How to make the most of customer testimonials

One of the biggest challenges with working with a new generation of ad-savvy customers is that they are often researchers. This means that they may not read billboards, listen to commercials or ask the opinion of your sales team prior to making a purchase decision. Instead, they’re going to go online and look for opinions and reviews from people outside of your company. Some marketers may see this as a loss of control, but in the hands of a true strategist, real customer feedback can be a valuable tool for lead generation.

testimonial1When most people are looking for opinions about a particular product or service , they usually start with a Google search – something like “add-your-product-here review.” A search like that will immediately pull up a slew of feedback in the form of Tweets, blogs and  reviews. This is where some marketers start to sweat. It’s hard to control public opinion, and when everyone can post with equal visibility on the Internet, people aren’t going to pull punches or sing false praise. What’s worse is that since the negative reviews are generally hosted by third parties, there’s no way easy  way to remove or defend them. As such, it’s much more important to focus on encouraging existing customers to post as many positive reviews as possible to offset the presence of bad ink.

One of the best ways to bolster your brands public image is with testimonials. By asking your customers to provide you with meaningful feedback, you can bolster the ranks of positive reviews available to curious, could-be customers. Whether your testimonials are presented in text, audio or video format on your website, they can do wonders for driving new business.

Meaningful reviews from real people
According to Entrepreneur Magazine, testimonials build trust because they aren’t salesy. They’re honest, straight forward thought s and opinions from real people who aren’t being paid for their words. By cutting through the pitch, testimonials can turn a tough sell into a sure thing. Finally, testimonials can do more than promote a product, they can also praise your company and employees. It’s generally not a good thing to pat yourself on the back, but if you can get your customers to tell your prospects that you’re great to work with, then you’ll be in a much better position to attract new business.

So how do you choose the right testimonials to put on your website? According to Entrepreneur, there are a few essential components that will make the difference between a useless testimonial and one that can generate interest and develop leads.

For instance, consider the following testimonial for a car dealership: “I love my new car! It’s so pretty and I recommend everyone shops at your dealership.”

This glowing testimonial might seem like it would be effective, but, while positive, it tells the reader nothing of substance about what you’re selling. It doesn’t prove that the product works as advertised or explain what kind of benefits customers can expect. Ultimately, it has no real, substantive meaning.

The best testimonials are narrative-driven. They explain briefly the reason why the customer purchased the product originally and then follows up with the benefits they have enjoyed since acquiring it. Basically, instead of telling the reader that a product is great, a good testimonial will show the reader why a product is worth purchasing.A good testimonial tells a story.

testimonial2The following testimony for the same dealership would be significantly more effective: “I bought a car from this dealership last weekend, and only two days later I popped a tire on my way to work. I brought my new car back for servicing, and the dealership paid for all of my repairs! These guys are great, and I would recommend them to anyone who is in the market for a new or used car.”

This is an effective testimonial because it reveals something positive about the car dealership – they are accommodating and generous. More importantly, it tells a human story that is both relatable and interesting. Anyone who has ever purchased a car can imagine the frustration of blowing a tire less than a week after getting it, but if you do end up in that situation, it’s great to have an understanding and accommodating dealer who is willing to take a small financial hit in the name of good customer service.

Incorporating testimonials
Testimonials can do more than vouch for your reputation, they can also substantiate your claims. Self-promotion is difficult – do you play the humblebrag card, or would a show of bravado be more effective? Is it best to play to people’s ethos or logos? Testimonials can resolve many of these issues, especially if they include facts and figures about your product. So if you sell a product that is meant to increase revenue or sales, then testimonials should include statistics demonstrating how much your customers’ business improved. Similarly, if your product is supposed to improve productivity or save time on specific tasks, then the testimonial should include an account of how much time your customer has saved.

Getting people to speak on your behalf is great, but it’s important that testimonials are written by someone that other prospective clients can relate to. As such, it’s important that the people who write your testimonials are representative of the demographic that you’re targeting. Consider including customer information in testimonials that presents prospects with points of similarity. So if you primarily market your product to senior citizens, you may consider asking customers to include their age with their testimonials. Likewise, if you are mostly targeting CIOs, you should ask clients to include their position and place of employment. It might seem like you would want your biggest, most illustrious clients to provide you with testimonials, but if they would intimidate or alienate prospects, then it might be better to give them a pass for a customer that better represents your average customer.

testimonial3Finally, comparisons are an incredibly valuable aspect for clients to include in their testimonials since they can do double duty. By including comparative information in their testimonials, customers can not only promote your product, but dissuade prospects from going with a competitor. In most cases, it might be considered bad form to post negative reviews of your competitor’s products, but when framed in the context of a customer testimonial, your company is absolved of responsibility for the statement. Again, it’s important to be specific and informative. As such, you should avoid testimonials that simply sling mud. Instead, prioritize testimonials that speak to the specific differences between your product and those of your competitors.

Martin Jones

Martin Jones is a Senior Marketing Manager with the corporate Cox Communications social media team where he assists in leading strategy, campaign ideation and marketing execution for Cox Business social media & content marketing. Today, over 1 million fans engage with Cox Communications content, campaigns and Customer Care on Facebook, Twitter, You Tube. LinkedIn and Google+.