We all know the importance of social proof (using the thoughts and words of others to demonstrate the value you add), or at least you should do, I bang on about it enough!
However, a question was posed on Philip Calvert’s fantastic LifeTalk Facebook group (click here to take a look) asking how testimonials should be collected. I wrote a short response but thought the question merited more attention.
So here are some thoughts; as usual, we hope they help!
Historically, where advisers and planners have testimonials (we are still astonished that some don’t have any whatsoever) their collection is haphazard, with clients rarely given any guidance on the length or content of testimonials and most are published anonymously.
We’ve tried to help advisers and planners put this right by creating a testimonial request template, which can simply and quickly be emailed to multiple clients and explains exactly what you are looking for.
You can still download the template for free by clicking here.
Testimonials certainly continue to have a place and frankly should be the minimum benchmark for effective social proof. As a reminder they should:
- Ideally be at least 100 – 150 words long
- Explain the reasons why the client needed financial advice, what you did and how they benefited
- Be attributable, giving the client’s name and broad location
- Give the date the person first became a client to demonstrate longevity
- Be written by the client themselves. No matter how tempting it is, don’t write it for them; apart from being completely inauthentic, your will give your compliance department a coronary!
In an ideal world, these testimonials should be accompanied by an image of the client; video is even better (take a look at the Jones Hill, Swindells Financial Planning and First Wealth websites for some great examples).
That said, should advisers and planners be using alternative methods to collect testimonials?
There are three leading options:
It’s possible to argue that other options such as TrustPilot should be considered. However, the above three, plus self-generation are more than most advisers and planners have the time an inclination to cope with, so that’s where we’ll focus our attention.
Targeted at financial advisers and planners (as well as other professions) VouchedFor provides a platform for requesting, collecting and displaying client reviews. In many ways it can be seen as the TripAdvisor for financial planners and advisers. Advantages include:
- VouchedFor goes to considerable lengths to verify the authenticity of reviews. Their verification process is robust and significantly more rigorous than simply sending an email to verify the reviewer’s identity. The adviser must confirm the reviewer is a client before seeing the content of the review (stopping them only accepting the positive reviews). Furthermore, if the adviser fails to agree the reviewer is a client, VouchedFor will take further steps to confirm authenticity. If the review is found to be genuine, it will go live. VouchedFor also uses a fraud prevention algorithm, including factors such as IP addresses, the frequency of reviews, the email addresses used and the correlation between the number of review invites sent out and the number of reviews received.
- VouchedFor’s reputational tools help advisers and planners demonstrate their value, for example by embedding a widget on their website which displays real-time ratings and reviews. You can read more about these reputational tools by clicking here.
- Reviewers don’t have to have an account to leave a review.
- The directory itself is an extremely useful way of generating new enquiries, something the others don’t directly offer.
- At £45 plus VAT per month for the combined benefit of the reputational tools and enquiry generation (which could provide up to four enquiries per quarter) the price point is very attractive.
The only downside we can think of is that the reviews on VouchedFor don’t necessarily translate easily into testimonials for use elsewhere. However, we have a solution for that, which you can read at the end of this blog.
If you have a Facebook business page you can opt to allow clients to leave reviews. Advantages include:
- The barrier to entry is almost zero. Sure, it’ll take time to build your Facebook page and get to grips with the system, but once you’ve done that requesting reviews is simple and of course, there’s no cost.
- Positive reviews are shared automatically with the reviewer’s connections.
- Facebook reviews can be embedded into your website allowing the most up to date to be displayed.
- Your reviews can be used for the retargeting of adverts (should you choose that way to market your business).
There are downsides with using Facebook; for example, not all your clients will use it or be prepared to sign up just to leave you a review.
Long gone are the days when Google was simply a search engine. It now has its fingers in so many pies it’s hard to keep track. One of the services it offers is of course Google reviews, which allows a client, or indeed anyone who has interacted with your business, to leave a rating and their comments. Advantages of using Google include:
- A large proportion of the traffic Google sends to your website will be the result of a brand search i.e. people who have searched specifically for your business by entering its name or address. Assuming you have claimed it, the results page will display your Google My Business listing, which in turn shows your rating (out of five stars) and any reviews which have been left. A positive rating from multiple reviewers, backed up by positive comments, are powerful evidence of the value you add.
- Although the composition of Google’s algorithm isn’t known, most experts believe the number and quality of reviews is a significant ranking factor, especially in local search. That shouldn’t come as a surprise. Google wants its users to have a positive outcome from a search, which is more likely if it ‘promotes’ highly rated businesses.
- In common with the other options Google reviews can be embedded into your website.
- The ratings and reviews are shown in the results following a local search e.g. “Financial adviser in Nottingham”. Potential clients are more likely to engage (visit the website, call, or message) with businesses which have multiple positive reviews.
A Google account is needed to leave a review. For many of us that won’t be a problem, but there will inevitably be those who don’t have, and perhaps don’t want to have, a Google account.
So, back to the original question…
Which platform should you choose? Should you use more than one? Should you ignore them all and simply continue to collect your own testimonials?
Naturally it depends on your aims and objectives.
Most of the firms we work with want to carve out a position as a ‘go to’ local adviser in their specific niche. That naturally makes local search more important, we would therefore suggest a three-way split using:
- VouchedFor: Because of the effort it makes to authenticate reviews, the reputational tools and the potential it has to generate new enquiries.
- Google: Because of the positive impact reviews have following a brand search and the effect it has on local rankings.
- Your own testimonial requests: As this will allow you to collect longer form testimonials covering specific points, which can then be ‘upgraded’ by adding images of your clients or video.
Using more than one platform has the potential to create ‘feedback fatigue’ amongst clients. We therefore recommend segmenting your clients; asking one third to leave a review on VouchedFor, a third on Google and the remainder to send a testimonial directly to you.
If your needs are different an alternative mix might be appropriate. And, if Facebook is particularly important to your business, or you advertise on there, you may want to add that in as a fourth option.
Of course, you don’t need us to tell you that none of this will happen by magic. It takes time and effort to request the reviews (and then respond to them, something so often overlooked in the hunt for the next review) so what are you waiting for?