To quote social media expert Brian Solis, “Welcome to a new era of marketing and service, in which your brand is defined by those who experience it.”

The digital age has made it easier for consumers to research information on their own. As a result, consumers rely on their own research abilities rather than waiting for a company to relay information to them. Most of these consumers, regardless or age or background, look for user-generated content to help them make up their mind about a business. This is why encouraging consumers to leave testimounnamed-5nials and spread the good word is essential to your small business’s growth. According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Report, testimonials are more effective than any other content marketing tactic, including case studies, in-person events, or even video. 89% of survey respondents indicated that testimonials top the list when it comes to changing a customer’s mind about doing business.

Below are three key factors to getting customers to provide testimonials:

1. Ask for feedback right away.

If you know your customer has had a positive experience, ask them for feedback right away. The next time someone tells you via email, during a phone conversation, or especially in person that they’re happy with your services, tell them how much you would appreciate their testimonial online.

You’re much more likely to get customers to agree to spend the time to write a review right after their experience versus months down the road when the memory of how happy they were has faded. Using a solution like Signpost can make this easy, by helping you identify which customers you should target for testimonials and automatically prompting customers to share their thoughts after they’ve engaged with your business.

2. Make it as easy as possible for your customer to comment.

If you think your customer is going to search around your website to leave a review, you’re wrong. Instead, you need to make it as easy as possible for them to post their reviews by adding links in multiple places on your website and in emails. Using automated email campaigns can help track active customers, so asking for a review is easy for you—and takes virtually no time for your customers.

3. Thank your reviewers.

Track the customers who leave reviews for you and respond to them in timely manner. Include this in your customer profiles and allow Signpost to make notes of the customers who are doing your business a favor. Consider rewarding them for their time with a discount code, freebie, or even a simple thank you email.

What makes a good, and effective, testimonial? Below are a few considerations:

  • Think about what your potential customers are wary of. Try and gather testimonials that speak to your prospects’ concerns. If they typically worry about price, ask for testimonials that address how your service costs less than the competition quotes. Or if their big worry is getting access to you, the business owner, have current clients talk about how you were there every step of the way with them.
  • Make sure the comments are specific. The more relevant details included in the testimonial, the more useful it will be in convincing other prospects to invest. Having a customer say that their car detailing was so terrific that it ended up adding $500 in value at trade-in is better than saying you made their car shiny.
  • Focus on the before-and-after impact. Testimonials that speak to what life was like before buying from you and what it’s like now hit home the hardest. How has doing business with you transformed your customer’s life?
  • Don’t over-edit. The best testimonials are conversational in tone; it’s more believable and authentic that way.

Finally, once you have a testimonial, make sure your prospects can’t miss it. Use it in as many places as you can think of, including on your business’s website, advertisements, sales packets, and social media.

Make collecting testimonials an ongoing part of your marketing process. Using services like Signpost, you can streamline the testimonial process and make sure active customers willing to leave reviews don’t fall through the cracks. If testimonials are the most effective marketing tool around, investing a few minutes on a regular basis to generate them will be very good for business.