Getting real data from real people commenting online is one of the most powerful pieces of research you’ll do.
Testimonials: the not-so-secret goldmine of actual customer feedback about the services or products they have used. Creating your ideal customer or user profile is a great idea, but seeing inside their heads goes one stage better.
I like to use testimonials or reviews pages to see what people really appreciate from a product or service. Most businesses value real customer feedback and use it to help their own marketing – there are many articles like this one about how to encourage testimonials.
I prefer to use this feedback to find out what makes a customer happy in any particular industry.
If I need to write about any kind of field, I can usually find a couple of websites that show quotes from happy clients on the subject. Financial advice, roofing, orders of service for funerals, construction equipment hire… they’ve all got them.
Most people value speed and efficiency of service. Others felt very glad to have a friendly team that looked after them well. Some people were also impressed by the company’s knowledgeable approach.
I know what you’re thinking. ‘Like, obviously. It’s not rocket science.’ Of course not. We all value a prompt, professional service done by efficient, friendly and knowledgeable people. But seeing exactly what these people were talking about enables us to then write copy that reflects these values back at them.
Also, when we establish what the customers valued most from this service or product, we can tailor our conversations for new prospects right from the start. We can to show that the company will be meeting their needs as soon as they arrive at the website or read the leaflet.
For example: we’re writing copy for a roofing company. We see a testimonial on another company’s website about how they loved the fast service, with no mess. We can then lead with a line for our client about how they’ll be on site by the end of the day of call, and will take away all rubbish themselves. (Assuming that our client is actually prompt, clean and tidy… We wouldn’t want to get called out for false advertising!)
Leverage the language
The second best thing we can find out from testimonials is how the people who use any service talk about it.
Patterns can emerge. They might each be using the same words to describe something, or repeat praise of one particular aspect. They might talk about a product in a certain way and often use the same phrase, or word order.
Here, then, we can get ideas for keywords, both short and long-tail. We can then feed this back into our copy, so it contains the words and phrases that clients may be searching with. And, again, this makes it instantly chime with the thoughts and concerns that potential new users will have.
Testimonials for Order Of Service printers always say things like: ‘easy to use’, ‘easy to deal with’, ‘very helpful’ and of course, ‘service’ (in both meanings of the word). So, we can make our opening pitch on the homepage to be all about their easy-to-use templates and sympathetic team available on the phone.
All-in-all, studying testimonials gains us an insight into the what exactly the visitors think and need when they come to a website looking for the service.
Use the flip side, or is it the Dark Side?
Almost on an equal footing with testimonials as a source of target audience needs, issues and desires is their ugly cousin: forum posts. For every positive that you see in a testimonial, there’ll be a negative resting in a forum post somewhere.
Forums are the places you visit to really find out what the potential customer’s problems and hang-ups are. Very rarely do I see happy customers posting on forums.
It’s all about where something has gone wrong: the communication from the company was bad. Or prices went up unexpectedly. Or work was left unfinished, and so on.
Again, this is a goldmine of data from real people and events that we can use to tailor our copy. We can see the exact areas of concern that a potential customer will have before searching for a website, and address them head-on when they arrive. We can point them to useful content on the site, offer guarantees that goalposts won’t be moved and show photos of the team that they’ll be able to call when they need help, no problem.
It’s all about building a rapport and trust. And there is no better place to find out a potential customer’s pressure and pleasure points than in online testimonials and forums.
Next stop, the social networks
And, while we’re here, let’s not forget one other obvious source of useful marketplace information: Facebook groups. Working on copy for a product for babies and toddlers? Yup, there’s a Facebook group for that. Writing for a health and fitness website? There are loads of groups for that. And the list goes on.
It’s no wonder that people talk about Facebook knowing more about us than our own families and friends do. We are constantly filling the pages of Facebook with our stories, opinions and tips. And if Facebook can use all this info, then so should we.
Each one of those online groups will be full of real people giving real insights into a niche product, service, social scene or issue. All of that will be useful information when it comes to targeting readers in any given subject.
In conclusion: never feel stuck for finding the words and ways to push potential clients’ buttons. All the information and real-life feedback you need – from Pete talking about his dog’s visit to the vet to Clara’s experience with her car – is there online. Take what they tell you and place it front and centre in your copy.