We all used to do our pre-purchase "research" using the Yellow Pages, but no more. Well over 1/2 of all pre-purchase research is now done online, with as high as 83% when it relates to books, music, movies, computers & electronics according to a PriceWaterhouseCoopers study in March 2012. In today's buying world, people are looking at specs, at prices and at recommendations. Recommendations can be from authority sites - Cnet, PC World, etc - or in the form of testimonials. And that's why testimonials are so very important to your website.
I always tell clients, "We need a testimonials page" when I'm talking about their new site. A sadly overwhelming number fail to see why or have even considered it. I figure the only reason this is so common is because 20-30 years ago you could trust almost anyone in business. Everyone knew about the bad ones because they were uncommon.
Getting great testimonials for your business
1. Ask for them!
I know this sounds obvious, but when did you last ask for a testimonial from a client? Just having a testimonial page on your site with an "Add a testimonial" button will not cause a flood of feedback. If you don't ask, you surely will not get.
2. Coach your customer.
I don't mean write it for them, but help them write it. Many customers just plain don't know what to write. I recommend using a "cheat sheet" that you can give to every customer. Start with basic information questions - who you are, what you had done, when. Then ask where they found you; what they enjoyed about working with you; sum up the experience in one line (this becomes your headline); and don't forget to ask whether there's anything you can improve. You aren't going to use this in the testimonial, but it's awesome feedback to making your business better.
Getting a good bank of testimonials will help you get more business.
3. Timing, timing, timing.
In Real Estate it's location, location, location. In testimonial gathering it's timing. When is the customer most likely to give a tesimonial? Immediately the job is complete - that's when you ask. Their ecstacy and enthusiasm to write a testimonial drops off considerably the longer you wait. Don't wait!
4. Say thank you.
Of course when you get the testimonial, but when you're asking for it. Make it in a way that you're comfortable with. It could be a card, a special printed item, a handwritten note - just thank the customer for their business.
5. Follow up.
OK, don't become a stalker! But do gently follow up with your clients. I've had clients give testimonials months after I'd even given up just because I'd contacted them for something else.
And make sure you spread them around. Get them on your site for sure, but don't foget to have customers do them on Yelp, Angie's List, Google, etc.