The most powerful persuader in the marketplace, apart from a customer’s own experience, is the opinion of someone they trust. That’s why so much effort goes into viral marketing or ‘word of mouth.’ And that’s why social media is so influential. It gives you instant, direct unvarnished dialogue with others. And that’s also why genuine testimonials are so effective. I say ‘genuine’ because anyone can make up supportive words and pass them off as the real thing. But usually such testimonials smell of fakery. A testimonial is third-party endorsement at its best. There is much more credibility in the words of other unbiased people than in your own words of self-promotion. The takeaway is that you should use the power of testimonials in your marketing communication.
If you provide a good service or product, you should be able to ask people for some kind words. Don’t hesitate to ask their permission to use the words and identify them in the testimonial.
The act of seeking testimonials is a good psychological spur to you to produce your best results all the time because a testimonial to ordinary work is an ordinary testimonial. An unexpected benefit is that a testimonial reminds the other person to think over the product or service they have paid for, which will remind them of all the good aspects they may have forgotten or taken for granted. Also, the act of providing you with a testimonial strengthens the bond between you and the client (or customer). Seeking expressed support from others certainly underlines the productive time in using the power of testimonials in marketing.
The key word with testimonials is “ask.” Keep asking and you will get a lot of testimonials. Ask for testimonials at every opportunity, and quote the best ones. In this way you don’t have to promote yourself; you can let the other person promote you. Use testimonials liberally everywhere. Spread the testimonials through brochures, articles, advertisements, ‘advertorials’, video presentations, websites, emails, podcasts (delivered verbally), etc.
You can never use too many testimonials. Marketing consultant, Sean D’Souza, says he put up a page on a website with 800 testimonials and sent customers to that page with no sales pitch. Customers were buying the product on that page “by the droves.” The testimonials alone were causing customers to buy.
Different customers look for different things, so if you collect many testimonials you will get a spread of appreciation covering various key aspects such as quality, reliability, speed or friendliness.
Another angle worth reading is discussed in my article, “People follow the lead of others they respect.” The article adds further thoughts on how to use the power of testimonials in marketing communication.
Orbit Media’s Andy Crestodina wrote a 2021 article summarizing how content marketing formats align with lead generation. He says, “When you align the content format with the stages of the funnel, you’re doing real content strategy.”
Crestodina says that some content formats build awareness and traffic. Some content formats are better for trust and conversion.
The diagram and guide at right shows how various formats for content (blog posts, videos, webinars) support the various stages of the marketing funnel (top, middle and bottom).
Image, right: “Formats and the Funnel – How 17 content marketing formats align with lead generation“, Orbit Media, December 2021.
Crestodina says that, unique among all content formats, the testimonial changes the messenger, swapping in a member of the audience. The text becomes a testimony. The copy turns into evidence. And the tone is more legit than anything you could ever write yourself.
“Quotation marks are the most powerful punctuation on your keyboard.”
Most effective when it appears near the marketing claim it supports. Less effective in less visible places, such as on testimonial pages or hidden within sliders. Upgrade to the video testimonial for maximum impact. To use the power of testimonials in marketing communication is to add strength to your approach.
Just read one of your articles on the importance of praise and recognition within the work environment and thoroughly enjoyed it!
Wray Broughton, Global Director Client Service, Ernst & Young, New York, USA
As always, great and succinctly written articles and as always, so easy to read and digest. You are a master at communication.
Janine Barrett, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
I appreciate the material you put together immensely. I’ve been in the communication industry since 2000 and today work as communication director for a financial services firm. Reading as much as I have the time to do I must say that your material [in this communication plan ebook] cuts away the academic jargon and helps me educate my stakeholders really well.
Fredrik Skarheden, Stockholm, Sweden
Where appropriate, you can also seek to obtain testimonials from a wider appreciative audience. Stimulate and collect the right testimonials and endorsements from experts and opinion leaders or influencers such as the office-bearers of community organizations, local government mayors and councilors, presidents of professional associations, school principals, talkback radio hosts and journalists such as life-style columnists and celebrities, high-profile socialites etc.
Whether you are acting on your own behalf as a one-person business or on behalf of a large organization, you can use testimonials to persuade potential users towards your product or service.
Not only are testimonials more powerful and credible than advertising, they cost nothing! That’s real value for money! But don’t be vague – ask for a testimonial according to the proven formula outlined here. Too many people don’t know what to ask for and then they get ineffective responses. Know what to ask for and you will get great results.
Clients or customers come to you to solve a problem, so ensure your testimonials start by outlining the problem briefly and then commenting on the solution.
Their testimonials will be especially effective if they relate to potential customer objections, thus nipping those objections in the bud. Keep the testimonial in the words of the customer – if they make grammatical mistakes, run the text with those mistakes because it is the genuine thing. Ask:
After each person has written the good words, ask them to confirm in writing that they are happy for relevant comments to be quoted from their testimonial including their name, position and organization. In these legalistic days, you need to cover yourself with this step.
If you are a PR consultant, it is essential to ask the client’s permission to refer to any of their words that you have used for a testimonial or case study. Apart from ethical and courtesy implications, unauthorized reference may forever destroy the client’s goodwill towards you. Some clients are sensitive about the use of their own names. They will allow reference to their project in general terms, but won’t authorize the use of their personal name, title or organization. Try to talk them out of this if possible; a good word from an anonymous customer is almost worthless.
You can maximize the value of testimonials at the completion of a successful project – ask the client if they would approve the writing of a case study about the project. This may also suit the client because they may like a case study to use for their own promotional activity or to impress decision-makers in their organization. You can draft a case study for their approval and suggest that they insert some of their own words of testimony about your good efforts.
When clients do write a testimonial, encourage them to use their own words rather than anticipating that you will draft the words for them. Often they will say nicer things about you than you would say about yourself. Some gentle hints and tactful prodding may be needed as busy clients tend to put this sort of activity well down their priority list in the face of other urgent issues confronting them.
It is much better to act at this stage while the benefits are fresh in the client’s mind. If you procrastinate, time will tend to erode their recall of the highlights of your good work. Remember to ask them the questions in the formula, which will give them a good framework and give you a great result.
From all this, the bottom line is to use the power of testimonials in your marketing communication as much as is feasible.
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