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Phil Bray: The power of public client reviews

It is our responsibility to communicate the value of advice. What better evidence than the opinions of those who have experienced it

Bray-PhilThere has been a lot written this year about the benefit of collating and displaying client testimonials. Despite the cynicism of some, we firmly believe they are a useful addition to marketing efforts, both on and offline. There is a logical next step: client reviews.

Anecdotally, they are more trusted than testimonials, where only the best are selected for display. However, client reviews show a spectrum of user experiences: the great, the good and those where you were perhaps having a slightly off day. That creates a far more authentic and honest profile.

Why use them?

It is incumbent on us all to communicate just how valuable professional advice is. What better evidence is there than the opinions of those who have experienced it? What is more, there is evidence to show that:

  • Consumers are influenced by both positive and negative reviews when making a buying decision
  • Many consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • They increase click-through rates to your website

At a time when consumer confidence in financial services is low, positive reviews provide reassurance and reinforce the value of advice.

Phil Bray: Does your website pass the split-second test?

Building consumer confidence and demonstrating expertise is central to almost every marketing strategy an adviser could use. Especially in the quest for referrals and recommendations. Reviews are great for doing this, as well as showing the types of people you work with and the benefit you add.

Finally, review sites can be an excellent source of traffic to your website and can encourage new enquiries.

Convinced? Where next?

Building up a series of online reviews takes work. There is an initial drive to gather reviews, followed by the ongoing project of ensuring they are kept up to date.

The first task is choosing which platform you will use to collate your reviews. Important factors include:

  • Ease of use, for both you and the client
  • The vigilance displayed by the site in weeding out and removing fake reviews
  • The longevity of the site. It would be frustrating to invest time and resources into building up a valuable bank of reviews, only for the site to close, rendering all your hard work useless.

Their financial services specialism makes VouchedFor an obvious choice. Advisers can use the site to collate reviews without taking out a paid subscription and it offers the ability to embed your rating and reviews on your website.

Adviser directories: Down but not out?

Facebook and Google are excellent options too; the latter being particularly useful when combined with Google My Business listings. I would recommend picking one as your primary choice with another as a back-up.

Asking for reviews

Of course, at some point, you are going to have to bite the bullet and ask your clients to leave you a review.

In our experience, the best way to do that is via email. A phone call to ask can be daunting and is soon forgotten. An email, however, remains in their inbox until it is either deleted (unlikely, as your clients probably will not want to disappoint you) or dealt with.

Quite rightly, you cannot control what your clients say (and you should be wary of review sites where you can) but you can control the quantity and recency of reviews to a degree.

You will naturally have many reviews added in a short space of time when you start any project of this nature. That said, it is important that you keep these topped up with regular additions. Consumers who see no reviews for a prolonged period will be concerned. In fact, 73 per cent of customers consider three-month-old reviews to be out of date, while 41 per cent claim more recent reviews have the biggest impact on their opinion.

Reviews naturally follow testimonials. Use both. They take effort but, in an age when reassurance is hugely important, they are worth the effort.

Phil Bray is director of The Yardstick Agency

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