Testimonials are sometimes referred to as ‘the secret sales force’, and with good reason. Psychologists have long understood the principle of ‘social proof’, which basically says people will do what they see other people doing.
The role of the testimonial is to make your potential readers and prospects feel completely at ease, by letting them know that lots of people have already done what they are considering doing . . . and that they are very happy with the decision they made.
Testimonials reduce doubt and risk, and encourage action.
Customers don’t often commit praise about a company in writing, even if they love the product or service, so if you don’t ask for a testimonial you probably won’t get one.
The best way to make the request is, when you hear a positive comment from a customer, write it down and email it to them and ask for their permission to use it in your marketing. You will get a very high hit rate doing it this way, and also have some input into what they say.
Remember, you should always get written approval to use a customer’s comment.
Another good technique for generating testimonials is to ask customers to fill out a short survey about your service. Make the last question something like, “what do you like most about our website/service/product?” or “how has our website/service/product helped you to…?”
The best testimonials are from people your audience can directly relate to.
I should revise the statement “people will do what they see other people doing” to “people will do what they see other people like themselves doing”.
Unfortunately, it is very common on the web for unscrupulous marketers to fabricate testimonials; it’s so easy to do. This is making web consumers cynical and suspicious when they read them. To overcome this cynicism you need to give as much evidence as you can that they are from real people. This can include a photo, a scanned letter, a link to their website or Facebook profile or a video. Testimonials with just initials and a city look fabricated.
By the way, the US Federal Trade Commission introduced a new law in December 2009 which makes it illegal to fabricate testimonials, get paid for writing reviews without declaring your financial interest, or to misrepresent the benefits of a product or service. This law is good news, but I suspect it won’t stop dishonest marketers doing what they have always done.
No product or service is without faults or beyond improvement. Testimonials are far more credible if they include real feedback and constructive comments, for example, “it took a bit of time to learn how to use the service, but once understood, it did everything I needed . . . and more!”
Photos have the effect of reassuring readers that your testimonials were provided by a real person. I ran a straw poll at a recent seminar and 22 out of the 28 attendees confirmed that a photo made a positive difference to the way they perceived a testimonial.
Better than a photo is a video testimonial. Read and people are encouraged; see a photo and people believe; watch a video and they are persuaded. Not many sites have video testimonials, so the impact and perceived value is still very high.
Any of your customers who are familiar with Internet marketing will know the value of an inbound link; you can use this to your advantage. Offer to add a link to any testimonial that you use; this will provide customers with a good incentive.
If YOU say negative things about your competitors, it will have little impact, or may even count against you in the minds of your prospects. However if a third party compares your service favourably to that of your competitors, it will be seen as a valid and useful insight.
The word ‘testimonial’ can put people off committing their comments in writing, so instead try asking people for “their story” of how they have used your service and how it has helped them.
A case study has the same value as a testimonial. It is just another way of getting positive feedback from your customers into the minds of your prospects.
Spread testimonials across all the pages on your site where you want to influence your customer’s decision making. This includes the home page, features page, product pages, order form and payment page.
If your website has multiple revenue streams you will have different audiences for different products and services. You will have your broad website audience. You may have advertisers and merchants looking for affiliate partners. You may have products and events to promote, and you may have a paid membership option. You should try to get testimonials from customers of each of these offerings, raher than use the same broad comments across the whole of your site.
Most contact pages focus on either providing sales support or dealing with customer questions and problems. This is a missed opportunity; you should also ask for positive feedback from happy customers. If you don’t ask, you won’t get!
If you give other people a positive testimonial they will fell indebted to you and look to reciprocate in future. By the way, whenever you give someone else a testimonial always provide them with your web address; they will usually publish your comment with the link.
It does not matter what your website is about; whether it is free or subscription-based, or who your audience is, testimonials will help build your credibility, authority and trust. Remember the principle of social proof; people will follow what other people do. Testimonials demonstrate that other people like what you do, which will encourage other people to do the same.