Get Customers Talkin'

Most people that are passionate about a subject such as fitness will tell you anything you want to know and then some. You can use their expertise and loyalty as a powerful, low-cost tool to help sell your club and programs at your Web site by posting reviews and testimonials (with their permission, of course) on your site. At the same time, you'll be reinforcing customer loyalty and boosting egos.

According to a survey by Forrester Research, shoppers trust other consumers more than advertisers. The study of 31,000 households showed 65 percent of respondents rate the opinions of other consumers as important or somewhat important influences on their purchasing decisions. Findings also showed adding consumer reviews is a low-cost, low maintenance means of using technology to attract and retain customers while enticing potential buyers to stay on a site longer.

SUCCESS STORIES

Examples of fitness sites using customer testimonials can be found at Fitness In Site (www.fitnessinsite.com/clubs), an online content provider. Using customer pictures and their comments together, this site features a cutout of a full-body consumer photo with his glowing quote boldly placed in the upper right corner of the page. Taking the testimonial concept to another level, the site also features a link off the home page to more comments from clients, including their logos and statements.

A different yet highly effective way to use testimonials “heard across the Web” is at the Gold's Gym site (www.goldsgym.com). Instead of reading the comments of others, a visitor actually is greeted by an audio clip interview of a woman commenting on her weight loss achievement as part of a club challenge. Site visitors have the option to click on a button in the corner of the site to stop the message, but the professional and personalized recording technology holds the listener's attention. This concept would be excellent for health clubs who use radio advertising, as it can spread their audio production investment over two mediums, plus increase the reach of their ad message.

Using a different source for quotes, consider coverage your club or business has received from the media. At Workout Wizard (www.workoutwiz.com), the online weight-training site opens with a quote from a review in USA Today. Depending on the news source, a club with a great review can link to the site where the story is posted in an archive or get permission to repost the entire story on your site. This gives enhanced credibility to the business.

GETTING THE QUOTES

As mentioned above, you must secure permission to post comments on your site. A simple way to gather comments and get permission to use those comments is to conduct a customer survey at the front desk, by phone, mail or e-mail. After key questions, leave an open-ended section for customers to write overall comments about your club, products or personnel, or ask them to describe their best club experience. At the end, simply write, “May we use your comments on our advertising? ___Yes.” If customers don't wish to have their words reposted or reprinted, they won't check “Yes.”

As long as you have this confirmation, you can use their statement(s). Also, be sure to ask permission to post their name if you want to include specific identification with the testimonial. Some clubs prefer to post anonymous comments, although including identities offers more credibility.

Testimonials are one of the most under-used yet powerful marketing tools a club owner can use to boost sales. By adding third-party credibility, a merchant not only can increase online sales, but can win enhanced loyalty from their customers by letting them do the talking.

Kellee “Sparky” Harris is a freelance writer and columnist specializing in online marketing and e-commerce for the sports and recreation industry. She can be reached online at [email protected].

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