In the dictionary, marketing is defined as the action or business of promoting and selling products or services. That’s as simple as it gets; too simple, really. Marketing is communication for a particular goal or set of goals, and it’s complicated, subtle, full of nuance. There are libraries full of books about marketing technique, philosophy, strategy, tricks, etc.
But when you boil it down, marketing is about convincing your target audience that they need what you’ve got. Which is why testimonials from your customers — clients, patients, patrons — are among the best bang-for-your-buck marketing assets you can have.
In fact, for the amount of space they take up, how easy they can be to come by and their many uses and benefits, testimonials are like a marketing “superfood.”
There is, however, a catch when it comes to customer testimonials: you have to grow them yourself. You can’t buy testimonials. Actually, in today’s online reality, perhaps you can. But they wouldn’t be real, and fake testimonials are not a healthy addition to your marketing. Actually, they’re unhealthy.
First, let’s establish something important: fabricating customer quotes is purely unethical, and that’s no way to go through life... or to conduct business. It’s poisonous. Marketing is goal-based, and the word “ethically” should be assumed (or right there in writing) for each of the objectives you set for yourself. For example: Communicate ethically. Appeal ethically. Inform and convince ethically. Compel response ethically. In other words, tell no lies. Fabricated testimonials are falseness with intent. Lies. Marketing poison. Junk food, not superfood.
A key issue here is that the audience for your marketing and advertising isn’t stupid. They can sniff out testimonials that aren’t genuine. When that happens, there went your credibility.
So, you really do have to grow testimonials organically — by earning them. This is actually the first benefit to your business health that customer testimonials provide: they force you to be good even before you have or use any.
It’s important to be clear, here. What you want is positive customer or patient testimony as to your quality, your service, your commitment, etc. This means you want as many positive statements from as many people as possible about every aspect of your business you desire to promote. The way to do this is to provide top quality, deliver impeccable service, prove your deep commitment, etc. This is not always easy, but it is indeed this simple.
Once you’ve given your patients/clients/customers a positive experience to report, then it does become easy to harvest their feedback and mix it in with your marketing. It can even become the main ingredient; many a successful marketing and advertising campaign has been built entirely around customer testimonials. Here’s the easy part: ask for them.
In truth, if you’re doing the good that results in customer satisfaction, some testimonials will sprout on their own. The more impressed and grateful they are, the more likely customers are to send in cards, letters and notes expressing their satisfaction… and your quality, dedication, service, follow-through, etc.
But you should without a doubt be asking for testimonials, whether they’re already coming in organically or not. Why? Because, if you want something, you should ask for it. And how you solicit testimonials from your patient is, to extend the superfood metaphor, how you can ensure they are most healthy and beneficial for your marketing and your business.
When your customers express satisfaction in any way, don’t miss the opportunity to ask for them to put it in writing. This doesn’t mean keeping a pad of lined yellow paper nearby.
Here’s another way that testimonials contribute to the health of your business: they give you good cause to create and always use a customer survey, which everybody should be doing.
With your customer survey, you’ll want to ask some (but not too many!) key questions, both closed-ended and open-ended. “Would you recommend us to friends or family members?” That’s binary (yes or no), making it a closed-ended question. Another closed-ended question: “From 1 to 5, with 5 being best, how would you rate the quality of the service you were provided.”
These closed-ended questions benefit your business by giving you actionable intelligence on which to base improvement efforts. (Remember, being excellent is fundamental, here.) Is your service as good as it should be? Is your response time adequate? What do your customers like best about you? Least?
This is business intelligence, and you need it. And should grow and change based on it, making you better, which in turn makes you better able to get great testimonials. Remember, though, to include authorization language and signature and date lines on the survey so you have legal use of your customers’ words and name in marketing. In other words, know the rules, and follow them. Regardless of what customers or patients write or say, you need to be careful to protect their interests, their confidentiality and your credibility (and legal standing). For healthcare practices or businesses, for example, be sure to avoid using any quotes that violate HIPAA rules. And the first of those rules is that you need to have express consent (written, signed and on file) to use anything they provide you. Best practice: have an attorney provide or at least approve the legal consent language.
For the testimonials themselves, you need open-ended questions on your survey. Here are some examples:
Once you have your testimonials, from surveys or from unsolicited cards and notes, keep them. And keep collecting them in perpetuity, because quotes from actual customers are powerfully beneficial… and versatile.
Without testimonials, marketing is tantamount to saying “we are great, just ask us.” When- and wherever possible, let your fans say “they’re great!” It’s more natural, beneficial and believable coming from them, and it makes sense to include it in your marketing mixing bowl. In truth, testimonials are so helpful that they can and perhaps should be used in most of your marketing efforts, including:
It is hard to overstate the value of client, customer and patient testimonials on your marketing and in turn on your business. They are rich in benefits, helping convince your prospective customers through the the true stories of — and from — your satisfied customers. At the same time, they force your business to get and stay healthy… and to keep improving. Testimonials also are a wise and effective addition to virtually all of your marketing, and in some circumstances may even be worth considering as the centerpiece of your messaging.