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Testimonial & Review Strategy for Marketing Lawn Care Business

Andrew: Why don’t we talk about testimonials or reviews? What is a good strategy for this and how to get them? What is the whole process and idea behind them?

Jonathan: I know this is something most people hate doing, or scared of doing. Would you say it is probably because they are looking at it wrong, approaching it wrong?

Andrew: Yeah, definitely. That’s what I tell our clients. Exactly, like you said, the response we get when we ask our clients to do this and get reviews and testimonials from their own clients, they all see the value in it, but their first reaction is always, “Oh, I hate doing that. I don’t want to bother my clients.” [inaudible 00:52]. But it’s very important. You have got to do it. If you think it’s going to be difficult or hard, you are looking at it the wrong way.

What I always tell the clients is that getting a review or testimonial is really just an extension of following up with your clients, following up with the services that you performed and following up after the sale. It should be part of that process. The reason I say that is because after you have completed a service for a client, after you’ve cleaned their carpets, or whatever it is that you do, you should be asking them if they enjoyed your service, if they are happy with your service, and if they will use you again.

Jonathan: Did they like the person, the technician, the employee that was at the property? What’s the general take on the quality of what you just did.

Andrew: Exactly. That’s exactly right, and their answer is a testimonial. Their answer is a review. It might not be worded exactly perfectly, but their response right there is a testimonial. After you’ve followed up with your client and you said, “how was our service? How did we perform?” And, they say, “oh, you guys are great. I love the fact so and so did this, he paid special attention to this.” That is a testimonial.

As soon as they respond to your follow-up question, you say, “we really appreciate that. We are so glad that you are thrilled with our service. Do you mind if we use that as a testimonial?” That’s the entire process. We are obviously going to go in more depth on different techniques, and different ways to actually collect the testimonials, video, audio, text, different things like that but that right there is the key: Getting and asking for testimonial or review really part of your post-after sale process. It’s that simple.

Jonathan: There’s two things to that, you’ve touched on one. But there’s two things to this after making it part of your after-sale process. One, you find out if they are happy and it leads right into easily asking for the testimonial. And we’re going to talk about a couple ways to do that. Let’s do that. It makes it easy to segue right into it and get it. The other thing is it immediately identifies if there was an issue, if something went wrong, or if they were unhappy about something. You are really accomplishing two huge things at one time.

Andrew: That is exactly right. In a certain way, that aspect of asking for a testimonial and following up after a sale is, in a lot of ways, more important than the actual giving of the testimonial when using that for marketing purposes. I say that because what if you have a client who was completely dissatisfied with the service, they are unhappy, but they are not so unhappy that they are going to go online and criticize you or say something bad about you. Most clients, when dissatisfied with the service or product you offer, they are going to do a couple of things. They are not going to refer you, which is horrible. You always want referrals. And, even worse, they are never going to come back.

Jonathan: And you will never know it. They will just disappear. that’s how the typical client . . . You were mediocre. They were indifferent to you. There was nothing great about it. They just fade away and forget about you. If you are not offering a weekly recurring service, and it’s every six months that they use whatever services you sell, the next 5 months from now when they need it again, six months from now, they kind of have forgotten about you. They will do another Goggle search. They will find somebody else and they go onto somebody else. It’s this level of indifference.

I have a good example. For years I was owner/partner in a cleaning company. One little piece of what we did, we had four big carpet trucks in two different states. We sent the guys to travel to do the work, and if there was a problem, we might have already left. We were 200 miles away and it was a lot of work to go back. By introducing that same concept into that company and checking in before those technicians left town, we would find out if that client was unhappy.

One, it saved us a ton of money because we didn’t have to go back. Two, a great example in carpet, you clean the carpet after the carpet dries a day later some spots resurface. If we had a bunch of spots resurface and we had never checked in, those clients would have just been unhappy. They would have never called us. Never said anything, but they would have never used us again. That checking in is just as important to find issues, as it is to build testimonials and reviews.

