Proof in Practice: Why Testimonials Are Great Marketing Tools

A person gives a thumbs up from amidst a bunch of thriving plants.

When I was on vacation with my family, we passed a cute little breakfast place on our way to the hotel. It was clearly one of those little hole-in-the-wall restaurants where the food is either really, really good or really, really bad. 😅 Because it wasn’t super close to where we were staying and we weren’t renting a car, I didn’t want to make everyone walk all the way there for bad food, so I jumped on Google and checked out the reviews. With 4.8 stars and people raving about the food, it seemed like a worthwhile journey. And boy, was it. 🤤 We’re still talking about those breakfast sandwiches and the crispy tater tots!

Reading reviews and testimonials is part of the purchasing process for many folks these days. As more and more business has moved online, the input of other consumers has only become more powerful, since we often can’t see a product before ordering it. And when we often don’t live in the same neighborhood as friends or family, we don’t always have a local person we trust for a recommendation, so we rely on other customers to guide us for services as well.

And yet, we work with a lot of businesses that haven’t bothered to collect any testimonials. 🤯 That’s truly a missed opportunity to do more effective business.

The power of testimonials

We all know that businesses are trying to sell us something, so we rightfully view a lot of their claims with a bit of skepticism. Of course they’d say that; they want my money! But if a friend or someone we trust tells us about an awesome new item they bought, we’re way more likely to take their recommendation at face value. They spent their own money on it; they wouldn’t have any reason to recommend it unless they really liked it. 

Why strangers’ opinions matter

It might seem odd to think that a stranger’s recommendation would pull any weight, but it does. Humans are social creatures, and we value fitting in and being part of a group. Peer pressure can feel like a minefield in junior high or high school, but it also doesn’t really go away in adulthood. We still often mimic the behaviors of people we admire or like in order to fit in. 👥 Making purchases is one way we do that.

The real deal

If you’ve marketed well and created a sense of need or desire in your potential customers, they’re likely to look next for evidence that you are (or are not) the solution. Input from real customers allows folks to see if you really do what you claim to do (or offer what you claim to offer). Testimonials create evidence potential buyers can compare to the claims you’ve made.

Is this a scam? 💸

Even before someone decides if they want what you’re selling, they have to decide if they trust you as a business. It’s really easy these days to spin up a convincing-looking website whether or not you have a great product (or any product at all!). At the most basic level, people go to reviews and testimonials to see if people who have purchased have actually received anything at all.

Why your website needs testimonials

When people visit your website, they’re aware that everything they are reading is coming from your point of view, and they assume that you’re trying to sell them something. Testimonials offer an “outsider” perspective that can help to make your claims more believable. 

In the world of scientific research, peer review is the gold standard. 🧑‍🔬 Someone can run a study and make whatever claim they want, but if a bunch of other scientists have looked at the procedures, the data, and the conclusions and judged it all to be trustworthy, then everyone else knows that it’s safe to trust as well. 

Similarly, your website might feel a bit like you are positioning yourself as an expert, and without outside input, people might have no idea if they can believe you or not.

Collecting great testimonials, the easy way 😌

If you don’t have any testimonials, it might feel overwhelming to know where to start. Will people even remember their experience well enough to write a testimonial? Have I let too much time go by? Here are some tips to get over the obstacles and build a collection of compelling testimonials.

Remember that people love to talk about themselves and their experiences

If you’re worried that people will be annoyed at being asked to give a testimonial after so much time has passed, don’t underestimate how much people like being asked for their opinions. 😅 And just because people are much more likely to jump on Google and leave a bad review, that doesn’t mean that they won’t have anything good to say if prompted.

If you’ve been in business for a while and haven’t been collecting testimonials, try identifying any past clients or customers who have referred new folks to you. Chances are high that they are already saying good (and compelling!) things about their experience, and they’d probably be happy to share that information with you. It can be as simple as sending an email and asking if they’d be willing to share a brief testimonial. You’ll probably be surprised how many of your past clients and customers are excited to weigh in.

Feel free to ✨finesse✨

Testimonials don’t have to be kept in their most raw state. Most of your customers won’t be writers or marketers, so they won’t necessarily know how to say the most impactful thing on their own. But the great thing about testimonials is that you get to be involved, unlike a spontaneous Google review. 

Do a little prompting

If you’re looking for your testimonials to say a certain thing, go ahead and ask about that directly! 🎯 Your prompts don’t have to be vague and open-ended. Here are some ideas for what to ask:

  • What made you choose us?
  • What was your favorite part of our service?
  • What was the best benefit of using our product?
  • How did we impress you or exceed expectations?
  • Would you recommend us to others?

By asking these kinds of questions, you’re more likely to get small, flexible “soundbites” than if you just ask someone to “give a testimonial.”

Ask if you can reword

A lot of the power of a testimonial is in its “otherness,” the fact that it’s coming from someone other than you. But sometimes people will misuse industry jargon, misspeak, or just say something in a way that you know might turn other customers off. In these cases, it’s totally fine to ask permission to edit things a little. You can say something like, “Thank you so much! We love what you had to say about us. Would it be all right if we worded it like this instead?”

Offer to go through the process with them

If someone wants to support you but seems iffy about writing or recording a testimonial, you can suggest having a conversation with them instead and composing a testimonial based on your conversation. Obviously, you’ll want to utilize as much of their phrasing and expression as possible, and always let them read and approve it first.

Tell them what you’re hoping they’ll say

It might feel a little strange, but think of it like giving an assignment for a paper in school: it’s a lot easier to write a paper if you are given a topic than just told “write a paper.” The same is true for testimonials. While you shouldn’t put words in your customers’ mouths, it’s okay to say, “I’m really hoping to get some testimonials that talk about ___. Would you feel comfortable speaking to that?” 

Build it into your sales process

Don’t let testimonial gathering become an additional headache; find a way to build it into your sales process. Depending on the nature of your business, decide how much time you should let pass after someone purchases from you or completes a project with you. For products or services that will deliver immediate benefits, you’ll probably only want a handful of days to pass, but for projects that might take a little more time to settle, you may want to wait several weeks to a few months. Regardless, design your process to include a testimonial ask, likely via email. If you can automate this email to go out at the right time, even better!

Make it simple

There are apps and services that can help make testimonial collection even easier. We use Senja for our testimonials, and we love that it allows us to both import testimonials we’ve received from other methods and collect new testimonials via our site. Having all your testimonials in one place is convenient and makes curating and using them in marketing or on your website a much easier process. 

🌿

Don’t miss an opportunity to boost your business! Harness the power of testimonials and allow your happy customers to do some of your marketing for you! And if you’re one of our retainer or website clients and you’re interested in leveraging testimonials on your website, let us know!

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