Harnessing the value of your existing customers is one of the most powerful tools in an organisations arsenal when it comes to amplifying your marketing and brand value, as well as boosting perceptions to potential customers.
The value of an existing customer who’s willing to shout about how much they love your products, services or even just your company and brand is worth its weight in marketing gold. Surprisingly though a lot of companies – and not just smaller businesses and those starting out for the first time – neglect to really engage with their customers in a way that allows them to capitalise on this.
Whilst you won’t be getting positive feedback from your customers, even the negative comments can be valuable, as they allow you to understand what’s not working and how you can optimise it. So why should you ensure you’re utilising customer reviews and how can you harness their value effectively?
- 92% of consumers now read online reviews and “Star Rating” is the number one factor used by consumers to judge a business.
- 95% share bad experiences and 87% share good experiences with others.
- 84% of consumers say that they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations.
- Customers spend 31% more with a business that has “excellent” reviews.
- Reviews can have an impact of up to 10% on a business’s search rankings.
- 88% have been influenced by an online customer service review when making a buying decision.
As you can clearly see above from this selection of assorted statistics, mostly on the subject of online customer reviews, the power of perception from these kinds of sources can have a hugely powerful effect on a prospect customer.
Admittedly not all businesses have the kind of model that allows them to easily host customer reviews across their website, but you should still take note of the intrinsic value in these data points. No matter what sector, industry or market your organisation operates within, the power of positive testimonials – and testimonials in general to some extent – can have a notable impact on future customers and their propensity to buy from you.
There tends to be 2 core methods of utilising feedback and customer reference/ review type materials for your own marketing or business promotion. The first of these is to include the option within your own site, or encourage via 3rd parties, for customer who transact with you to leave a review on your product or service.
There are numerous sites specifically dedicated to reviewing and sharing customer reviews on behalf of organisations and are typically created specifically for a certain industry, purpose or type of service. Some of the more common and prominent platforms include Trip Advisor, Reevoo, Trust Pilot, Yelp and of course sites like Amazon who’ve built a key part of their own brand and offering from incorporating reviews.
Of course, you can’t control these reviews and what gets written about your business or it’s offering – you’ll need to accept it won’t always be positive – but outside of things like ensuring optimal customer service, delivering the best product/ service possible, there are ways you can encourage your customers to leave reviews.
Here are a few tips on how to encourage customers to engage:
- Make it easy for them to leave a review and provide their feedback on things. If the review is on your website (not via a 3rd party) make sure it’s a straight forward and quick process to do – the harder it is to complete one, the less likely a customer will be to do it.
- Encourage feedback straight away. The sooner to a transaction it’s been, the higher the chances of a customer leaving a review. If you sold someone a product and then ask them a year later to leave a review the chances are they won’t do it or they’ll have forgotten the experience mostly. If you can ask for comments or reviews very soon after a transaction is complete or sometimes even directly after and as part of the process (depending on your offering), your chances of getting one completed are much higher.
- Be clear to your customers on why you’re asking. Many businesses and business owners are almost ashamed or timid in asking their customers for a review or rating. You’d be surprised how many customers actually like sharing their experiences and providing reviews of things for others to read if they can easily access the process. Be open and honest with them in why you want them to leave a review e.g. you want other customers to have an honest and impartial view of your business etc.
The other type of customer reference programme is through the specific sourcing and usage of customer testimonials, case studies and advocacy statements. Now this type of customer engagement can usually take a lot more time to deliver, but results in hugely powerful tools afterwards that can form a key component to your marketing activities.
Building a customer reference programme usually comes in the form of proactively engaging with existing customers to get one of 4 things from them:
- Ability to reference the customer name in your marketing
- Ability to reference the customer’s logo in your marketing (typically just for B2B marketing organisations)
- A short quote or testimonial that positively reflects your organisation that you can include in your own marketing and promotion.
- Creation of a case study document that you can use for your own marketing purposes.
The first 2 options in this are more straight forward but can still take a substantial amount of time and effort to put do. For example, if you’re an organisation that delivers to other business or organisations e.g. you’re a B2B, then collating a list of logos and customers names that have been approved for you to use can be a tough job.