Andrew: Exactly right. Obviously, the next course when you discover those unsatisfied clients, obviously, the next step is to make them satisfied clients and make them thrilled with your service. As soon as you are in the process of following up and getting the testimonial and you are in the after sales process, if you find out they are unhappy make them happy. Otherwise, they are going away for good. They are taking their money somewhere else.

Jonathan: We are not going to talk about this here, but the greatest thing about making them exceptionally happy post sale after you sell them something is if you want to build a really good referral program, which is the cheapest way to get new clients, you can’t do that without an exceptional after the sale process.

Andrew: Exactly right. We are going to talk about that in another video, but I really want to impart the fact that follow-up after the sale and testimonial and review gathering is the same process. It’s also just as we described here, it’s a great way to salvage unhappy clients and clients that will never come back and use you again because of whatever reason. Also, something that you touched on with the carpet cleaning example, you would be shocked at some of the things that you will find out about your business just by following up with your clients.

Jonathan: What sales objections to use and what were they dissatisfied about. What did they not like about the company they had before? What did they like about you great that the last guy didn’t do great? These start all the things you are later going to use in your marketing.

Andrew: I’ll give you one of the worst examples, on of the worst things you don’t want to happen to your business. This is one I discovered because the client was following the process and following up with their clients and following up and trying to get reviews and testimonials aggressively.

Jonathan: Was this one of your clients?

Andrew: I don’t want to say who it is, but the client discovered that one of their former employees was butchering their clients. They discovered this, because they followed up with their clients that hadn’t come back for their reoccurring service in a while.

Jonathan: That’s smart.

Andrew: They found out that their client list was essentially being butchered by a former employee. They would have never discovered this had they ended the sale after they took their client’s money. Had they not followed up they would have never known that one of their former employees was trying to steal their business. It’s very important that you make this a part of your post-sale process and that you do it regularly.

Jonathan: Great. Let’s talk about what makes a good testimonial. What goes into making it? One of my first things would be a believable testimonial. I think if you look around a lot of guys will have a web page. Or even if you are looking at print marketing they will have, what I’ve seen on the webpage, is they’ll have a list of testimonials. In print marketing, they will have testimonials. They are some kind of boring testimonial and then it says AJ or RP and maybe a city, but it doesn’t really seem believable. Some of the criteria that I think is just critically important is a full name, a city, what city and state are they in. Depending on where you serve, if you are just serving a few cities, you just need the city name. Ideally it would be, what does that person do? What’s their occupation?

Andrew: Their occupation would be applicable.

Jonathan: Are they a teacher, doctor, or a business owner? What’s the deal?

Andrew: Maybe they work for a respected company in the community. That’s something that’s good for other prospective customers to see. The CEO of this local business which they respect they are seeing, that’s a credibility builder right there.

Jonathan: Exactly. The thing about this if you are sending out a direct mail piece and your target client is stay at home moms because they are home making a decision about whatever service you sell and maybe you are marketing to them, if you send them a postcard and it has an example testimonial of somebody that lives on the other side of town 50 miles away in a different city and then it’s a testimonial from a plumber, it doesn’t connect as if it were another stay at home mom that lives in that exact city.

So you want to match. It takes some time to do this and collect these types of testimonials but you want to match your testimonials to whomever your target market is that you are talking to. In another video we are going to talk about is the multiple website strategy. This is exactly one of the reasons you use that multiple website strategy because you can do the message market match. You can match the message to the target market which is the people that are visiting the sub-websites. So it really feels like hey, this is just for me. Same concept you want testimonials. You want to collect testimonials that really feel like these people that are saying this, telling the story about your company or bad experience they had with somebody else, they are just like me. That’s really, really important.

Andrew: That’s exactly right. The more your message that you are delivering, the more your sales pitch that you are delivering to your prospect resonates with them as a person and who they are and what they do, and what type of person they are, that helps sell in a major way. You want to match the message with the person you are trying to reach. That goes right along with it.

Jonathan: It’s a huge strategy. Again, what I said originally, the testimonial has to be believable. Say you are a con artist. Let’s say you are trying to convince me of something. If you are super vague and sketchy and you don’t give me much facts, or details and I’m trying to put the story together in my head and say are you legit. I’m trying to figure this out. The less information you give me the more I am going to question it.

