Look to Your Customers for Word-of-Mouth Marketing
Word-of-mouth is the most effective marketing tool of all time, dating back thousands of years to when scholars would write tributes from home or jail cells. Testimonials pre-Internet were powerful, but with today’s nonstop consumer dialogue on social media and review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List, the word of a customer has digital wings and, good or bad, testimonials and reviews can be seen by hundreds, thousands and even millions of Internet users.
Why The Hype?
Social media provides more than superficial dialogue and witty memes; we use social media as our access point to news, product information and relational opportunities. Social media is the sphere of influence with reviews, testimonials, and opinions having a profound effect on readers’ buying decisions. Worldwide, consumers discussing brands and products on social media threads have a significant impact on brand loyalty and trust. A statement as simple as, “Great experience!” on your Facebook page can give the undecided potential customer an extra push toward your brand.
Doing It Right
SEO gurus often claim to have the secret to viral testimonial marketing, talking about organic versus inorganic recommendations. The truth is there is no right way to do word-of-mouth marketing but there are definitely wrong ways. Research out of the University of Puerto Rico shows that there is no difference between paid and unpaid testimonials as long as the recommendation is directed at the service performed. The endorsement must have a customer satisfaction claim to be effective. As a business owner, you can ask satisfied customers to post recommendations on internet sites. It may even be to your benefit to offer incentives for their time but ask the customer to use recommendation language in the post.
When LifeLock decided to place a testimonial page on their site, they needed to do it carefully. As a leader in cyber-security, trust is an important component to their brand image and testimonials are a good way to increase trust. They used a video format with brief written quotes that specifically endorse the services they offer. In the videos, LifeLock follows a problem-solution format, outlining the potential tragedy of the consumer and the solution Lifelock provides; then, it ends with endorsements. The company has several videos on the page and links back to the Lifelock YouTube account, making the video testimonial into a marketing campaign series.
Creating a marketing campaign around positive reviews may become a line item on your budget sheet. Though the marketing rules may be ambiguous, the legal ones are cut into stone. The Federal Trade Commission has well-defined guidelines on the use of paid endorsements and testimonials. The most important is that, if the testimonial has been purchased, the reader must know that this is a paid ad in a clear and concise manner. Most advertising uses a disclaimer for this. For internet use, disclaimers need to be located above the “folder” before a reader would need to scroll down. Even if remuneration was not monetary, coming as a product sample, this needs to be disclosed.