customer reviews, customer testimonials, customersIf you are in the market for a product, whether it is a new computer to shoes to vitamins, you will likely search around for reviews to tell you what the best option is. In fact, people are paying more attention to online reviews now than ever, with an estimated seventy-five percent reading reviews before purchasing a product.

Add to that the fact that “90% of consumers online trust recommendations from people they know; 70% trust opinions of unknown users” and you have a recipe for successful marketing. Since advertising and marketing are the first areas to be cut in hard times, it is vital that you spend your precious marketing budget in ways that will maximize your returns.

“As a small business owner you need to be aware that your prospects are exposed to over 4,000 ads every single day. They are forced to sift through TV ads, radio ads, newspaper ads, billboard ads and internet ads.” This is what makes customer testimonials so different. They are happy unintentional advertisements that stand out from the crowd because of their honest, person-to-company format. Customer reviews on the other hand are slightly more formal and are usually a person-to-person format, but keep that same raw honesty.

In a world where advertisements are often touched up, “dramatized”, or otherwise faked, it is difficult for people to believe you are telling them the truth about a product or service. People who use the internet a lot seem especially skeptical and cynical of claims made by a business. Having an outside, unbiased testimonial or review, say on a blog or in a Tweet for example is “ten times more convincing…than what you say about yourself.”

People are often happy to write customer reviews or testimonials. Epinions.com is an example of ordinary people that are trying to help others stay away from a bad product or inform them of a good one. If you use a customer testimonial or review on your site, make sure you don’t “improve” or alter the authenticity of the customer’s words in any way or you will undercut your credibility. If at all possible, use your customer’s full names and pictures. By showing pictures you help “prove” to people that these are in fact real people giving real reviews. If you do plan on publishing a customer’s testimonial or review on your site, make sure you have their permission to do so. After all, you don’t want to alienate a previously happy customer.

Do you agree or disagree?  Perhaps, I missed something?  Either way, I would just love to hear what your thoughts are on this topic… just let me know your alive!