Let’s say you’re sitting in a coffee shop with a friend, and the two of you are looking for surfing lessons. 🏄 Both of you are new to sport, and you’ve had no problem finding a bunch of people offering lessons, but you aren’t sure who to trust.
You’re feeling stuck when a work acquaintance walks into the shop and asks what you’re doing. Immediately, they recommend a business that helped them learn how to surf. 🙋 Chances are, that business just skyrocketed up to the top of your list because someone shared their personal experience with you.
This is the reason why testimonials are so important. Recommendations from others are a huge motivator when it comes to choosing a product/service/etc.
But our example is of an acquaintance giving advice. Even if you have a local business, chances are that your website visitors won’t know the folks who gave the testimonials on your site. So do they still have an impact? 🤔
Recommendations from strangers
Imagine the same scenario, but instead of an acquaintance coming in, someone at the table next to you hears you talking and says, “Oh, my nephew surfs! Let me ask where he learned.” They text their nephew and report the answer to you. How likely are you to choose that business?
Perhaps a recommendation from a personal friend or acquaintance would carry more weight, but hearing something from another person is better than only having the information coming from the business itself. ⚖️
What about the results?
What if that same person told you that their nephew competes in swimming competitions and just placed first in a really big one? What if they show you a picture of their nephew on the beach, holding the award?
When you collect testimonials for your website, you have an opportunity you don’t always have with things like Google or Yelp: you can guide what folks say and get the most impactful information possible.
How testimonials make your marketing more effective
Testimonials matter because humans are social creatures. 🌏 In fact, testimonials fall under a larger umbrella often referred to as social proof. We’re wired to be attracted to things that people in our circles do. While peer pressure and fitting in can be minefields in junior high, they don’t disappear in adulthood; they just change shape. And a lot of marketing operates on the basis of group identity. 👥
Seeing a glowing review for a product/service/etc. from another person will often influence us more than we think. That effect gets a boost if:
- We perceive the person to be similar to us in some way
- The person represents something we aspire to
- The review is accompanied by a name
- There is a picture of the person 🙋♀️🙋🙋♂️
- There is some kind of evidence of the result (i.e. photos, videos, etc.)
If you can include testimonials on your website, it’s going to be more effective. We’re all aware that businesses are trying to sell us things, so we often read their copy with a bit of skepticism 🤨, but that skepticism relaxes a bit when we perceive someone other than the business to be talking. But the words have the most impact when we feel like we know the person in some way, so pictures and names improve the impact.
So you want to include testimonials on your website, but you’ve never collected any before. Where do you begin?
If you’ve been in business for a while, take a look at your past customers/clients and make a list of the folks that you remember were really pleased with whatever they received from you or who have referred others to you in the past (this is a good clue that they are already saying some motivating things about your business/organization). Then send an email asking if they’d be willing to give a testimonial. If it’s been a while since you’ve corresponded, maybe check in with them and make sure they’re still satisfied.
If you’re just starting out, think about anyone in your life who has experience with your product/service/etc. They don’t even need to have been paying customers as long as they have used or experienced your offering. (In the long run, these probably aren’t the best testimonials to highlight, but if you’re just starting, it’s better than nothing!) Ask these folks if they’d be willing to give a testimonial that talks about their impressions.
Customers aren’t writers
While your customers/clients might be excited to help and more than happy to give a testimonial, it’s important to remember that they might not know what to say or they might not do a great job composing their testimonial. 😅 You don’t need to feel awkward about editing what they have to say, but you do need to get permission.
How to get impactful testimonials while preserving customer voices
- Ask multiple questions instead of just asking for “a testimonial.” You can gently guide the results if you ask smaller, more specific questions like:
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?
People are more likely to give you small, flexible “soundbites” this way than if they are just asked to write a single testimonial.
- If someone says something you’d like to use but the writing is a little off (e.g. not a complete sentence or misuses industry jargon), follow up and ask “Would it be all right if we said ‘_____’ instead?” 💁 You don’t want to rewrite their whole testimonial to sound just like your sales copy because it’s the “otherness” that packs the punch, but you can definitely ✨polish it up a bit✨ and shouldn’t feel embarrassed to ask about changing small details. Most people understand that you want to use their testimonial in a certain context and adjustments can be necessary for it to make sense.
- Offer to work with them to write the testimonial. If you have a client/customer who is happy to help but doesn’t know what to say, have a quick conversation with them where you ask some of the above questions and then use their answers to put something together, just be sure to have them approve it first. 👍
- Tell them what you’re hoping to communicate. People sometimes struggle to know what to say when they had a good experience; writing bad reviews comes more naturally to a lot of us. 😅 If you can tell folks what you’re hoping the testimonial will communicate to website visitors, they can often feel more confident saying the right thing.