Let’s start with the all-important question – why? Why do you need testimonials and why should you care how they are written as long as they’re positive?
It comes down to consumer psychology. We’re so overwhelmed by advertising claims that we’re naturally increasingly sceptical, especially towards brands we haven’t heard of. That’s where testimonials come in. They’re a form of social proof.
Essentially, people are much more likely to trust what others say about you than what you say about yourself. We’re all reluctant to eat at an empty restaurant or to buy a product that doesn’t yet have any reviews. Why? Because we like to see other people enjoying a meal, product, or service (even rave about it, if possible) before we commit to it.
It all comes down to trust!
A vast majority of positive testimonials “prove” that the product or service can be trusted. This may even be the final element of trust that your client needs to make a purchase decision. If two products or services seem to be of equal value and cost, we will more than likely choose the one with the higher rating – that’s just common sense.
But testimonials and reviews aren’t all made the same. Some are much more effective than others, even if they all seem to be praising the product or service.
Testimonials that appear to have been bought or somehow faked can be detrimental to your brand, because it completely undermines the trust you are trying to build.
So what are the top 5 characteristics of a powerful testimonial?
- It should give meaningful specifics (not vague generalities)
The testimonial needs to include specific information about what the client has achieved as a result of using your product or service. The most memorable testimonials are the ones in which the client tells their story: How they felt when they first heard about you, what their experience was of your product or service, and what the results were.
- It should numerically quantify actual results
A powerful testimonial uses numbers, percentages, and timeframes to support the benefit of using your product/service, e.g. “Within two weeks I had increased my sales by 37% and added $15,873 to my bottom line.”
- It should give a lot of details about the testimonial provider
This information might include their name, position, company name, age, educational level, town, and date the testimonial was given – putting a real identity behind a testimonial makes it credible because it’s believable. Video testimonials are the most difficult ones to fake, which makes these the most powerful.
- It should reinforce a brand’s unique value proposition
This provides social proof, which builds trust. For instance, if the brand promises simplicity, then the testimonial should demonstrate the simplicity and reinforce the value of the simplicity. For example, “Because Groove software was so easy to use, we were able to reduce our response time to support tickets by 25%” (the 25% shows the actual tangible value).
- It can be used to overcome sales objections
Consider the following example of a testimonial that overcomes the biggest sales objection of price: “Groove wasn’t the cheapest software, but seeing how customer support ratings improved after we started using the helpdesk software, I’m convinced the extra money was well worth it”.
Using testimonials to overcome fears and objections
Remember that fear lies at the heart of your potential clients’ sales objections. They might fear that the product or service is not worth the money (cost), that it won’t serve the purpose that they need it for (effectiveness), or that it is not superior to what the competition is offering (value). As such, testimonials where clients explain how their fears were alleviated can be strong allies in overcoming these objections.
An example where the primary objection or fear is the cost
Consider the following testimonials in terms of which would do more to alleviate your fear about spending a large sum of money on a backpack:
Testimonial A: “I was initially reluctant to purchase the Outdoor Awesome 45L backpack because of the price. I had never spent $400 on a tramping pack before but it was a decision I have not regretted. The reason I needed a new backpack in the first place was because my last one, which had also cost me almost $200 and was only a little over a year old, was falling apart. I was so frustrated about contributing to numerous global issues by purchasing a cheaply made product that would end up in a landfill within a few short years. That was why I researched high quality alternatives and quickly found Outdoor Awesome. I love that their products are sustainably produced and that they are truly made to last. The 10-year guarantee sealed the deal for me because I would rather spend $400 on one backpack that will last me a decade or more, than buying multiple $200 packs in that same period. When I thought about it like that, it was a no-brainer.”
Testimonial B: “The Outdoor Awesome is a great backpack, the customer service was great and the package was delivered on time. I have been using it for a few months now and it’s holding up great, has lots of convenient pockets and features and I really like the reflective stripes on the straps and back because I wear it cycling to and from work in the dark.”
What’s the difference between those two testimonials? They’re both great, right? They both praise the backpack. But if the primary objection is the cost, then the first testimonial will be far more effective in helping potential buyers overcome the fear that they are spending too much.
Let’s break it down…
I was initially reluctant … because of the price – this will resonate with people who are having the same reservations.
a decision I have not regretted – immediately confirms that the purchase decision was the right one.
The reason I needed a new backpack … was because my last one … was falling apart – the frustration of having to make a purchase decision because of a previous purchase that didn’t live up to its expectations could definitely be a point that readers relate to and it underpins the point being made for a higher quality product without explicitly saying so.
Global issues … ending up in landfill – these are valid environmental considerations that may well also be a concern of the readers.
sustainably produced and that they are truly made to last – this is the USP of the brand and the fact that it is reiterated in a customer testimonial confirms this for the reader.
And finally, the quick maths outlining how a more expensive product that would last the distance ends up being better value than multiple cheaper alternatives may help overcome a potential customers fears about the cost of the product.
Testimonial A provides social proof and is backed up with facts and figures. In combination, this speaks to the reader on an emotional and a rational level and is therefore more effective in helping them overcome their fears and make a purchasing decision.
Another key objection is trust. It is of paramount importance that your prospect trusts you, which is why you should only ever use authentic and believable testimonials and avoid sensationalism at all costs. Instead, focus on the real value that a product delivers, the true benefits that a client experiences, and authentic client stories.
How to get great testimonials
Everyone nowadays is pressed for time, so even well-intentioned happy clients who promised to write you a raving testimonial might struggle to get around to it. The reality is, it’s simply not as important to them as it is to you, so it’s up to you to make it happen. That’s why you need to make it as easy as possible for your client to say yes.
The easiest way to consistently acquire testimonials is to create a system where testimonial acquisition is built into your process. For example, you could include a standard request on your invoice (perhaps with an incentive if they oblige, e.g., go into the draw to win…), or you could email them after a completed transaction with a testimonial acquisition email. Other effective ways of acquiring testimonials are via your social media and Google My Business pages, but make sure you have the necessary permission to use these reviews as testimonials (i.e., ask for permission individually or have a clause in your terms and conditions).
If you’re a B2B business, you can also use a backlink incentive to acquire testimonials from your clients by highlighting the benefit of linking to their website.
Now let’s look at where you might use testimonials for maximum effect.
Use testimonials instead of regular copy
- When you need your audience to see themselves in your copy in a way that you can’t do on your own. To do this, use a testimonial that tells your prospect the story of someone like them, who achieved the results your prospect is desiring.
- In areas of friction, for instance, in the pricing section or when you’re making a big ask and the person is still on the fence about whether the choice is the right one for them. If they can see the story of someone who made the decision to buy and got the outcome that your prospect is looking to get then that can help them in their buying decision.
- To support your claims of a benefit that you promise – this adds legitimacy and credibility.
- To create a sense of social pressure – lots of glowing testimonials make the reader want to be a part of this group of people who have achieved great outcomes.
Find a way to weave your customer’s story into your bigger story. If you can make your marketing about your client being the hero rather than you being the hero, then that’s a gamechanger.
Legal requirements and terms and conditions
There are a few very important legal considerations around the use of testimonials.
- You ARE allowed to incentivise clients to leave you a Google review, but should not ask them to do it while you watch
- You ARE NOT allowed to incentivise clients to leave you a Trip Advisor review, or ask them to do it while you watch
- It’s against Facebook’s terms and conditions to ask or incentivise clients to interact your page with a private profile (i.e. “share” your status updates) – If you do so you risk getting your page deactivated and yourself banned
If you have any questions or need help coming up with a strategy for obtaining and leveraging testimonials for your business, please get in touch with us under [email protected]