Message & Media: In Their Own Words
One of the most effective ways to neutralize buying objections and add credibility to your product benefit statements is to let your customers speak on your behalf.
Words enclosed in quotation marks carry implied authority and grab the reader's eye quicker than words that aren't. Customer comments can also transform a commodity product or service, such as lawn care or auto insurance, into a one-of-a-kind standout.
Comments and reviews also help customers research and compare products through the eyes and experiences of customers who have already purchased.
This means customer product reviews and testimonial comments can be powerful additions to just about anyone's marketing messages—B-to-B, B-to-C; including educational institutions, healthcare providers and services such as travel or pest control.
While customer testimonials have long been a staple of direct mail letters and catalog copy, online customer product reviews now make it easier than before for customers to share favorable (and not so favorable) opinions about your company and what you sell. Prospective buyers love these candid insights.
How can you harness the power of your customers' opinions about you and all you offer? The first step is to make it easy for people to share their opinions.
Start by soliciting customer reviews on your website and via post-order e-mails—even weeks or months after the product or service is delivered. You can also use package inserts and follow-up postcards to request your customers' input.
Most importantly—however you solicit customer feedback—make it clear you're interested in hearing both pros and cons. You'll build more credibility when you share a spectrum of honest customer assessments. They can also help you correct problems with products and customer service.
Check with your legal adviser about whether or not you need a release before publishing anything, then create a systematic process for screening and using the comments/reviews you receive.
Here are 14 opportunities to let your customers speak on your behalf.
1. Include a customer comment in your letter copy as the Johnson box, opening "grabber sentence or supporting sidebar story—even your P.S. Use quotation marks or italics to make these words stand out as being different from the rest of the copy and add a human element.
2. Add comments from longtime buyers to your requests for customer referrals. Consumers like to be associated with other smart shoppers.
3. Add customer testimonials to introductory letters and e-mails you send to the referral names you gather. Add them to letter copy or print several of the testimonials on the back of the letter. Include one or two in an e-mail, then provide a link to more. Prospects like to hear from first-time buyers about their own initial buying experiences.
4. Tease readers into opening your outer envelope with a testimonial. Pick one that addresses a buying objection head-on, such as the one used by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas.
5. Send a cross-selling e-mail to a recent product buyer that includes another customer's product review for the product being cross-sold. Better yet, include two or three reviews with a link to the product page with even more reviews and the opportunity to buy with one click.
6. Place a powerful customer comment within the first two inches of the e-mail, which will display in the preview panel. The preview panel is the Johnson box of e-mail.
7. Capture product reviews on video and post them on your website and in e-mail links. Customer videos are particularly effective for selling new, unique and/or high-end products such as the Kindle DX wireless reading device. Amazon videoed Kindle DX users holding and talking about the DX, then shared "See what customers have to say" on the product's Web page. While the same Web page lists all the DX benefits, hearing a user talk about them is more believable and engaging.
8. Put member/customer comments or links to them front-and-center on your home page, like Union Plus, a consumer benefits provider for union members, and Embrace Home Loans, a direct mortgage lender.
9. Actively solicit and post member reviews for every program you offer—this is another successful tactic of Union Plus.
10. Include the URL for video reviews in your traditional print advertising, such as direct mail and space ads. Once you've invested time and money in capturing customer videos, find more ways to use them—including print.
11. Strong testimonials can be used as highly effective lift letters in traditional mailings. A prospecting package for a travel company offering $3,000-$5,000 escorted tours used a one-page testimonial to diffuse the buying objection, "I don't know these people and they want me to spend thousands of dollars and two weeks traveling with them internationally. Why should I believe what they say?" The lift letter was from a Navy officer who had traveled the world during his career and was now a customer who had taken multiple tours with this company. His candid letter addressed all the major buying objections—and it was written in his own words.
12. Use testimonials as headlines or sidebar stories in space ads. Add credibility by providing a URL for product reviews and customer demonstrations that support the headline. For example, Clinique's ads for skin care and make-up often provide links to their Insider's Club product reviews. Some of these reviews feature before and after demonstrations, with how-to tips and candid customer comments that mention both pros and cons.
13. Use visual testimonials. Throughout your marketing messages, whether it's direct mail, e-mail or on your website, use images of or from your customers. Do you operate a lawn care service? Ask some of your clients if you can use photographs of their lawns to show the quality of your service (and to show off their lawns!). It's an opportunity to create both community and credibility.
14. Include testimonials as part of your product delivery. What better time to reinforce a buying decision than when a customer is opening your shipping carton? Print testimonials on box flaps, package inserts, product packaging, even packing slips and account statements. It's the perfect time to reinforce a good buying decision.
It's human nature to be curious about what others think. And there's no better way to let customers share their thoughts about you and your products with others than in their own words.