Firstly, don’t expect all of your customers to say “yes” to letting you use their brand. Just as you would be, most organisations, no matter how big or small, are protective around what their company name or logo is affiliated to or where it can be found. Here’s some tips on what you’ll want to keep in mind when it comes to contacting your customers on this:
- If you’re going to try and contact your existing customers to seek their approval of their logo, be sure to be clear with them on where it’ll be used and what it’ll be used for.
- Ensure that you know the brand guidelines of your customer’s logo and brand identity and stick to them. Treat their brand and company identity with absolute respect at all times.
- Position this as a positive activity that is extra visibility and marketing for them and not just a valuable resource for you and your business.
- Ensure they know what they need to do – and that it’s a simple exercise – if they want to stop letting you use it, or if there are changes to their company branding.
The 2nd part of this type of campaign is the creation of a customer case study asset. These typically come in the form of either a written-up document that discusses the customer journey and how your customer was benefited by working with you, or it can also be in a video format. Whichever type of asset you may be considering, be sure to spend as much time as you can on this to maximise it’s delivery, but by taking up as little time of your customer as possible.
If a customer agrees to give up their valuable time to support you with this type of activity, be mindful that there time is just as valuable to them, as your time is to you. This isn’t something that they have to do – unless it’s built into a commercial discount or other incentive – and therefore be mindful of ensuring the process is as easy to do as possible.
If you’re creating a written customer case study document, spend time in advance of engaging with any customers to create the design and the format of your case study. Typically a case study will be anywhere between 2-4 pages long and will provide an overview of the customer, their problems, their requirements and then how you worked to resolve this with them.
Think through in advance the questions you want to ask of your customer before you speak to them about this. Keep the questions clear and concise and don’t be too tempted to overload them with dozens of different topics. Perhaps keep your choice of questions to 5-10 at most and focus on the quality of your questions rather than creating a massive list of them. You’re going to utilise this content to explain the journey your customer went on with you for other potential customers to read. Ensure that the content you produce will be valuable for them and not just something your business has produced to say “look how awesome we are”.
We’d always recommend that the design of your case study document is consistent across each and every one you create and that it has the same overall look and feel throughout. Each time you create one of these documents, these highly valuable tools are becoming a reflection of your business, your brand and your service delivery, so ensure they feel like they fit with your identity. Typically at the start of most case study documents you’ll be writing around the customer themselves and/ or their business. Ensure you have the right information to do this in a manner that is positive for the customer themselves – not only will this make them feel happier with it, but it actually becomes something they can use themselves. If your customer is happy enough with the document that’s created to use it for their own marketing or PR, not only are they promoting themselves but they’re also doing marketing for your business at the same time.
If you’ve decided to create video customer case study, then be sure to do just as much prep in advance as you would if you were creating a written document. Don’t be tempted to just film casually ask some questions and film your customer answering them, but allow them to understand the process before you begin. Let them get familiar with the questions you’re going to ask before you ask them – think about this from your perspective; if you had time to read the questions to something before you had to answer them, wouldn’t you be more prepared and better able to respond?
Most customer case study videos are usually anywhere between 2-10 minutes in length and we’d highly recommend that you stick to the shorter end of this scale. Typically, 2-4 minutes is more than enough time to create a clear, concise and compelling asset that will be more than enough to deliver the desired message. Whilst it’s tempting to create a video longer than this, thing also from the perspective of the person watching it. If someone visited your website and wanted to watch it to understand a customers perception, would they really spend 10 minutes doing it? Think about how long someone typically spends engaging with content and ensure that you are delivering the most powerful message you can, in the optimal amount of time.
Whatever type of customer reference programme you decide to create, the results can be hugely valuable in building your brand identity and engagement with prospect customers. Always ensure you value your customers and deliver them the most effective product/ service you can and they’ll more often than not, be comfortable talking positively about your brand or business. Customer advocacy truly delivers incredible value and be hugely compelling, so whilst it can take time to deliver this sort of programme, the output and results are most certainly worth it.