Is there a reason why so many shoppers scroll down to Amazon.com's user reviews before making a purchase to read what others have said about the product? Is there any reason why the doubts you've harbored about the product you were going to purchase disappear as soon as you read the first few reviews?
Humans seek affirmation for their decisions, and they want to know when they're making a wrong move. The phenomena in which you are influenced by how others behave, say, or do when you make your own decision is called social proof.
Testimonials are a form of marketing that relies on public worth-of-mouth referrals that can flirt with the psychology of social proof. Humans seek affirmation for their decisions, and they want to know when they're making a wrong move.
Recognize the following facts:1) The average consumer today is a tough sell. Your consumers are a skeptical crowd, especially in an era where they are bombarded by businesses' banners, advertisements, and commercials claiming that their organization serves "the BEST" or "the FASTEST" product and service, while often under-delivering their promises. It is no wonder why consumers, both in the civilian and military sectors, may seem more cynical or unconvinced by organizations who over-promise and under-deliver.
2) Your words are not enough. You boasting your own company's services or products is simply not enough to convince the on-the-fence consumer who is trying to gauge the quality, professionalism, reliability, and effectiveness of your service/product. Tooting your company's horn may be of value to establish your credibility, but do so tastefully and without using spam-like language. Mention honors and awards your company has received, but don't claim your company is wholly better than any other business that provides the same service unless you're willing to back up your claims with objective evidence.
3) Testimonials can build your credibility. Consumer feedback and testimonials can help reassure your skeptical consumers that what you offer is genuine, effective, and reliable. They're also useful because you can distinguish yourself from competitors by displaying testimonials that clearly emphasize one aspect about your business model that is markedly different from the rest.
So, what are some ways you can use testimonials to market to your customers? Let's go over some general tips and guidelines below.
1. Consider which type of feedback is best for your businessBefore you begin asking customers for feedback and testimonials, you have to take some time to outline your ideal testimonial. Start by asking yourself the following questions:
- What product or service do I want to highlight?
- How general or specific do I want testimonials to be?
- Who am I targeting with the testimonial?
- How can the testimonial stand out and make my business better?
These are broad questions, but going over them is essential before you begin anything. In order to answer these questions, you should arm yourself with some knowledge about the general practices that make testimonials convincing and attractive to nervous first-time buyers.
Generally, you want your testimonial to be specific, relatable, credible, and compelling. What exactly do we mean by this?
You want your testimonials to be specific to the particular service or product that you want to spotlight. "This product is great!" or "This service was awesome!" is, for the most part, generally unhelpful. Clients and customers want to know what about the product or service was great or awesome or helpful, so put it front and center. Suppose you're running a pharmaceutical store and offer various products and services, having a testimonial such as "Service X was able to get rid of my gastrointestinal distress in under an hour -- I've never had such an experience before in my life! I really recommend using this if you've had this type of issue before" is specific and broadcasts one of your services that deal with a particular problem.
You also want your testimonials to be relatable. You want to make sure that the testimonial isn't something that most of your customer base won't resonate with. Namely, you want to make sure that the testimonial is something that most of your users in your target market can identify with. In our previous example of the pharmaceutical store, suppose that you specifically target the elderly for problems that afflict, generally, older men and women. You might want to make your testimonies talk about your products or services within the context of the elderly community, or to include details in the testimonial that make the feedback more relatable. For example, you can add the age of the person ("John Doe, 64") to make the testimonial sound more relatable to your target audience.
Credibility is something that you can build by simply including information that may seem more realistic. For example, adding a photo next to the testimonial shows that the feedback came from an actual, real person. Add their names, the town they are from. If one of your customers has a large online presence, provide the testimonial with a back link to the customers' website or digital profile. No one will actually click the link or go to that person's website, but it helps build the perception that the individual writing the testimonial was an actual customer.
Lastly, You want your testimonials to be compelling. Making a testimonial "compelling" may seem abstract on first thought, but consider what makes a good testimonial different from an excellent one. A good testimonial will be specific and highlight the key features of your product with sufficient context. An excellent testimonial will go out of its way to put the reader's doubts, thoughts, and concerns in the open, address them, and still explain why someone should still pursue the product or service your business offers. A great way an excellent testimonial does this is by being comparative; it will explain the deficiencies of your competitors and be specific about how your product or service is different. It will genuinely assess your product or service and pre-empt any concern a reader might have by weighing the price with the quality of the service being provided in a positive and assertive way (e.g. "Given the modest price tag, Company X still goes above and beyond to deliver something that many companies fail to deliver: effective and efficient services in...").
2. Ask for feedbackNow that you know what type of feedback and testimonial you're looking for, go out there and find them. You want to be organized and structured so you don't spam your customers with many unwanted solicitations. Send out emails to customers you've had for a while. Track their activities, their loyalty, and their relative willingness to take some time to write a thoughtful review for your product or service. If you have offered them something valuable, it shouldn't be too difficult to receive a few testimonials that are worth broadcasting on your website. Also reach out to key clients or customers personally. If you know a big name has been a loyal customer, approach her and tell her you would appreciate if she can write a positive review about her experiences using your product or service. Track who you've written to and who has responded. You don't want to annoy your customers and have them unsubscribe from your mailing list because you sounded desperate for their opinions.
3. Make it visually appealing and interweave them with your siteBe creative in the way you present your testimonials. Do you want to create separate categories for your different products and services? Do you want to package a page of client feedback in brochures, blogs, and newsletters? Do you want to populate a banner in the middle of your home page with customer testimonials or save them for when customers browse through your services? As we mentioned above, include photographs when you can. It will make them more visually appealing and it adds color to otherwise colorless text blocks.
4. Update themKeep your testimonials fresh. Your business will inevitably evolve, and reviews/feedback about a product or service you offered 5 years ago may be helpful for that older line of product/service you maintain, but you have to be active in ensuring that everything you offer now has some feedback or positive review. Again, stay organized and target different groups of people to broadcast diverse, but positive, opinions.
For more information about creating valuable content for marketing to general audiences as well as for specific military audiences, check out some of previous blog posts about content marketing and using video campaigns.
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