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Getting Great Testimonials

Ever seen a sales page for a major marketing training course? Did you notice the dozens of testimonials? There’s a reason the guru used up all that valuable space on their sales page: Testimonials are a marketer’s secret weapon.  There’s a mountain of marketing studies to back this up, but I’ll stick to just three of the choicest examples.

Example #1 from the B2B market
The B2B Content Marketing Report’s 2013 Survey, found customer testimonials to have the highest effectiveness of ANY other content marketing tactic. And that’s not according to just a few members – 89% of those polled said testimonials were effective. Even podcasts, considered to be THE sleeper content marketing tactic, got a mere 23% of marketers saying they were effective.

Example #2 from the B2C market
Nielsen’s Global AdView Pulse report found the rate of trust among consumers also puts testimonials at the top of trusted information, second only to “Recommendations from people I know”.
Example #3 Testimonials are a very close second to a personal recommendation
Search Engine Land found 72% of the consumers they surveyed said they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. 52% said positive online reviews make them more likely to use a local business.

With stats like that, I know you’re eager to find out how to get some testimonials for yourself. But before we delve into how to get testimonials, here are few tips for what separates great testimonials from so-so ones.

10 essential elements of a great testimonial

  1. It’s from a real person. 99.9% of you don’t need to be told this, but just in case one of you was tempted to write a fake testimonial, because you heard on some forum it was okay, let me remind you: It’s not okay.
  2. It’s not perfect. The person giving the testimonial doesn’t have to sound like an advertisement or look like a model. They don’t have to say things that perfectly align with your marketing strategy. Your production values don’t have to be Hollywood material. Keep it real to keep it believable.
  3. It’s specific. A 200% improvement sounds like it could be marketing hype. A 187% improvement has clearly been measured.
  4. It’s authentic. Don’t force people to give testimonials. Don’t make them read a script, or do anything they wouldn’t naturally do.
  5. It’s comparative. While you shouldn’t force people to say things, you can give them some helpful guidelines. Asking them to describe what their experience of something was like before and after using your product is a good way to frame a testimonial. For example, “Before I used Sparkle Car Wash, I had to wash my car once a week during bug season. Now, I only have to wash my car about every six weeks.”
  6. It hasn’t been edited. This leans on the point about not sounding like an advertisement, and not forcing people to say things they wouldn’t naturally say.
  7. It’s been given with permission. What’s the single best way to take a customer who used to love your brand and turn them into someone who will never trust it again? It would be to use their words without their permission.
  8. It describes benefits, not features. It’s nice for someone to say “I loved the 500 horsepower engine.” It’s better when they say, “Now I can pass whomever I want on big hills.” To honor the rule of not putting words in people’s mouths, you might have to give them another “framing question” for their testimonial, like “what’s your favorite thing about the Mustang GT Fastback?”
  9. Get video testimonials when you can. A study of how to use testimonials to boost conversion rates had four segments – page A with no testimonials, page B with a text (written) testimonial, then page C with no testimonial and page D with a video testimonial. Adding a testimonial lifted response in both cases, but the videos blew the text away… by nearly ten-fold.
  10. Place the testimonial near a part of the checkout process where people tend to bail. Even the best testimonials won’t help you much if they’re hidden away for no one to see. So don’t do that – put your testimonials out on all the places where people need them most. For ecommerce sites, this is the order form, or possibly the product pages. For B2B sites, it might be on the contact page or on a form for a project brief. For both types of companies, it couldn’t hurt to sprinkle a few testimonials on your home page, or in the navigation column of your blog.

How to get great testimonials

Now that you know what you’re aiming for, here’s how to get it:
  1. Get the timing right. This applies to any testimonial, but with video testimonials, when you ask is especially important.

    I saw one marketing expert get video testimonials from people immediately after they had seen a presentation by her. Many of the people coming out of the talk were energized, excited and just basically blow away by what they had learned. More than half the people that were asked to give a testimonial did. They just stepped away from the flood of traffic, got under a decent light and a stable background, and were recorded for 5-20 seconds while they described their impression of the marketer.

    The timing was key – the marketer would not have gotten anywhere near the enthusiasm or willingness to give those testimonials if she had asked the next day, or even a few hours later.

    Key takeaway: When asking for video testimonials, ask at the right moment. If you can get the moment right, less-than-perfect production value won’t matter.
  2. Use the Reviews tab in Facebook
    You’ll need a Facebook page set up as a local business to apply this tip, but if you are set up that way, this a great way to add a reviews feature to your Facebook presence in a snap. Facebook’s instructions for how to do this are easy to follow.

  3. Have a plan in place for when you get the glowing email from a client or customer
    Just as the best time to ask for a video testimonial is when your client or customer is thrilled, the best time to ask permission to use someone’s words is when they’ve just sent them. The next time you get a glowing email from someone, have a reply ready that asks if you can use their words on your website (or elsewhere).

    Something like this might work:
    Thanks so much for those kind words! Would you be open to letting us quote you on our website? I could identify you as the AOK Marketing Manager, or just identify you as Claire S. from Somerset New Jersey.”

    Giving people a choice in how they are identified often makes them more likely to say yes. If they seem even a little uncomfortable, and they have a website, offer to link to their website. Often the incentive of a link is enough “pay” to get people on board.

    If that first script doesn’t work, try this: “I would really like to share your success with my other clients. Would that be okay?”
  4. Make the most of LinkedIn LinkedIn offers an endorsements feature for people you’re connected to. If you’ve gotten any endorsements on your profile or your company page, you could potentially use those endorsements on your website or other materials. Again, it’s always nice to ask permission first, so get an email out to people who’ve endorsed you… before they see themselves quoted on your business card.
  5. Make it easy Contact forms are ready-made tools to collect testimonials with. You can add a separate page for people to submit testimonials to, of course, but so long as your contact form has a field that’s long enough for 3-4 sentences of type, it can serve double duty. Perhaps a call to action added to your navigation column might increase testimonials, too. It never hurts to ask.
  6. Hold a Facebook contest These can be for video testimonials, essays, or just quotes. The benefits of contests are that you can easily frame how you want your testimonials to be delivered.

    The drawback is that you are, in a sense, paying people to leave a testimonial. There is a little bit of inauthenticity to contest testimonials. However, I’m including the technique here because it is widely used for getting testimonials, and it certainly does work.

    What do you think? Is holding a contest a bad way to get testimonials? Are there other way to get testimonials that I missed?