10+ tips for making the most of your customer testimonials

testimonial tipsAround this time last year, I shared my SPURF method for collecting testimonials.

I’m sure you’ve been spurfing up a storm and have tons of testimonials by now. So let’s look at how to make them work for you.

Select testimonials from customers similar to your prospect. This increases the feeling of identification and relevance. A teacher will believe other teachers. A business owner will believe other business owners.

The more similarity you can show, the more weight your prospect will give to your testimonials. Even seemingly nonsensical similarities, such as where people live, have an effect. “Oh, he’s from Ohio too!”

Select testimonials that give specifics. Consider these two testimonials for a lawn fertilizer:

“I think Lawn Magic is a wonderful product. My lawn looks great.”

“For 6 years I tried every weed control powder and spray at my local garden store, but nothing could get rid of those darned dandelions. Then I saw your ad for Lawn Magic and decided to give it a try. I got it in the mail last Saturday and immediately tried the Quick Cover method you suggested and WOW! Just a week later, there’s not a single speck of yellow anywhere – except in my neighbor’s yard.”

Which one makes you want to try the product? Specifics turn empty enthusiasm into a powerful and dramatic moment you can almost see. Not only does this add credibility, it also clearly relays a benefit. If you have a potentially good testimonial that lacks specificity, call your customer and clarify the details.

Edit carefully and lightly. Don’t change the meaning. Don’t enhance. And don’t present words and phrases out of context. If a statement is too long, awkwardly punctuated, or otherwise unclear, you are justified in taking a blue pencil to the copy. But keep it light.

If you use the testimonial collection system I suggested last year, you will be typing up many of your testimonials and getting customers to sign off on them. Here especially, you must be careful not to enhance. You’ll lose the special flavor of actual testimonials.

Group testimonials for greater impact. Testimonials are a powerful way to build credibility and prove your claims. And they can work wonders no matter how you use them. But they pack a doubly powerful psychological wallop when you group them because they both prove your claims with objective endorsements and engage the Bandwagon Effect – “Lots of people are doing it. I want to do it, too!” Seeing testimonial after testimonial sends a visual signal that your widget has widespread appeal.

Use many short quotes instead of a few long ones. If you’re going for the Bandwagon Effect, this just makes sense. It’s a matter of showing as many people as you can who approve of the thing you’re selling. Twenty pithy testimonials can be more powerful than 5 big chatty ones. On the other hand…

Don’t be afraid of long testimonials. Sometimes, you get a gem that says it all. It may be a story, an emotional revelation, an authoritative remark from an expert, or just a simple comment that hits the nail on the head. You might want to separate it visually from the others, in a sidebar, for example. If it’s paragraphs long though, don’t use it as a testimonial; use it as a success story.

Include full names, titles, and locations when possible. This makes testimonials more real and relevant and enhances their credibility. I’ve even seen one instance where a seminar marketer included phone numbers and challenged readers to call other attendees. Obviously, you must consider privacy and security issues, but remember that, in general, full names are more believable than initials. Titles show authority, experience, or expertise. Locations, such as cities and states, help prove that people are real.

Feature photographs (maybe). They are further proof that people are real. And they help your reader identify with the testimonial-givers. This can be tricky, though. Sometimes photos can subtract impact if they are of poor quality or show people who – for whatever reason – don’t look right to readers.

One investment mailing I received used blurry black and white photos of an odd assortment of people I instantly perceived as total losers. I certainly did not want to identify with these people, so the testimonials fell flat – they even turned me against the product. Use good photos or use none at all.

Enclose each testimonial in quotation marks. Readership studies show that people are strongly attracted to quoted copy. It draws the eye. It makes reading easier and faster. And the subject matter is usually more relevant and interesting, since people are endlessly fascinated by other people – in what they do and what they say.

So for the sake of identifying a quote as a quote, use standard quotation marks around each statement. Never substitute italics for quotation marks because long lines of italicized text are harder to read.

Use a powerful headline to introduce testimonials. Don’t settle for a lame, do-nothing header, such as “Here’s what people are saying about the Laminator 2000.” Follow standard headline rules and provide a complete message, such as “Over 124,000 small businesses like yours rely on the Laminator 2000 to make their own professional-looking tags, instruction sheets, and signs.”

Creative Ways to Use Testimonials

Testimonials are one of the most flexible techniques in your creative tool kit. No matter what you’re selling or to whom, they can give a powerful boost to virtually any promotion. Here are just a few suggestions based on how I’ve used testimonials in the hundreds of promotions I’ve created:

This is not a comprehensive list by a long shot. I’m always thinking of new ways to use testimonials. In fact, I’d love to hear how you’ve used testimonials in your direct mail packages, ads, television and radio spots, and other marketing materials.

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5 Responses to “10+ tips for making the most of your customer testimonials”

  1. Tweet-Parade (no.46 Nov 2011) | gonzoblog.nl on November 19th, 2011 10:07 am

    [...] 10+ tips for making the most of your customer testimonials - I’m sure you’ve been spurfing up a storm and have tons of testimonials by now. So let’s look at how to make them work for you. [...]

  2. Guus Pijnenburg on November 21st, 2011 4:29 pm

    Hello Dean,

    Thanks for your tips on testimonials. I have two questions though:
    - What’s your view on putting a deliberate bump, obstacle in a testimonial to enhance the similarity to real life experience, to be more persuasive?
    - What’s your take om video testimonials (max 2 min.) since they are very specific and because it seems to be very hard to lie on camera?

    Love to hear from you,


    Guus Pijnenburg

  3. Dean Rieck on November 23rd, 2011 10:41 am

    Guus, Video testimonials are great if you can get them. I’d want them to be shorter than 2 minutes, though, unless I wanted more of an in-depth success story. Not sure what you mean by “bump” or “obstacle.”

  4. Janjan on December 8th, 2011 4:52 pm

    Nice tips.
    Testimonials really is a big compliment of your work, showing it to others is a natural plus for you and your product. You don’t need celebrity endorser to pay & say something good to your product. A natural customer is better & more believable. But video testimonials is more effective. nice tips.
    Thanks for sharing.

  5. Guus Pijnenburg on December 13th, 2011 9:00 pm

    Dean, Thanks for responding. By “bump” or “obstacle” I mean the every day dificulty/resistance to believe the ROI of a product or service. Is it for real what I am reading here? How, can I determine that? A familiar bump makes me feel I’m in the right place. The flaws I read about convince me this is not a fabricated story. That this is not the regular scam of a Hallelujah pitch. This must be somebody like me, someone I can relate to. Therefore i trust these references. Your take on this?

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