Product reviews have become crucial in the online marketplace, sometimes outweighing other marketing messaging. Both digital buyers and brick-and-mortar shoppers will go online to look at product reviews before making a purchase. In B2B, reviews are a little harder to come by; customers are fewer, and more effort is required to generate a testimonial, at least a good one.
Yet testimonials can be just as important for your B2B customers as they are to individual consumers. Here is a simple guide that can get you the testimonials you need and want.
Ask when a compliment is given
If a potential customer calls you for a quote, you don’t wait months before getting back to them, you respond immediately. It should be no different with a testimonial. There is no better time to ask than when a compliment is given. If a customer says something flattering, follow these steps:
- Say “Thank You.”
- Ask “Could I share your comments with some of our potential customers?”
- Ask for 10 to 15 minutes by phone at their convenience to ask a few simple questions.
- Explain that your office will create a draft testimonial for them to approve.
- Remind them that they can decide how much of their personal information is shared and how it is used.
Make sure your follow-up is scheduled within the week while the customer’s positive experience is still in the forefront of their mind.
If you need a testimonial sooner and can’t wait for someone to spontaneously offer up a compliment, conduct a customer service call to check on the products or services your customer has been receiving. If their comments are positive enough to warrant a testimonial, ask that customer if you can share their kind words and use the opportunity to ask your follow up questions as well.
Have someone else conduct the interview
You’re more likely to obtain genuine answers if the questions are asked by a third party. This third party can be someone from your office or even an outside firm; the relative anonymity creates a lower-pressure environment which can elicit those positive feelings you heard in your customer’s initial compliment.
It will also be more comfortable for you if you’re not the one asking the questions. Many of us shy away from what we think might sound like bragging and will avoid questions that feel too self-serving, when in actuality those are the most important questions.
Look for the story
Sound bites can be great, but a truly powerful testimonial tells a story. I rely on three core questions to draw out the narrative.
- What is it like to do business with our company? (Make this question as specific to your company and customer as possible. Ex: What is it like to buy widgets from Company X?)
- How did you come to be a customer, and was there anything that almost prevented you from selecting us?
- What part of your experience as a customer has been the most satisfying and why?
Though I often ask follow-up questions based on a customer’s response, I don’t recommend going into an interview with a long list of questions. You can lose your customer’s attention quickly on the phone and end up with inadequate answers to questions further down your list.
And remember, one of the most important goals of your story is to help potential customers overcome their objections and make a purchase. This can be the most influential part of the narrative, so don’t skip it because it may allude to a potential negative.
Ask for it all
When you provide your customer with a draft testimonial to review, ask for the use of their full name, title, and company. I do this by default; including the customer’s name title and company in the quote attribution.
Also ask for the use of their professional headshot, if they have one. I’ll check their company website or LinkedIn profile to see if there is already one on the web. Include the image when you send the draft testimonial as a way to start the conversation.
Keep your explanation of usage general; I like to say “marketing purposes.” If the customer wants to limit his or her testimonial (exclude last name or company name, or perhaps specify web use but not print) let them, but don’t offer up these options right off the bat.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it
You’ve got a great story and your customer has approved it. Now what?
Treat your testimonial like a photo. Use it to decorate or enhance your marketing materials. Here are a few options:
- Put it in a sidebar on your website
- Embed it into the margin of an email blast
- Print it on the back of a brochure
- Share it on social media as a “thank you” post to the customer who provided it.
(Don’t forget to tag that person.)
Say thank you – again
Following up with a handwritten thank you note can be a great way to further communicate your appreciation while avoiding the “now what will you do for me” feeling that can sometimes arise when a customer has provided a testimonial. If that customer does ask for something in return, don’t necessarily rule it out. If you can afford a token discount or small amount of free product, go for it. Those testimonials are valuable commodities!
Here’s one of our most recent testimonials, a personal favorite:
“Lake Shore Cryotronics products are sophisticated and complicated, but what our scientific customers do with them is ten times more complicated. We didn’t think a marketing company could “get” what we do, until we met Michele Nichols, President of PLS. Michele and her team at PLS are smart, committed, and flexible. Their work was instrumental in building market awareness and acceptance before we launched our new THz system. PLS continues to be a key partner in keeping our marketing efforts on point; engaging with us in public relations, social media, content development and advertising management.”
—Rob Ellis, Vice President of Strategic Planning, Lake Shore Cryotronics