Testimonials can play a highly significant role in the online promotion of your business, and in helping to strengthen both its reputation and authority. You can say what you like about your own business – people will know you’re clearly going to be biased, and that you’re trying to sell your services or products. Independently written testimonials by customers or clients carry far more weight than almost anything you say yourself.

how to use testimonialsCustomers submitting testimonials carry more authority as far as evaluating and reviewing your service, and this authority in turn translates to your business’s brand image. The trouble is that all too often the only customers who contact the company after the transaction or service is concluded are those who have a complaint. All too often we are all guilty of tending to accept good service without comment, whilst becoming highly vociferous if something goes wrong. Occasionally you will get a testimonial or nice comment from someone who was very happy with what you provided, but these are rare.

So how can you go about encouraging more testimonials from your customers, and then crucially, what should you do with those testimonials once you’ve got them?

Don’t just sit back and wait for testimonials to come flooding in. They won’t. You’ll need to be a bit more proactive than that, and actually ask for them. But don’t just ask customers for feedback or for a testimonial. Most customers won’t really know what to put that will be helpful to other customers. Provide a little help in the way of prompts to get them to think about key aspects of their experience, such as “If you would recommend this service to a friend or colleague, what would you say about it?, “How did this product or service help you?, or “What would you say to someone who was considering purchasing the same product or service from us?”

It’s worth bearing in mind also that not everyone will be able to compose a fluid and well written piece that you can publish on your website. It might be worth including a note to customers that you may make minor editing changes to their testimonial to help other customers identify the key points, but that you will send a revised copy of the testimonial to them for approval before publishing it.

These days it’s also worth asking to use a photograph of the customer too. Text only testimonials carry weight and authority, but this is significantly enhanced if there’s a photograph of the person next to it – it helps bring the customer to life and makes the whole thing seem much more real. Customers can relate more easily to the testimonials if they can see the person who gave it. Otherwise there’s always going to be a sneaky suspicion that they’ve just been fabricated.

So once you have a healthy pile of glowing testimonials, what are you supposed to do with them? There are several options – the first of which is to make sure they’re included somewhere reasonably prominent on your website. You might have a testimonials page on your site, but make sure that the link to this is fairly obvious. It’s also worth scattering quoted testimonials throughout most of your site, reinforcing the positive feedback you’ve received.

It would also be a good idea to drip feed them through various social media outlets such as your blog, Facebook or Twitter. Don’t just flood your profiles with all of your testimonials at once though. Post one every day or every few days, providing a constant stream of positive feedback – this will carry more weight.

But you can add to that weight even more by thanking people for their comments. Do this privately by sending the customer an email, but also do it publicly. If someone has sent you a positive testimonial, and you publish this on your blog or Facebook profile, comment on this, say thank you and make it seem as though you actually care that your customers are happy.

Lastly, rather than ask all of your customers and clients to send you testimonials directly, request that they submit them to your Google Places page or via the major local directories such as Qype or Yelp. By doing this you’ll not only improve your position in Google Places, but you will also see a lot more activity on your directory listings.

Hope that’s helped! It’s really an area we should concentrate more on ourselves.