How to use testimonials effectively

Think about all the purchases you have made, movies you have seen or events you've attended recently. The chances are that you went because it was recommended by someone you know, or whose opinion you trust. And whether this was in a conversation or posted on your mom's Facebook page, the fact that it was a word-of-mouth recommendation probably helped you form an opinion.

You may deeply adore the actor Johnny Depp, for example, but if two or three close friends tell you that his latest movie offering is garbage, (and that's what the reviews for the Lone Ranger are saying) you probably won't bother going to see it. Whereas if a co worker says "you have to try that new sandwich place on the corner! Amazing pastrami, dude!" the chances are you'll pop by.

However much we're exposed to marketing, it is the recommendations of other people, our peers in particular that retain the strongest influence on us. If someone has already had a good experience with something and wants to recommend it to others, we tend to trust their judgement as unbiased and genuine.

This is why testimonials on a website can be so important and are often the second thing clicked upon by people browsing. They offer a candid human touch rather than marketing jargon. Consumer confidence gets a boost when they see people like them have used a product or service and have truly benefited. So they are a must for any website.

  • Testimonials are relatable: People relate to their peers so you can choose to use testimonials from someone who your target market identifies with. If you are selling to pet owners for example, ask if your customer can mention what sort of pet they have, or show a pic of them with the family dog.
  • They back up your company claims: If you boast your company is great at something or had the best offers, a customer testimonial can substantiate this with facts and even figures. Did they save time, money or improve their lives ten-fold?
  • They endorse the product: At the end of the day, people want products and services that bring tangible benefits. Testimonials can show how they worked well in the real world.
  • They offer comparisons: Your prospect may have tried a hundred products or services before they found yours. Let them show how your services set you apart from the competition.

Here's the lowdown on gathering and posting your customers' testimonials.

One click away

The easiest way of getting people to give you feedback on your site is the include a link and form. A simple "Click here to let us know what you think!" is usually enough, or "let us know how our product transformed your life". If you put a few positive testimonials on the same page, people will know what sort of thing they are expected to write.

Another way of getting feedback is with an auto response that allows current customers to endorse you once they have used your service. Ask how they found the product or service and ask if they would they like to talk about their experience with your company.

Use testimonials effectively

Once you have great reviews, put them where they can be seen! Your homepage is a good place to put the best ones, perhaps in a sidebar or even front and center. But you also need a dedicated testimonial page so people can link from the home page quotes and get even more customer feedback. And of course, if your site has separate pages for particular products or services, some choice and positive testimonials from previously delighted customers are a great way to get prospects to click "buy".

Don't fake them

As in relationships, if one person is faking it and gets caught, it can ruin the experience and cause no end of bad feeling. Faking a good testimonial is a common practice to fool readers but do you really want to be that unethical?

Besides as anyone familiar with sites like TripAdvisor and Amazon will know, the fake reviews and testimonials stand out a mile. And if you are too over effusive with your self praise, can cause you to be a bit of a laughing stock, and your credibility will drop sharply. It is also important that you have permission to use each and every customer testimonial and never try to dress them up. If you can't post a comment "as is" don't use it at all.

There is no harm in asking

You know your customers and what they have bought from you, so why not ask them if they'd mind writing a few sentences about their experiences. Most will be happy to oblige - we all still like to see our names in print, even in the digital age. But of course, don't pressure them. The best customers to ask are more recent ones who've used your product/services as they'll be able to give specific detail about how they benefitted.

If a client has already sent a note of thanks or appreciation, they would probably be happy to go further and do something for your site. Drop such happy customers a line saying "We’re pleased to hear you benefitted from our services, and would love to hear more about your experience. Would you consider being featured on our website as a client success story so that others can be inspired by you?” After all, they can only say no.

Give them some guidelines

On screen, testimonials seem simple, but remember that most people are not used to writing, at least not for publication and may feel a little intimidated or think it will be a time consuming process. So make it easier for them by giving them some guidelines or examples of what other people may have written. A simple formula can yield better results. For example:

A: Why did you come to us?
B: What did we do for you?
C: How have you benefited?

Here you are building an engaging story rather than having your client write something like “Blue widgets are great!!” The testimonial needs to be more engaging and to pique the reader's interest. “Blue widgets are great because they took me from Point A to Point B and now I'm C!” Any testimonial that seems like cliche or marketing jargon will be not be taken seriously.

Short is sweet

Don’t let your customers ramble on! As with everything web based, brief is better. If you really want to go into detail with a customer, then ask if they would mind being the subject of a case study or a customer story.

If a customer comes to you with a testimonial that is several paragraphs long, edit it down to the most important story elements (without losing its original intent and authenticity) and place those on your site. Visitors to the testimonial page on your website aren’t going to read huge reviews. They want quick snippets to know what you’re all about and the results that you can deliver.

Building trust

Always try to post a photo, full name and, if applicable, website address or business name. This gives your client exposure and you more credibility. One caveat to this – don’t use a photo unless it is a high quality one. Having no picture at all is better than posting a blurry amateurish image - and you don't want to ruin the look of your dynamic and clean looking site.

If possible, try and get your VIP clients to contribute a testimonial. A recommendation from a local bigwig or CEO can be very powerful.

And always think locally, especially if most of your clients and customers are nearby. By assuring readers that the testimonial is from a local resident, you show that your business is trusted by the readers near neighbors.

Use different media!

In today's multimedia age with its social media options there's really no need to limit yourself to a simple written testimonial. Customers could tweet their satisfaction: the 140 character limit means this is a faster and less intimidating option. They might even talk about you on your company facebook page, or better still, their own. These are great ways of getting the good news about your company out there.

If they are really enthusiastic, your happy clients might even do a testimonial on camera, so all the world can see the happy smiles your company has put on their face. When people can hear and see your customers are pleased with your service and why, they will be even more convinced. Word of mouth for the modern age.

Improve your SEO

These days there are a huge number of platforms available for people to review business and services. Places like Google+ Local, Yahoo Local and Yelp all have built in review systems and it pays to keep an eye on them. They are a potential gold mine for testimonials to include on your website.

Because positive reviews on these listings can also have a positive effect on your local search results, instead asking a client for a testimonial directly, you may want to encourage them to write a review for you on one of these platforms.

Of course, there is a downside to this. On such listing sites people can write pretty much what they want, and they often do. There are occasional malicious reviews posted by competitors as well as real customers with genuine grievances of course. But that fact that you have a chance to respond, works in your favor. If you respond to these in a professional manner and combat the negative with a positive, you really show that you care about your services and are willing to engage with customers.

Use them

Any authentic and engaging testimonial is like a golden ticket. So when you've got some good ones, use them. Maybe put them on your marketing materials, in emails, brochures and even business cards. This shows off how you have helped others achieve success. You might even want to make good testimonials part of future marketing campaigns.

Testimonials offer assurance to potential customers as a third part and unbiased review. So make sure you collect them as often as you can to keep them fresh and relevant. Don't have the same old three quotes sitting on your site until doomsday. Each time you try something new in your business; a new product or service for example, try and get feedback. Let customers know that they are in good company.

No end of benefits

And don't forget, testimonials are not just a good way of selling your services, but also give you, the business owner, a fresh perspective on what you do and what you are selling. Be proud of praise, but also use it to spur you on to greater things. And don't use negative comments on your site, but as a guide to find areas where you can improve your business or locate flaws.

You believe in what you are selling, and have several fact-filled and glowing testimonials on your site, your potential customers can believe in it too. So get collecting.

Pronto Marketing

Pronto Marketing

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