Got Testimonials? How to Milk Them for All They're Worth

by Dean Rieck

Part 1 > Part 2 > Part 3 > Part 4

When we were kids, my friends and I made up a game we called "Made You Look." Three or four of us would get fairly close together — in a shopping plaza, on the street, or anywhere there were lots of people — and look up as if we saw something incredible. We would enhance the illusion with mumbled comments, such as "What is that?" or "What's he doing up there?" Often one or two of us would point.

It would never fail. Passers-by would glance up to see what we were looking at. Some would stop and stand there for half a minute or so trying to discern the object of our attention. And the more of us doing it, the more people would look. One time in New York City, we did this with a dozen cohorts and virtually stopped traffic on Broadway.

We knew it was smart aleck juvenile humor. But what we didn't know was that it was a classic demonstration of a powerful psychological principle called Social Proof. The idea behind Social Proof is simple: People are all copycats to some degree. We do what others do simply because others are doing it.

There are two facets to this principle that relate directly to marketing: 1) Social Proof is just that, proof. Seeing others do something is proof that the thing is acceptable. 2) The more people doing it, the more acceptable it is. This is what I call the Bandwagon Effect because when many others do something, that thing is more than acceptable; it is outright desirable.

One of the best ways to use Social Proof to your advantage is to include testimonials in your promotions. In the first two parts of this series, we discovered why testimonials are powerful and looked at how to set up a testimonial collection system. Now let's see what to do with your testimonials once you have them.

A Reminder ...

The best testimonials will be those that are believable, specific, and enthusiastic. To get comments like that, you should:

Making the Most of Your Testimonials

Once you have a file drawer bulging with testimonials, you'll want to start using them in your promotions. And to get the most bang for your buck, you should:

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 discovering 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.

A Fun Office Game

If you want to have some fun around the office, try my "Made You Look" game. For best results, have one or more colleagues do the looking while you watch from a distance. You'll have a good laugh while performing a classic psychological experiment.

In part four, we'll discuss how to use what we've learned about Social Proof in order to go beyond testimonials and stuff your creative toolbox with even more response-boosting techniques.

Copyright © 2000 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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