Andrew: That’s a very good point.

Jonathan: But if you sit down and say hey . . . if you lay out the details and you’ve got this great back story and you’re giving lots of specifics like dates, locations, places you were and I am connecting, Yeah, that’s real, that’s real,” it’s believable. You have a better chance of convincing me. The same concept with the testimonial. Again, if you have a testimonial that says, man, you guys are the most incredible company I’ve ever used. You’re insane, AJ. Or maybe Susie at the office wrote that one. But, if you have a testimonial from Michael Johnson, Chiropractor in Plano, Texas, testimonial on 5/7/2011, not that you have to go to that detail, but the detail creates believability.

Andrew: That’s a very good point.

Jonathan: In addition to creating a testimonial to somebody that is similar.

Andrew: That’s a very good point.

Jonathan: That is one little thing to think about when you are gathering a testimonial. What else?

Andrew: The best testimonials that I’ve read, and the ones that resonate with me, are the ones that basically resonate because they are answering a question that I have or they are solving a problem that I have. Say, I’m going to a dry cleaner, and I have a white shirt. It’s my favorite white shirt but I got crazy at a night club and I have a big cranberry vodka stain all over the front of it. If I see a testimonial and somebody says I had this same problem. I had a huge stain of ketchup on my shirt and it was white and it’s my favorite white shirt and these guys at such and such a dry cleaner got it out. That’s going to resonate with me. That’s going to tell me, they had experience solving the problem that I’m experiencing. That’s really what you want to do in a testimonial. You really want to address the problems that your prospects might be having and also address any objections they might be having as well. Wouldn’t you say?

Jonathan: Absolutely and I am going to take it a step further. Exactly what you said is great. So going back to something we talked about earlier, one of the great things about following up with your clients is you find out what they were worried about with the service that you provide. You hear the good things that you did and you also find out things that didn’t happen that bothered them that you need to fix next time. A lot of times when you do a great job you hear, “You guys are so great. The last company I had they did this and I hated that. That was the reason I hired you guys.” That’s a big bell right there. That’s something that goes in marketing. That’s something you collect a testimonial about to answer that very thing. So let me take what you just set up a step further. Back to, you are a con artist again.

Andrew: Can I be a dentist?

Jonathan: No, you are trying to convince me to buy something.

Andrew: Have I been to prison?

Jonathan: I don’t know.

Andrew: How long have I been incarcerated?

Jonathan: A while. So you’re trying to convince me to do something. Okay. You’re standing there giving me the pitch and you are literally answering all of my objections. That’s good, but wouldn’t it be better if somebody else, like a nice 70 year old lady came walking up and she said, ” Man, this guy right here. I had the same problem and she tells me the exact same story you did about how she had a great experience with this other company or with you.” That’s going to be way more believable all of the sudden because it’s a third person saying something about you and not you trying to sell me. That’s the other value of the testimonial. It’s somebody else doing the selling and not me the salesman doing the selling. I have a vested interest. I’m going to make money off of you. But if this other person that has no perceived vested interest says something great, more credible, more believable. That’s again why you get testimonials that answer objections.

Andrew: Going along with that, speaking from my own perspective, the testimonials that I read and respond to are entertaining in a certain way, a good testimonial is a story.

Jonathan: Absolutely. Every story, facts tell, stories sell. That’s like a marketing saying. Facts tell, stories sell. Testimonials are many little stories. Like every good story there is a problem, a climax, and a resolution, right? Isn’t that kind of the general structure of a movie, a [story]. The testimonial sets up the before, the previous company I had burned down my house. Then, the other company came sweeping in cleaned it all up, whatever. That’s pretty dramatic but you get the point.

Andrew: That’s a pretty bad story.

Jonathan: It would be a powerful testimonial.

Andrew: The last company I hired burned down my house?

Jonathan: Sure. It makes the point. So anyway, the testimonial . . .

Andrew: What were they doing? Were they cleaning the carpets? Were they mowing the lawn . . .

