I was shopping for a dress recently and just as I was about to pick a dress off the rack to try it on, a lady got in front of me and took it. Suddenly I wanted that dress badly. I had to have it! I didn’t care so much a few moments ago but now I couldn’t have it, I wanted it! That is social proof in action. We want what other people are having, even if we didn’t want it that badly in the first place.
In terms of our own businesses, testimonials are social proof that someone other than us (or our mothers) think that what we sell is pretty good. But do they really work? Do they increase sales? Do they build your brand? In my experience, the answer is a qualified yes to all of them, but they have to be collected and used in the right way or they won’t be as effective as they could be.
Will testimonials lead to a sale?
Testimonials won’t make us buy something we don’t need or want. They work best if the prospect already has an interest in the product. So why bother having them? They’re important because they are a step along the path to purchase. If I’m not in the market for a trip to Las Vegas, reading a testimonial about how great Las Vegas is will not make me want to go. But if I am in the market for a trip to Las Vegas, then I will definitely have my antenna tuned to anything that resembles a recommendation about that destination. Testimonials can’t make us buy something we don’t want, but they can nudge us to choose one provider over another.
Are they worth the effort?
I used to have a fridge magnet that said: “A minute on the lips, forever on the hips”. It was designed to stop me having that second serve of ice cream after dinner. It worked. Sometimes. The point is, testimonials may be time consuming to source, but once you have them, you have them forever. For a few minutes of ‘pain’ you have a lifetime of gain.
So how can I get a testimonial?
It’s quite simple. By asking for them.
You’d be surprised how many times people let really happy, satisfied customers go without asking them for a testimonial. Sure, it’s confronting to ask someone what they think about you, but once you get over that initial fear, and you get a glowing testimonial, that one testimonial could mean the difference between a future sale and a non-sale.
If you’re uncomfortable asking for testimonials in person, try emailing them a survey after the transaction. If you’re really cowardly, ask for it via LinkedIn.
The wording might be: ‘Hi John, I was hoping that you might be able to jot down a few words outlining your recent experience with the company. Would that be okay with you? If so, the areas I’d like you to cover include our customer service, our responsiveness and the quality of our content …’
Overcoming the fear to ask for testimonials is a small price to pay for the long-term value and revenue they can generate for your business.
Do people really believe testimonials?
We all know that testimonials can be faked. “Brilliant service!” says John D, from Bundaberg. But who’s John D, does he really exist and who cares anyway?
But if we added a bit of detail and credibility to the testimonial, it starts to come alive.
‘Brilliant service! They delivered the package the same day I ordered, and they not only matched the price of their competitors, they gave me 10% off. I would definitely recommend them.’
- John Doe, Managing Director, Consolidated Packaging Industries, Bundaberg.
Suddenly, the testimonial starts to have power. The devil is in the detail. And if you have the chance, film the testimonial. It’s much more powerful and everyone knows videoed testimonials are hard to manufacture. They demonstrate in real time, in people’s own voices the value that you offer.
Testimonials might take some time and effort to collect but they are definitely worth the effort.
This is a slightly amended version of an article written by Bernadette Schwerdt, online marketing strategist, keynote speaker and the author of the new book, ‘Secrets of Online Entrepreneurs. It has been shortened to make it suitable for web publishing.