QR codes are dead. They had their moment in the sun, but through sloppy marketing, consumers got frustrated with links to error pages, links to non-mobile-friendly pages, inappropriate placement (like on a truck or a billboard), and weak calls to action that didn’t address the question your customer is asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Few consumers have a QR code reader app on their smart phone because it has little value to them. Move on.

Sharing links to your review pages on sites like Yelp & Google+

Major no-no. Your awesome review won’t show up on the review site, or may be hidden.  Here’s why:

Early on, scarcity-minded business owners were gaming the system by putting false reviews up on their directory listing in order to falsely sway the decision making process of the prospect. These review sites quickly got wise and in an attempt to sort who’s gaming the system from the ones that are real and honest, they put filters in their program to attempt to catch these hooligans at their foul play. These filters are called algorithms, and these algorithms are tasked with trying to determine (outside any human reason) if an individual is providing a real review based on a real experience versus a business owner who is gaming the system by posting false 5 star reviews in order to increase his social proof.

One of the filters they use (without getting too technical here) is following how the reviewer came to the directory listing for a business.  They can tell if you got there organically by searching within the directory, or if you clicked a link from the business owner.

Here’s how to ask for reviews and user them to grow your sales

Step 1. Provide exceptional service to your customers.  Reverse engineer your customer experience by imagining your perfect testimonial.

Here’s an example of mine:

Pamela unlocked a whole new way of thinking for our business. Our entire staff has an understanding of our core values, and is committed to providing to our customers the warm hug of hospitality in every interaction. We are all now delivering an exceptional product, service and experience to each and every customer, and they are referring more business to us as a result.

Now your turn.  This is an awesome way to get to the heart of what matters most to your customers — they don’t care about mission statements or values statements — all they care about is finding the right solution to relieving their pain.

Step 2. Educate your customers

Customers hold massive power and their voice has never been louder in influencing the purchasing behaviors of others. Word of mouth marketing is on steroids when it comes to Internet marketing.  Educate your happy customers about the power they wield and show them how to be Superman and use that power for good purposes.

“Did you know that you can help drive the future of my company? That’s right!

My goal is to provide you with an exceptional customer experience, and if I’m successful in doing that for you, then my hope is that you’ll provide me with a testimonial in the form of a review on [fill in the blank: Google+ or YellowPages.com, etc].

Then give them instructions on how they can find you on these sites.

Step 3. Reciprocate the favor by giving them something in exchange

Testimonials are of enormous value to your business, so do something extraordinary and mail a gift card, or a discount voucher to the customer who took the time to do this for you.  How much to spend? Well, it’s less about the value and more about the gesture and the thought behind it.  It’s a small detail that creates a flow of energy back to your business in the form of repeat business.

Running a business is tough. You’re getting busier and busier, and competitors are popping up all over the place. Providing a weak customer experience is not the stuff to build a customer acquisition strategy around.

You have invested a lot of time, energy, and money into building your business. You probably have a great product that you want to share with the world. Don’t let it all go to waste because of a sloppy experience. Do everything in your power to perfect your customer experience process, get those customers coming back and spreading the words about how awesome you are online!

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If you would like to know exactly what your customers demand before they give you their lasting loyalty, download this: “The Customer Manifesto” It’s absolutely free and will change the way you transact.