Jonathan: Okay. Let’s use a tame example, really common problem. We’ll use the lawn care example first. A common complaint you’ll hear from pet owners that have outside dogs is, “that stupid company never closes the gate.” Every once in awhile you will hear the story that ran out in the street and the lawn care company couldn’t find the dog. Or, we’ve actually have heard of, I think we have a client now . . . I could be wrong. I’ve definitely heard this story whether they’re our client or not, somebody, a previous company let the dog out and it got hit by a car. This really happens. So traumatic stuff does happen.

That is a wonderful testimonial when our client who switched from this other lousy company to us says, “hey, the previous company I had to ask them three times to close the gate. In fact, my dog got out, it scared the life out of us, took us five hours to find our dog, and when we were looking for a company we had to find to be able to trust who we were getting. Had to know they would close the gate. Since we have been working with you guys for the last five months, never have they left the gate open. In fact, they even put the lock back on the gate and once they weren’t sure and they came back to the house and checked.” That’s a story. It sets up the problem. It tells about the solution. That’s a testimonial. It’s a mini story.

Andrew: That’s a perfect example of the sort of testimonial that you want. Some of you are watching this and going like, oh, geez, I’ll never get a testimonial like that. But remember, you have made this part of your post-sale process. You are collecting testimonials for every single client that is happy with your service. Every client is giving you money. You are getting a testimonial from them. You are going to be getting so many testimonials that stories like this are going to come up. They’re not a stretch.

Jonathan: They don’t have to be overly dramatically.

Andrew: Of course not.

Jonathan: Some of our testimonials are this simple. I used to live in California. Or we move all the time and when we got to Texas we weren’t sure who to hire and thank goodness we found you guys. Well, it’s not dramatic or over the top but it sets up a common scenario. People are moving in from out of town. They don’t know the area. They are looking for a company they can trust. They don’t want to talk to three different companies. So it talks to people that are also moving in from out of town. Simple.

Andrew: That’s a good point. That’s something that we also try to mix our messages up. This goes along with landing pages and sales pages. We get into that in some of our other videos. Really trying to get a breath of different testimonials and different responses from clients you’re going to find some common themes. That as well is going to tell you what sales messages you can use to resonate with the largest amount of potential prospects. What these clients are going to be telling you in their testimonials is gong to reoccur. You are gong to get some good ideas on how you can reach similar clients and the different percentages of types of people that are already using your product or service.

If we can back up and reiterate a point that I had earlier is that you are going to get clients whose reaction when you ask for a review or testimonial is going to be I don’t know what to say. I feel awkward, but remember you are going to make this a natural part of following up with your sale. When it comes to that and you are asking them how was the service? How do we perform? Is there anything that we can do better? Their response, if you are doing your job right, their response is going to be great. I especially like that you did this and this. And the next thing out of your mouth is going to be, wow, we’re thrilled to hear that. Do you mind if we use that as a testimonial?

The next thing they say is well, I’m going to feel awkward I don’t know what to say. Well, you just said what you need to say. Just repeat the last two sentences that came out of your mouth and that’s the testimonial we get to use.

Andrew: That’s good advice.

Jonathan: That’s what we would like to us on our website 99% of the time they will be, like, oh, okay. I can repeat what I just said. And there you go. It’s really simple when you are thinking about reviews and testimonials. Don’t get nervous about it. Don’t get intimated about asking your clients. If they are happy with their service, they are going to be thrilled to give you that testimonial and review.

Jonathan: yeah. And a lot of times if you’ve experienced a problem where you have asked a client for a testimonial? Yeah, that’s generally the case. You’ve asked them for one and they said, oh, yeah, absolutely we would love to do that but it never comes, you never get it.

Andrew: That happens probably 50% of the time.

Jonathan: Yeah, and I think a good part of that is because then when they sit down to write it, they don’t know what to write. They don’t want to feel embarrassed or [silly].

Andrew: Maybe they’re busy and forget.

Jonathan: Yeah, absolutely, that too. But this idea of guiding them . . . There are three ways to guide them. Just say what you just told me. That what you just said was awesome if you could just record that or if I could just hold up this video cam and you can say that again, that would be wonderful. Or, two, guide them a little bit. Say, you know what I heard you saying to me was this and that we solved this and this is the result you got. Could you just cover that for me? That gives you an opportunity to guide them into giving you a testimonial that answers an objection. Another, third would be, we’ve had it before. I guess I first saw it, I remember a client from years ago said could you just write something? Anything you say I would agree with it. So if you just jotted down some notes and he’s like that’s perfect. Sometimes they just want you to tell them what to say.

