Customer testimonials should be part of your 2016 marketing plan

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Capturing customer testimonials is a powerful marketing strategy. However, many manufacturers are too close to their products to deem customer application stories interesting or refuse to give up the marketing spotlight long enough for a more subtle approach to promoting their brand.

Why customer testimonials work

In today’s Internet-driven culture, consumers will spend a half an hour looking at customer reviews on Amazon before making a $12.00 purchase. That alone should tell you that the testimonials of your customers matter to your prospects.

Now, you may be saying that this does not apply to your products or services because you’re selling in a business-to-business space, but you need to keep in mind that even though a business is making the purchase — people are still making the decision to buy from you or from your competition. And because your products likely carry a much higher price tag than that $12.00 Amazon purchase, you can bet your potential customers are spending a significant amount of time doing their homework about your product, including online research, talking to sales people, reviewing your literature and talking with their peers. 

Your job is to help them discover the success their peers (your customers) have had while working with you.

Where to use customer stories

A quality testimonial can work in a wide range of formats:

  • Public relations
  • Content marketing
  • Social media
  • Video
  • Advertising
  • Literature/collateral
  • Tradeshow signage

You just need to pair the content with the context, which means that not every story works with every marketing format. It’s important to decide all of the ways you want to use a customer story before you go through the work of capturing it. 

How to identify a good story

I’m a firm believer that every customer has a great story to tell as long as the storyteller knows how to get the information — of course, some stories are more compelling than others. Your sales team and dealers are going to be the key to getting customer names and unique story ideas. 

Here’s what they need to know to help you capture testimonials:

  • Let them know what types of customers you want to talk to and how you plan to use the information
  • Provide them with samples of customer stories that you like so they know what to look for
  • Make sure dealers and sales people know who to pass story leads onto
  • Follow up on every lead and show appreciation — that will keep the leads coming in
  • Share produced stories with the people who gave you the lead 

Next, do your homework. Before you reach out a customer, do the following: 

  • Research everything you can about their organization
    • Visit their website
    • Talk to their dealer
    • Research their social media properties
  • Find out what equipment they own and how they are using it
  • Make sure you know how to talk “shop” and know their industry

Getting the story

Once you’ve vetted your lead, now you need to determine how and where the story will likely be used, since that will help you determine the type of testimonial you’re looking for. To do this, come up with a list of questions that will help draw useful information out of the customer:

  • Think through your story angle before the interview so you can lead the interviewee
  • Make sure your questions are open-ended
  • Limit your conversation with them to around 30 minutes (unless you are on a jobsite with them, and then the conversation can be as long as they have time to meet with you) to respect their busy schedules 

Finally, it’s time to create a draft of the testimonial and route it to the customer. Give your interviewee a chance to review everything before you publish it to make sure it accurately portrays them, their companies and what they said. Now… Publish and promote!