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A weekly marketing column by Graham McGregor

Graham McGregor: Marketing with Facebook testimonials

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Photo / Thinkstock
Photo / Thinkstock

Costa Rican Vacations started as a two-man shop in 1999, led by two fresh-out-of-college, U.S. expats who met as roommates in Costa Rica's capital city.

The company sells high-end, customized trips to Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Panama.
Since the beginning, their business relied 100 per cent upon the Internet as its marketing channel. A decade later, the company has grown to a 100-person organization with $25 million in annual sales.

Despite success as cutting-edge Internet marketers, their company was a late adopter of Facebook as a promotional tool. Their target market is around 40-60 years of age, a demographic that wasn't on Facebook early, so they didn't think it valuable for them to jump on Facebook early.

However, their staff made a compelling case for adopting social media.

As Facebook gained popularity with the 40-plus crowd, it became clear they had to figure out how to utilize this medium.

They concluded the best way to start was to use Facebook as the central location for client feedback.

Here is what they did...

Step #1: Integrate Facebook with customer email survey
Their web team set up a custom "Testimonials" tab on our Facebook page, allowing visitors to see a "wall" dedicated to testimonials.

They send an exit survey to all vacation clients after they have arrived back home.

The last question asks if they would post a testimonial to Facebook.

Step # 2: Encourage sales team to interact
In order to keep the conversations going, they encourage their sales team to follow up with client posts.

They push their staff to interact with their clients post sale not just to thank them, but also to discuss their experience and see how they might improve their service.

Step #3. Offer an incentive
To encourage customers to post a testimonial on Facebook, they offer an Amazon gift card to "the most helpful review."

Amazon was chosen because "it's almost like money" and less restrictive than other gift cards.

Once testimonials started coming in, it snowballed, and once everyone was doing it, other people felt more comfortable.

They receive one or more testimonials per day, and now have over 300.

Step #4. Integrate testimonials across channels
Because their company is using a custom page on Facebook, the cool thing is, you can embed those comments anywhere you want.

Costa Rican Vacations utilizes the testimonials in two places:
1: Website Testimonials Page: As opposed to most web testimonials that you are asked to assume are real. Instead, on their site you are seeing real headshots of real people.

2: Vacation Itineraries -- Sent to prospective customers, where it's embedded right there in the itinerary, so prospects can see past client reviews.

TIP: Don't Delete Negative Feedback

Not all reviews are the glowing kind that marketers hope for, and they deal with negative reviews by going into full attack mode - but in a positive way.

It is rare for a client issue to go unresolved during their vacation, but if they are still unhappy after returning home, and air their grievance publicly, they assume that they must have done something wrong.

To address a complaint, their marketing department calls a meeting with the customer service team and the sales rep who sold the vacation to figure out what went awry.
They go to great lengths to resolve an issue, as they know the value of a stellar online reputation.

If they can turn some of those unhappy folks around...we want them to come back then and say, "They resolved my issue,'"

End results

One of the company's annual goals was to increase referrals and repeat business.

Previously, it had been running at around 6 per cent. That number has doubled, currently at 12 per cent.

They believe that part of that growth came as a result of this testimonials project.
Sometimes the best innovations are small ones.

This was not any mind-blowing or technologically difficult feat, but it took a few attempts at it to make it work, and once it did, it took off.

"In the world of Internet Customer Service, it's important to remember your competitor is only one mouse click away." Doug Warner

Action Exercise:
How could you use positive client testimonials in your own marketing?

Graham McGregor is a consultant specialising in memorable marketing. You can download his 396 page 'Unfair Business Advantage' Ebook at no charge from www.theunfairbusinessadvantage.com

Graham McGregor

A weekly marketing column by Graham McGregor

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