The power of the testimonial has been immense throughout the history of commerce, and this influence is growing ever-stronger in these days of social media dominance.  If your business gets it right, your reputation can spread like wildfire as customers share their positive experiences.  A happy customer who's willing to talk about it can be one of the most powerful weapons in your marketing armory, but how can you turn a quietly satisfied customer into an advocate for your brand?


Ask for Feedback

Always provide a way for customers to offer feedback on the service you've given, and actively encourage them to do so.  Not only will this increase their feeling of being valued, but you can pick out the most effective replies to use as testimonials.  A second major benefit is that asking all your customers for feedback increases the credibility of the testimonials you choose to publish - when a customer has submitted their own opinions, they're less likely to assume other feedback has been faked.


Action the Feedback

If a customer makes a valid suggestion that you wind up implementing, then be sure to acknowledge their contribution in public.  They will feel listened to and important, and will also tend to point others in the direction of your acknowledgment, particularly if your brand is already well regarded.


Customer of the Week

You can take the testimonials idea a step further by nominating a regular "Customer of the Week" or similar.  Pick a customer with an interesting background, or one who has used your services to particularly good effect, and feature them in a short article on your website.  This not only provides human interest and social proof, but will also prompt the featured customer to share their fame with their friends and wider circle.


Encourage Reviews

Whether you place them on your own site or on third party platforms, reviews are a great way of giving your customers a voice.  You'll need to be prepared to take the rough with the smooth, but if you're active and engage with your reviewing customers, you'll greatly increase their individual sense of loyalty.  Crucially, if you receive a poor review, make sure you deal with it publicly and promptly.  Going the extra mile in dealing with unhappy customers is a powerful way of turning them into strong advocates.


Be Active on Social Media

The same principle applies to social media.  If you have an account, make sure it's active and that you respond to all your customers' posts in a positive and helpful manner.  This puts a human face on your company, and never forget that in the social media sphere, a satisfied customer can share their opinion to hundreds with just a few clicks.


Referral Programs

If you can set up a referral program that rewards customers for sending new business your way, you'll in effect be building an army of paid publicists at a fraction of the cost of other forms of marketing.  However, make sure that the program offers genuine value to everyone involved - few people will be willing to share an underwhelming offer with family or friends.


Informal Rewards

It's also hugely effective to reward loyal customers in an informal, seemingly spontaneous way.  A surprise gift or an unexpected birthday card is sure to result in a little extra social media exposure from the delighted recipient, as well as strongly boosting their individual loyalty.


Branded Freebies

From pens to t-shirts, providing branded merchandise free of charge to loyal customers will show them that they're valued, but will also provide brand exposure as they use the gifts in their daily lives.  Boost this effectiveness by offering the same merchandise for sale - you may not actually sell any, but that's not the real aim.  Simply having a price tag attached to the goods you give away increases their perceived value, making the freebie tactic more effective.


If your business provides a valuable service and treats customers well, it won't take much to nudge some of them into becoming your brand advocates.  It may require a little thought and extra effort on your part, but as happy customers can be by far the most potent advertisements for a business, it's well worth the modest investment involved.