Who Says So?

By Ron Rosenberg

"Let the buyer beware."

"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is."

You've probably heard sayings like these, and hopefully you've taken them to heart when the situation warranted it.

The truth is that people are skeptical about the claims businesses make. I know we spend a lot of time talking about applying behavioral psychology to write strong copy and connect to the target audience. But in the final analysis, anyone who comes into contact with your marketing materials understands that they exist for one purpose, and one purpose only: to get you to take some action that ultimately leads to a sale.

Why Should I Believe You?

So if prospects are reluctant to accept your claims at face value, then who will they believe? Well, how about everybody else! And the best way to do this is by letting other people sing your praises with testimonials.

Unfortunately, testimonials are the single most under-used marketing tool being used
today. And not just by people who have only recently discovered our brand of effective marketing, but by people who have been marketing successfully for years–and who should actually know better.

Which do you think carries more credibility: a full-page ad for your product or a full-page story in the same publication describing and praising your product? It’s the article, of course. That’s because in the ad, it’s you talking about your product. In the article, someone else is doing the talking.

It’s always much easier to believe what the “impartial” person has to say. So here are some strategies to consider as you begin to incorporate testimonials and other methods of "social proof" into your marketing efforts.

How to Write Testimonials

You may be scratching your head a bit after reading that section heading: “How to Write Testimonials.” You may be asking yourself, “Hey, wait a minute, why do I need to know how to write testimonials–isn’t that what my customers should be doing?” Well, yes and no.

The problem is that most “end users” of a product or service don’t know how to write compelling testimonials, and most marketing people don’t know how to transform this “raw material” into usable, effective copy.

When you finish reading this article, you’ll know how to do it well, but your customers still won’t, so Rule #1 about testimonials is…don’t let your customers write them - write them yourself.

Let me be clear before you get the wrong idea; I’m not talking about “inventing”  testimonials out of thin air because that’s illegal, immoral, and unethical. What I am talking about is helping the person who is providing the testimonial present the  information in a way that’s 100% truthful and accurate, while at the same time being effective and compelling.

You can ask them a series of questions and use that raw input to write the comment for their final approval. You can have them write it and then call them back to clarify some points – again, subject to their final approval.

Of course, my favorite way to get great testimonials is to teach my customers how to write them, as I’m doing for you right now. In fact, some of my very best testimonials show up on the feedback forms I get from people who have attended my full-day Outrageous Marketing workshops, in part because they’re excited about what they’ve learned, and in part because they’re anxious to show off the fact that they now understand how to write great testimonials!

And just as there are specific components that should be in a marketing message, there are certain characteristics that should be included in an effective testimonial.

Tangible Results

I can’t even begin to tell you how many marketing pieces I see, conference brochures in
particular, that say things like…

“I store my junk at Bob’s Self-Storage and they do a great job.”

I mean, really, is there anything in that statement that makes you want to drop everything
and do business with this company?

Instead, try this on for size...

“Bob’s Self Storage saved my marriage! Okay, maybe it wasn’t quite that bad, but it was getting there! My wife kept bugging me about all the junk that was piling up in the garage. It got so bad that we had to leave both cars in the driveway. I wanted to do something with it, but our house just doesn’t have enough storage space.

And that’s when Bob’s Self Storage came to the rescue. I was able to fit everything in an affordable 10 x 10 unit, and they even loaned me a truck for free to transport everything. Now the garage is clean, the cars are back where they belong, and best of all, my wife is happy.

Thank you, Bob’s Self Storage!!!

You can clearly see the difference in this before-and-after example. The first one doesn’t say much that will appeal to a prospect. The second one is hard-hitting,  attention-grabbing, and full of results.

Detailed Description of the Contributor

When you use a testimonial from “Bob S. from Yuma, Arizona,” even though it may very well be legitimate feedback from an actual person, it just sets off internal warning bells because it doesn’t seem legitimate.

If people begin to doubt the veracity of your testimonials, then they’ll very likely dismiss the other claims you make as unreliable, even in spite of any guarantees you may offer.

For example, which one of the following testimonials do you feel is more believable?

“I bought my daughter a car at Capital Motors. It runs great and we got a fantastic deal.”
Sam W.


“I bought my daughter a car at Capital Motors. It runs great and we got a
fantastic deal.”

Sam Wilson
Vice President, Sales
Mammoth Warehouse Company
Kansas City, MO

Overlooking the obvious weakness in the testimonial itself, based solely on the identifying
information, the second one carries more credibility and believability.

Photos, Audio, and Video

You could improve the testimonial even more by including photographs of the people providing your testimonials. Including a picture of the person makes it more real for the reader. Putting a face to a claim makes it more believable.

If seeing the person’s face next to the testimonial adds credibility, imagine how effective it would be to actually hear your customers describe how you helped them?

This is not as difficult as it might have seemed just ten years ago. Audio on the web is fairly easy to incorporate. All you need is an audio editing program and a (generally free) audio plugin for your site.

It’s actually pretty compelling to include a block on your web page that has a photo of your customer, copy containing the quote, and then audio controls similar to that on your MP3 player that allow you to hit the “Play” button and hear the testimonial in the person’s own voice!

It’s just as straightforward to include video clips on your web site. You can actually see the person talking about your product or service! And if you’re sending a physical sales letter, you can certainly include an Audio CD, CD-ROM, or DVD of the testimonial.

Multiple Testimonials

How many testimonials should you include? All of them! At worst, the prospect will stop reading, listening, or watching before reaching the end. But remember that people look at an offer with the intent of finding a reason to dismiss it, not to accept it.

Once you get your prospects into the testimonials, you’re halfway there. They’ve gotten over their initial reluctance and they’re now looking for confirmation and validation that they’ve made the right decision. At this point, if your testimonials are good, they’ll pay attention until they’re finally convinced.

The problem is that you just don’t know how much convincing your prospects will need. So give them as much as you have. Of course, you should segment your testimonials so that they’re appropriate for your audience.

For example, if you happen to be targeting college graduates for your business, then including testimonials from men and women in their late 50’s just isn’t going to cut it. A collection of testimonials from people in their early 20’s, however, will get your prospects to say, “Hey, these people are just like me!”

Using Testimonials to Overcome Objections

You can overcome objections by incorporating clear and specific benefits into your message and hoping that the prospect understands, appreciates, and accepts them. But if claims about your offer from other people are more convincing than your own, then it just makes sense that their answers to common objections will be more powerful and convincing as well.

Next Steps...

Take a look at all of your marketing materials - both print and online - and see how many testimonials you've included. When I review materials for our clients, more often than not, the answer is: zero.

The thing is, you probably already have some great comments and feedback from your customers, clients, and members; you just haven't incorporated them into your marketing.

So right now, select a marketing piece or an ad you're working on, find some relevant and positive feedback you've received, and incorporate it into the piece to create a compelling testimonial that will help boost your results!