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As connected as we are these days through websites, social media and apps, word of mouth still has a very powerful impact. McKinsey Quarterly says this is because, “…consumers overwhelmed by product choices tune out the ever-growing barrage of traditional marketing, word of mouth cuts through the noise quickly and effectively.” In marketing, this comes in the form of testimonials.

In 2014, WebDAM, a leading digital asset management platform, found that customer testimonials have the highest rating (89 percent) of all types of content marketing. That same year, research by TechValidate revealed that 94 percent of B2B marketing and sales professionals rated customer testimonials as “very effective” or “extremely effective.”

In the Content Marketing Playbook by The Content Marketing Institute, 24 different content marketing tactics are suggested. Testimonials rank in the top 10, above videos and webinars.

When you consider Optify’s B2B Marketing Benchmark Report findings that 80 percent of traffic comes from a combination of organic searches (via search engines) and direct traffic (those customers that type in your URL) it would indicate that customers click through because they already know a little bit about your company’s reputation. Testimonials help build your reputation.

Enough about me, what do you like about me?

If you want to know what customers think about your product or service, start by asking them and allow them to tell you. Testimonials answer the question of “what do you like?” not only for you, but also for other potential customers who may not know about your product or service.

Provided as text, video or audio, testimonials can:

Build trust

When customers rave about how much they benefit from your product or service, they let others know that they, too, can have a positive experience with your company.

Overcome skepticism

Good testimonials help get other potential customers off the fence. Customers that are a considered a “tough sell” can often be swayed by information in a testimonial that indicates how much of a benefit your product or service was to someone else.

Be a true voice

You can write clever copy and you can tell consumers how great your business is, but a testimonial can deliver candid and unbiased accounts via another voice. Your voice can spout how wonderful your product or service is, a testimonial will give examples to back up such promises.

Getting testimonials

If you haven’t already established a channel where customers can offer feedback, create one. Allow them to email directly or post to your website. Use social media to promote this feature and encourage participation.

Social media channels such as Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube are a great resources for finding reviews customers have already posted. In addition to asking customers to “Like” you, encourage these reviews. (On Facebook, business pages have a Reviews tab that can be activated.) It is also possible for viewers to add reviews to YouTube.

Smaller business can also find reviews on Yelp, Yahoo Local, CitySearch and other search directories. Websites such as TripAdvisor, Travelocity and Amazon offer the ability for consumers to leave reviews about your service or product.

If a customer has reached out to you privately via email and offers valuable feedback, ask if you may use the content in a publicly posted testimonial. Never use private comments without permission. Consider reaching out to people with whom you have a relationship such as contacts on LinkedIn and past and current customers. Craft a letter that specifically asks for a testimonial, but note that there is no obligation. Explain how their testimonial will be used on your website and other collateral.

Good verses powerful

Having a testimonial declare, “This product is wonderful!” is nice to hear, but hardly helps promote you. Such a testimonial is much too vague. Another customer doesn’t know why the product is wonderful or why it might be wonderful for them.

Just because a testimonial is positive doesn’t mean it is effective. An effective testimonial will:

Explain benefits

Such a testimonial will be clear about why your product or service is great. For example, “This product is wonderful! After just two uses, my stainless steel shines like new.” Or, “After attending the sales workshop, we implemented the practices and our sales doubled in a month.”

Substantiates your claims

A good testimonial will say that you keep your promises and deliver on expectations. For example, “This product is wonderful! As they say, after just two uses, my stainless steel does shine like new.” Or, “At the sales workshop, we were told we would increase our sales if we put into practice what was taught. Our, sales didn’t just increase, they doubled within a month.”

Is comparative

Pitting you against the competition and showing how you win is helpful. It lets prospective customers know your product or service is superior. For example, “This product is wonderful! My stainless steel shines like new. I have tried numerous other products and have never gotten this kind of result.” Or, “In the past, I attended sales workshops by ABC Company and XYZ Incorporated. I did not get anything close to the insight I gained at this workshop. We implemented what we learned and doubled our sales in a month.”

If you reach out to customers to ask for testimonials, provide information on what you will be seeking. Tell them that, if they are inclined to write the testimonial, you’d like to specifically hear how your product or service benefits them, whether you have delivered on their expectations and how you stack up against the competition.

When you receive this feedback, choose testimonials that are most informative and set your product or service apart from the competition.

Credibility

According to FlyResearch stats from 2015, 62 percent of people rely on user-generated content over information provided by a company. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a lot of skepticism out there. In October 2015, Amazon sued over 1,000 people for posting fake reviews on its site. This added fuel to the fire for those who may not know what to believe when they read it online. Thus, your testimonials must be credible. (Obviously, never create fake testimonials. It is fraud and just not worth the repercussions to your company.)

Where you can, provide first and last names, company, hometown or other qualifier that shows that your testimonial comes from a real person and is not fake. Consider adding a photo or a link to a professional bio. Many customers know that celebrities get paid for offering their opinions. If your clientele is famous, be clear in on your testimonials that the celebrities were not endorsed for their participation.

Video testimonials help provide credibility and instantly help your audience connect on a more personal level.

As with all marketing content, be sure your testimonials align with your audience. For example, if your face cream is intended for a 20-something audience, presenting a testimonial by a gray-haired 50-something may not do much to impress your target audience. Additionally, if you wish to promote the benefits of your vacation resort to a senior audience, providing testimonials from parents of young children may send the wrong impression about your venue.

Remember that your testimonials should help similar audiences identify with each other. If they cannot, the testimonial is not beneficial to you.

Additionally, in order to maintain credibility, never edit your testimonials. Do not exclude a comment or add information you believe should be incorporated, even if it is implied. Simply, if do not feel comfortable posting a testimonial “as is,” then it should not go up.

Where to put testimonials

Testimonials can be incorporated into all your marketing collateral. Todd Giannattasio of Tresnic Media, in an article for Business 2 Community, suggests adding testimonials to these locations on your website:

  • Customer stories page
  • Testimonials page
  • Sidebars with quotes
  • On your home page
  • Within landing pages

Including your best testimonials front and center on your homepage and on your sales page is helpful. Neil Patel, co-founder of Crazy Egg and Hello Bar, says, “if you place them in multiple locations, you may see an increase in conversions.” He sites an example with his Quick Sprout membership program: “The check-out page that included a testimonial in the sidebar converted 6.38 percent better than the check-out page that didn’t include a testimonial.”

As with other content, take the time to monitor metrics and consider A/B testing to see the kind of results you get with various placements.

Using testimonials on your website can be one of the most powerful and inexpensive marketing tools available. Use this tool correctly and your customers turn into influencers. As Entrepreneur magazine says, adding testimonials “can multiply your profits–and get your customers selling your products for you.”

If you have a content marketing program, or are planning one, download our ebook:  100 mistakes businesses make when starting, optimizing and scaling content marketing programs.  Learn from the mistakes of hundreds of other companies.  100 mistakes walks you through common and uncommon challenges that they faced with their content marketing programs.

Michael Marchese is the founder and CEO of Tempesta Media. He is responsible for corporate strategy, executive team leadership and overall business operations across all the company’s segments.

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