We’ve talked quite a bit about the value, and need, of developing a strategic business plan for your design business (here and here). We’ve also offered advice on the importance of creating an online marketing strategy (most recently here). While many of the business building and marketing tips we’ve shared are important, we would be remise if we neglected to mention the incredible value of client testimonials and reviews.
According to an article at Inc.com, 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews, and 84% trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. (More of the research to back up this stunning claim can be found here.)
Client Testimonials May Be the Key to Designer Success
The absolute value of client testimonials and reviews really cannot be overstated. The inherently impersonal environment of the internet makes it a place where skepticism runs rampant and where trust may be the greatest commodity you can find. In fact, we’ve known many online shoppers who base their purchases exclusively on the testimonials and reviews they see.
This is why it is so very important that you create and maintain a process that encourages your design clients to leave reviews and/or testimonials, that monitors the reviews they leave, and that deals with and improves any negative reviews you might receive. (Opportunity calling!!!)
Dedicated to offering tips to both homeowners and design professionals, the website Houzz.com recently shared some great tips for just such a client review process:
1. Ask Your Clients for Reviews and Testimonials
Make reviews part of your design process – Mention reviews at the start and throughout the project so clients keep reviews top of mind. Planting the seed from the beginning will make it easier to get reviews at the end of the project.
Personalize your client requests – Requesting reviews with a personalized note is much more effective than sending a generic message. Ask how they’re enjoying a specific feature you worked on or how they’re decorating for the holidays.
Tap your professional designer network – On Houzz, members of the professional community can fill out reviews as “Colleagues” to provide a different angle of your business. Only request reviews from other professionals with whom you have worked.
2. Track Your Projects and Client Testimonials
Keep a project tracking spreadsheet – Keep an Excel or Google doc of all the projects you finish. At the end of every month, send requests to all the clients who haven’t reviewed you yet. Once you receive a review, mark it in the doc.
Request reviews with Houzz – With the “Get Reviews” tool on your Houzz profile, just add the client’s email address and write a personalized note. Houzz will send the client an invitation to review your work.
Ask your account manager to follow up for you – Pro+ pros can have their dedicated Houzz account manager assist with reviews. Ask your account manager about the Review Concierge Service that can send requests via email on your behalf.
3. Follow Up with Every Client, Review or Not
Thank your clients for thanking you – Since responding by email can be time consuming, Houzz allows you to respond to your reviews with a thank-you message and a “Like.” Responding to reviews shows that you truly value relationships with your clients, even after the project is complete.
Respond to negative reviews – Offering clarification or perhaps how you might improve the situation will allow potential clients to see how you handle situations that aren’t ideal. A negative review can be a positive marketing opportunity. (More on this below.)
Make client testimonials available online – Make the reviews you receive available to prospective clients to showcase your credibility and experience as a real interior design professional. Send clients a link to your reviews page, add them to your website with the Houzz Review Widget, and include them in any prospective client welcome materials.
BONUS TIP: Remember that repeat clients are more likely to hire you again – and to spend more – than a new client so, keep in touch with clients after you finish a design project by asking for a testimonial, and by asking of they may need more work in the future.
Turn a Bad Review Into and Opportunity
Here is some great advice from the Inc.com article we mentioned above: If you receive a negative review, the first thing to do is…
“Make the customer feel [like they are being] heard. Jump too quickly to trying to solve the problem and some will think you didn't take the time to fully understand the problem – and how it made the customer feel. Listen, ask questions, and then validate the customer's feelings. Say, for example, ‘It must have been frustrating for you to not be able to…’
“Then, focus on solving the problem, confident that you not only understand the problem, but what the customer really needs. Once the customer is happy… politely ask them to edit their rating.
“Most will do so. After all, customers don't want to leave negative reviews. They want to be happy.”
Since interior design is a largely local business, and because online reviews have become on of the most important local ranking factors with search engines, creating a process for client testimonials and reviews is absolutely a key to the growth of your design business.
Looking for more design business tips, new interior design trends, and new product ideas? Get in touch with TD Fall today.