How to Make Customer Testimonials Work Harder
by Dean Rieck
People expect you to say wonderful things about your own product, service, or cause. But when they hear other people saying wonderful things, they really start believing you. Customer testimonials support your claims and build confidence.
Another benefit of testimonials is that they engage the "bandwagon" effect. All of us look to others to help us decide how to act, to guide our behavior, and to determine whether something is right or wrong. The more people doing it, the more correct it seems.
So here are some tips on getting the most from testimonials:
- Actively collect testimonials. Your business should have a file of testimonials and success stories ready to go for any promotion. Don't wait till you need them. Create an ongoing system for collecting testimonials. And get written permission to use them forever without any limitations or conditions.
- Use testimonials from people similar and relevant to prospects. The people you quote in a given promotion should be as much like your ideal prospect as possible. This increases identification and the feeling of relevance. A teacher will believe other teachers. A business owner will believe other business owners. A senior will believe other seniors. Testimonials are also more effective when they are from experts, those with relevant experience, or people on the same level or in the same situation.
- Use real testimonials. Don't try to rewrite or fabricate testimonials. No matter how poorly worded, the real words of real people are always more believable than anything a writer can come up with. Besides, making them up isn't ethical. If you have trouble getting favorable quotes, there's something wrong with what you're selling.
- Edit testimonials carefully. If you must edit, do so carefully and honestly. Don't change the meaning. Don't enhance. Don't present words and phrases out of context.
- Prefer many short quotes over a few long quotes. Lots of testimonials show that lots of people buy your product, use your service, or support your cause. The more people who praise you, the more credible you appear. However, don't allow all your testimonials to degenerate into meaningless blurbs like those used to promote Hollywood movies: "Incredible," "Amazing," "Fantastic."
- 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. Use it as is or turn it into a success story or case study.
- Group testimonials. When possible, print testimonials as a separate insert in a direct mail package. In a print ad or brochure, group testimonials. If you use a headline to introduce the testimonials, don't use an empty statement, such as "What people are saying about XYZ Company." State a benefit or say something meaningful, such as "Over 88,000 smart people like you trust XYZ for long-lasting thingamabobs."
- Use full names, titles, locations, and photographs. Testimonials are a form of proof, so whenever you have a chance to increase the credibility of that proof, do it. Full names are more believable than initials. An appropriate title is an indication of a person's experience or expertise. A city and state help prove the person is real, as does a photograph. A photo also helps people identify with the person quoted.
- Choose relevant and persuasive testimonials. Don't use testimonials to entertain or fill space. Use them to help prove your promise and lead your prospect to a decision. They should convey enthusiasm and hit benefits and hot buttons.
- Turn a particularly good testimonial into a lift letter. It could be a letter written especially for your mailing or a reprint of an outstanding comment.
- Use a testimonial as a headline or benefit statement. Copy placed in quotes always increases readership and credibility. But when the copy is an actual testimonial, it's doubly effective.
- Feature testimonials by converts. Comments from someone who has been converted from another product or service are always more believable and powerful than comments from customers who may not have shopped around.
Copyright © 2003 Dean Rieck. All Rights Reserved.
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