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Testimonials vs. Feedback: How to Get Better Online Reviews

Online reviews matter. We trust reviews to help us buy everything from a cup of coffee to a new car, and your organization’s products and services are no exception. Testimonials are the social proof that backs up all the claims you make on your website, and they are often the deciding factor that tips a prospect from “potential client” to “current client.” Sounds simple enough, right? Testimonials are important, and you should go get some.

Well, it's not as simple as it appears, which is why we’re talking about it. Asking for testimonials can be awkward and doesn’t always result in a website-ready endorsement. There will be times that your request for a testimonial is met with feedback - valuable in its own way, but not necessarily appropriate for your website. Other times your request is met with radio silence.

To make sure you have the best possible chance of receiving excellent testimonials, as opposed to feedback or silence, you need to A) understand the difference between testimonials and feedback and B) ask the right way.

What is the difference between testimonials and feedback?

Great testimonials promote your business while feedback serves to improve it. Testimonials build trust, boost conversion rates, and allow you to brag about all your happy customers. They are client statements that highlight what your organization does well and help convince potential clients that your organization is the right choice for them.

A good customer testimonial is positive and specific. Think less, “This organization did a great job! Thanks, guys!” and more, “I loved working with Kayla. She was always responsive and her work led to a notable increase in sales. I’d recommend this organization to anybody, and I wouldn’t hesitate to work with them again.”  

Feedback, on the other hand, is client input with the sole goal of improving your organization. Feedback is a vital component of evaluating how your organization works and what needs some attention to produce a better product. You should solicit feedback from every client and take it seriously - even if it bruises your pride a bit.

You shouldn’t, however, always put it on your website. By its nature, feedback is often critical and draws your attention to possible weaknesses. Not exactly the message you want potential clients to focus on, right?

If you aren’t careful, you can find yourself asking for a testimonial and getting feedback. Is it better than complete silence? Of course. But, in an ideal world, you’ll get both. Fortunately, incorporating a few simple techniques into the testimonial request process will ensure you get the testimonials your clients want to see on your website.

How should you ask for online reviews?

Asking for a testimonial is simple. After you’ve had time to build a relationship and demonstrate success (for an ongoing client) or upon delivery of a final product (for a project-based client) take a few moments to send an email thanking the client and asking for a testimonial.

Don’t wait too long after finishing a project to ask for an online review. Just like us, our clients get busy, and might simply forget about how awesome you are, even though they were pleased with your work.

Additionally, make it as easy as possible for people to leave you a review. Include quick links to the exact page they can leave one, whether that's on Google, Facebook, or the testimonial page of your website. Send the request in it own email so it gets the attention it deserves and doesn't get buried in a laundry list of other requests and reminders.

If you fear that asking for testimonials will fall to the bottom of your to-do list - or fall off the list entirely - consider using a testimonial gathering service, like Yext. These types of testimonial services will create a simple survey, email it to your clients, and even share the results to your social media channels. It doesn’t get much easier than that!

Finally, don’t be embarrassed to ask. Your clients almost certainly understand the importance of testimonials and have likely asked for a few themselves.

How can you ensure a client responds with a testimonial, not feedback?

Be clear and supplying your clients with some direction when needed. Your clients are busy people, which is probably why they hired you in the first place. Asking for a testimonial and washing your hands of the process is increasing the chances you end up with a less than fantastic result.

There are two main ways you can provide direction: with questionnaires and examples.

Questionnaire:  Attach a brief questionnaire to your email requesting a testimonial, and directly ask for the information that you know will resonate with future clients. You’ll have to do some editing to combine the answers into a testimonial for your site, but you’ll make the process easier for your clients to complete.

Example: Write up a sample testimonial for your clients to refer to when writing their own testimonial. Pro tip: write a sample tailored to your client’s specific project. They might just give you the go-ahead to use your version on your website.

If you’re doing good work for your clients - and I’m sure you are - then don’t underestimate the value of testimonials. If you would like to talk more about how client testimonials can support your digital marketing efforts, get in touch. The marketing experts at Spring Insight are happy to discuss how your organization can put its best digital face forward.

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