Have you ever bought something because a friend or relative recommended it?
Tickets to a movie, perhaps? Or a meal at a restaurant?
So you know this is true:
Happy customers make brilliant salespeople.
What they say boosts confidence and persuades us to buy. No wonder business websites often include a page for customer testimonials.
Many businesses stop here, though. But what if you look beyond testimonials? Can you do more to let grateful customers spread the word about you?
Put happy customers in the spotlight on your website, in your emails, and on social media to encourage referrals, build relationships and win business.
Like to know how?
The following five tips will help you unleash your super sales team.
1. Pin your customer testimonials to the wall
My six-year-old daughter races out of school, clutching a certificate. Her class has won an art prize.
Barely pausing for breath, she tells me about their pictures. About how they scrunched up tissue paper to make leaves, and glued on wooden lolly sticks for the cabin.
I hear her enthusiasm and get a sense of what they did; she’s clearly delighted. But it’s only when I see the beautiful pictures hanging on display that I fully appreciate their achievement.
Customers describe their success in testimonials. But they can also show us what they achieved.
Sugru, for instance, highlight the different ways people use their mouldable glue to fix things. They display photos in a gallery. We see the possibilities. And start imagining how we might use their glue too.
Mattress retailer Tuft & Needle invite customers to post photos on Instagram of their newly made beds. And Warby Parker offer style advice when people tweet pictures of themselves trying on their glasses.
These businesses show us why customers love them. In doing so, they make us feel comfortable about choosing them.
You don’t need a “cool” product like moldable glue to do this, though.
A butcher, for instance, can ask customers about the meals they make with meat from his shop. What recipes can they share? Photos, too?
Encourage your customers to show off their achievements. Give their pictures a place to shine. And attract an admiring crowd.
2. Tell their story with testimonials
Have you ever read a testimonial dripping with praise and thought, “That sounds too good to be true?”
Testimonials like that create more doubts than they erase. They erode your trust. They make you look elsewhere.
By following Pamela’s testimonial blueprint, however, you can dig out the details that put praise into context.
Take testimonials further by turning them into case studies – engaging stories that paint a detailed picture of how people benefit from working with you.
Case studies describe your customer’s problem and how you solved it. Because they tell a story, they’re persuasive without being salesy.
Follow this simple story structure. First describe the challenge your customer faced, then your solution, and finally the results.
Insightly case studies clearly show these sections. Gusto, on the other hand, follow the same structure but present their case studies as feature articles, with pullout quotes and photos. Gumroad and WooThemes opt for a Q&A approach.
Whichever format you choose, focus on your customer. Tell the story from their viewpoint, weaving in their comments to boost credibility.
Interviewing your customers, rather than seeking answers via email, is worth the extra effort. Real quotes bring case studies to life.
3. Deploy the customer testimonial troops
Do you dread writing sales copy?
How do you know what messages to include? How do you write about yourself without feeling like you’re boasting?
To make writing sales copy easier, let your customers do the selling.
Let their stories and testimonials become the building blocks of your sales page: What problems do you solve? Why do they choose you? What do they like (and dislike)? Why do they stay?
Address common questions. Use testimonials to knock down objections.
Your customers’ comments make your sales copy more persuasive. Your messages contain the phrases they use, helping readers to relate to stories and examples.
A mortgage broker, for instance, wants to stress that he goes out of his way to help clients. Simply stating this sounds hollow. But he can support his claim with specific details from a testimonial:
“When a client’s documents went missing in the mail, I jumped in my car and drove for three hours to ensure replacements reached the bank in time.”
Your customers’ voices strengthen your sales copy – and help you feel like you’re not selling on your own.
4. Pull the strings with testimonials
Books and magazines compete for space on crowded shelves, their covers clamoring for attention.
Only a powerful combination of images and words stops browsing eyes skipping to the next publication.
Readers online are like shoppers passing a magazine stand. They’re in a hurry.
To grab their scanning eyes, add small insights to the images you share on your website, in your emails and on social media.
Book covers have review snippets. Magazines have headlines. And you have customers’ words to help you attract, educate and persuade.
Online retailer Rodale’s combines words and pictures to great effect.
In an email, they sprinkle selling points around a photo of a woman wearing a “stringless” apron. A customer comment boosts credibility:
“I love this apron! It slips on and off with ease, no more strings to tie. I even forget that I have it on.”
If you look closely at the product page, too, you’ll see that one of the sales messages – “doesn’t pull on your neck” – has been lifted directly from a customer review.
You can add value like this for any number of products and services.
The owners of a European-style restaurant, for instance, struggle to convince some diners that French fries are meant to accompany a fillet steak.
How do they gently change that belief? They publish a photo of the dish with short sentences explaining the messages they hope will educate and attract:
“A fillet so tender you don’t need a steak knife”
“Pomme frites, the classic European bistro companion”
And they include a customer review to boost credibility.
Your customers supply small insights in testimonials, emails and reviews. Look out for them. Add them to your images. And stand out from the crowd.
5. Use testimonials to bring in the experts
Do you know this feeling?
You’re struggling to grasp a key point during a presentation. No matter what the presenter says, it just won’t sink in.
Then later, at home, you stumble upon a TED talk. Same topic, different presenter – but suddenly everything becomes clear.
Sometimes a different voice is all we need for an “aha!” moment. Perhaps a phrase resonates. Or an explanation clicks.
Customers can provide different voices for your website. Let them be the experts instead of you. Visitors relate to them, learn from them, and hear the messages you’re trying to get across.
Email marketing provider Constant Contact make brilliant use of their customers’ skills and stories.
In a blog post, Constant Contact’s Miranda Paquet interviews Kolbie Richardson, from fashion retailer No Rest for Bridget, about her email marketing strategy.
Miranda lets Kolbie become the expert. We discover how she’s grown the email list to more than 15,000 subscribers, and get proven tips that we can try. In the process, we learn about Constant Contact without the post becoming a pitch.
Constant Contact also turn customer interviews into podcasts about small businesses. And Dave Charest, the senior manager of content and social media marketing, was inspired to write a guest post here by a customer telling him that if a business isn’t changing and growing “it’s slowly dying.”
Inviting customers to share their knowledge shows you trust them. What tales and tips can your customers provide?
Unleash your hidden sales force
You know your customers love you. They say so in their testimonials.
So encourage them to be more than a bunch of individuals on one page.
Include them in your content. Welcome their advice, share their experiences, and celebrate their success.
They’re your biggest supporters.
And your sales-boosting tribe.