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The High Impact of Real Testimonials

Let Your Customers Speak For You.
 
Paul Smithson - 22nd January 2009
   
paul smithson Social proof is a very powerful selling tool, because people tend to trust the opinions of the majority.

A great example of this is the tendency for people to look at the number of stars and the reviews that people have entered on Amazon before deciding whether or not to buy a particular product.  If a product has four or five stars, and has had at least a certain number of people leaving positive comments, people trust that it is a good product. Without that social proof the sale may never have happened or the buyer may have purchased a different product - that’s the power of social proof!

In reality the reviews on Amazon are simply testimonials from existing users and whether consciously or subconsciously people just can’t help but be influenced by what other people are saying.

So, how can you go about making testimonials work for you on your site.

First, we need to look how you go about collecting those testimonials.

On a personal level I feel the best testimonials are those that are completely unsolicited. These are testimonials that are sent in without any incentive at all, no bonuses, no offer of including the sender’s link on the testimonial - just a completely honest message from someone who really enjoyed your product or service.

If you can get those kind of testimonials that’s wonderful as they’re worth their weight in gold. Not only are they a great way to provide social proof on your site, but they are a great motivator for your staff and for yourself, and they make a great pick-me up on days when everything might not be going quite as planned.

It’s important to remember that these messages will rarely come in with the word ‘Testimonial’ at the top. Often these kind comments will appear in general e-mails, in tickets to your support ticket system, or on your forum. Keep an eye out for them and when you see one contact the sender and ask them if it would be okay for you to use their comments on the site. You will almost always get an emphatic ‘yes’ and in many cases you will receive a reply that goes the extra mile and gives you an even better testimonial than what they originally sent, or posted in the forum.

Unfortunately, not all products and businesses receive large numbers of unsolicited testimonials, so in those cases a little more work needs to be done. If you fall into that category don’t worry. It’s nothing you are doing wrong and it’s the normal state of affairs for most businesses. Very few businesses find themselves inundated with unsolicited testimonials week after week.

If you’re not already receiving testimonials from people then you need to start asking for them. It’s often that simple.

This could be a simple e-mail to your customers asking them if they liked your product and if so would they be willing to send in a testimonial that you can use on your site, or it could be an incentivized offer encouraging them to submit testimonials.

I am not a big fan of acquiring testimonials using incentives as I feel that bribing people to say nice things about your product is a step too far, but this is a technique used by many leading Internet marketers and so I felt I should mention it.

The problem with bribing people with bonuses or offers of including the submitters link on the testimonial page, is that it becomes debatable as to whether people are saying positive things about your product because they want the bonus or whether it’s genuine.

Imagine how you’d feel if you had purchased a product from someone and your decision had been based primarily on all the wonderful testimonials you’d read on the site. Then, three days after getting the product you get an e-mail from the same company offering you X, Y and Z for free if you’ll send in a nice testimonial. It would probably make you wonder how genuine the testimonials you had read actually were and it would certainly make you think twice about the authenticity of any testimonials you read from that company in the future.

Now, after that word of warning let me just clarify the above a little so that it’s clear.

If you’re offering a small thank you to people who have taken the time to submit a testimonial then that’s fine. The problem only arises, as far as I’m concerned, when the incentive is so great that it moves from the realms of being a ‘thank you’ into bribery territory. It can be a fine line, but if you’re sat at the right side of it then you’re behaving ethically, whereas at the other side there could be some people who would view it as being a little unethical - or very unethical depending on what the bribe was.

My advice would be to start of with the pleasant e-mail asking for a testimonial, but offering no incentive and see how things go. You might find that your customers are so happy that they need very little encouragement to send in a testimonial that you can use on your site.

If your request falls on deaf ears and you receive very few testimonials or none at all don’t be disheartened. It could be that your customers are just not the type of people to write testimonials, or they might all be so incredibly busy that they can’t find the time.

At this point you might want to introduce the small thank you gift and give it another try. If that fails you may have to accept the reality that using testimonials is not something you’re going to be able to do.

One question that people have regarding testimonials is how do people get testimonials for products that haven’t even been released yet?

It’s a good question, as it is very common to see new products launched with dozens of glowing testimonials scattered throughout the sales copy.

The method is easy and often very effective.

Simply give the product away to a select number of people. These might be a random sample from your existing lists or you might choose to send the product to leading people in your industry.

People love to get something for free and as long as the product is a good one they’re often willing to say nice things in return.

If you choose to send the product to top people in your sector you might need to do a lot of chasing to get them to send you a testimonial and don’t expect to get one from the majority of people you send them to as that’s unlikely to happen. However, all you need are a few quality testimonials from people who your visitors will have heard of and you’ll be off to a flying start.

Used properly, testimonials can be an incredibly powerful tool that can really help you to maximize sales. Be proactive and ethical in how you collect the testimonials and before long you’ll have an asset that can help your business to grow for many years to come.

About Paul Smithson - Paul Smithson is the founder of Intellimon and the driving force behind the best-selling XSitePro web site development tool. Since graduating in Business Strategy and Direct Marketing from two of Europe’s leading business schools, Paul has set up five multi-million dollar companies, one of which is now owned by the BBC. His areas of expertise include business strategy, e-commerce, on-line and off-line marketing, software development, and maximizing the potential of on-line businesses.


For more information about this, and many other Internet Marketing-related topics, visit Paul Smithson's site, www.xsitepro.com.

Source: http://www.xsitepro.com/the-high-impact-of-real-testimonials.html


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