Andrew: There’s nothing wrong with it. That’s an approved testimonial. They signed off on it. I don’t have any qualms about doing that at all. Sometimes you do have to do that because clients are busy. They forget. They don’t know what to say. Or they feel awkward about it.

Jonathan: Testimonials fall under FTC guidelines. There have been a lot of guys that been in some serious trouble in the Internet marketing world for false testimonials. So you want to [inaudible 22:44] it.

Andrew: That’s not going to be a problem.

Jonathan: That’s not an issue because you’re going to get them.

Andrew: Because the people who are watching are going to make this a part of their post-sales process. They are going to be doing it so frequently that it is going to be so natural that they are going to have more testimonials and reviews than they know what to do with. That’s not even something that is a concern.

Jonathan: I agree. What would be a couple of mechanisms to capture them? I’ll say one. I’ll just go ahead and throw out a couple. A couple mechanisms to capture these: one, you talk to somebody. They can just mail it to you, they can e-mail it to you. Some companies that are savvy might have a place on their website where they can submit it. Another thing I like and honestly haven’t used it enough. Done it a couple of times. There are services you can subscribe to, will have a call-in phone number so you can just have your client call right into that phone number, record the voicemail, turn that message into an MP3 or audio file, and you just download it.

Andrew: Yeah. There’s a lot of great ways to do it. Let’s start with some of the offline techniques and some of the things that we do offline. We have already touched on the one that is going to be the most common. That’s going to be when you are actually there with your client after the sale. You are just asking them how everything was. How the service was.

Jonathan: You are at their property?

Andrew: You are at their property, or they are at your place of business and you are following up and they’re handing you their credit card and you’re following up. When you are there and you are face to face and you follow up and they give you that onsite review, you go through the process that we just specified. There are a couple of different ways to capture it. Video if they are on site.

Jonathan: They are the best.

Andrew: If they are on site and they’re right in front of you, go for the video. Everybody these days has a cell phone. Whether it’s iPhone4, or Android phone, almost all phones these days have great HD video. The iPhone4 shoots great 720 video. Probably a lot of your staff has those. If they don’t, you can buy a cheap HD camera for less than $200. Just keep it behind your desk if people are coming to your location. If a crew or technician is going onsite with a client, send a video camera with them. Have them keep it in their pocket. When they are following up and they are accepting the payment, pull out the camera, and shoot them against a plain wall.

Jonathan: Or, in front of their house, or whatever you just took care of.

Andrew: Whatever you’re doing.

Jonathan: All you need is a couple of sentences. It doesn’t have to be a 15 minute ordeal. It’s something quick and simple. More than anything, the reason video is more powerful it’s the best possible testimonial review that you can get.

Andrew: A real person. You can see that it’s not fake. It’s the best possible testimonial review you can get. A real person talking about your service and how thrilled they were with you. It’s easy to do. Like I said, if you make this part of your process, it comes easy. It becomes second nature. Just make it part of your process.

Jonathan: Before we go on to audio, which would be the next one. I’m going in order of the most important, video is the best, then audio, then written. After I have compiled 5, 6, 7, 10 of these things?

Andrew: That’s a good point. That’s what we do with our own clients. After they’ve compiled 10 or so testimonials, and remember these testimonials are generally going to be two sentences long, there are going to maybe five seconds. Some of them a bit longer. You are going to get clients who are extremely thrilled and they will talk for a couple of minutes. That’s awesome.

When you get about five minutes of testimonials together, what we do for our clients is we edit those together. Maybe put a little bit of quiet music behind it and put that testimonial video up on their website and feature it prominently, depending on their website put it up on the main page.

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Andrew Pototschnik is the founder of Lawn Care Marketing Expert, the largest online marketing agency in North America specializing in marketing strategies for the lawn care and landscaping industries.

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