I realize I’m not in the best position to be criticizing other people’s websites, but I have noticed a trend among small business owners that needs to be re-thought.
For starters we’re all taught that it’s good to showcase positive feedback from our clients. Not only do these comments make us feel good about the work we have done, but they may be helpful in generating future work. The problem is that this feedback usually resides on a boring page full of text with no credentials to back it up.
If you find yourself with a page like that ask the following two questions: 1.) Do you honestly think anyone other than your mom is going to read all that? …and if you’re a startup then your mom probably wrote half of the testimonials anyway. 2.) Why should anyone believe what others have said about you?
The most important thing here is validating the praise you’re getting. Instead of shouting generic praises at cyberspace give that feedback some context. Who said it? What photos were they talking about? Why is their opinion important? When did this happen? The more answers you provide the more credible you become.
I set out to resolve these problems for my own site, and here’s how I do things now.
Stop fishing for compliments. Sending a follow-up survey can have some advantages, but it creates more needless work. If people really like the work you’ve done then they will go out of their way to let you know.
Include a relevant picture alongside each review. If a client says, “This is the best photo ever,” then show us that photo. By doing this you are giving your audience a scale on which to measure the feedback.
Give us the option to see more. This is your opportunity to showcase your favorites. I’m not talking about a link to your portfolio, but a highlights gallery from the same shoot.
Give it a date. If all of your compliments are 4 years old then why should I believe you’re still doing great work today? Showing up-to-date feedback can be a powerful motivator; not to mention that it keeps you honest.
Tell us exactly who wrote the review. Use their full name and title as it appears on their email signature or business card. (*Wedding photographers, see below). This, more than anything else, gives the feedback some authority. Take the following example:
“You are seriously the only photographer that has ever been able to make our museum look good in photos…”
Special Events Coordinator at the National Museum of American History
Now imagine if the review was just signed as “Jackie” without her title. Nobody would know who that is, and we’d have no reason to believe her. However, given that she’s the Special Events Coordinator at that museum her comment has a lot more credibility.
The issue of privacy is bound to come up, so let me address that. For most commercial or corporate work there doesn’t need to be any concern about disclosing the name and title of an individual. In most cases this information is readily available on their company website. This is another reason why it’s good to date your reviews in case that person goes to work for another company a few months later.
*Now for wedding photographers you need to be a little more careful. You should not use the full name of the couple. A wedding is a personal event, not a professional or public one …unless you’re Kate Middleton. Rather than using their full names, use only their first names, but you should absolutely include a photo with the review.
Whether you’re a photographer, handyman, or any other small business owner take a look at your own testimonials page and ask yourself how it can be improved. By all means share your discoveries with the rest of us!