Build Confidence With Testimonials

People expect you to say wonderful things about your product, service or cause; but when they hear other people say wonderful things, that's when they start believing you. Testimonials support your claims and build confidence.

Another benefit of testimonials is that they engage the bandwagon effect. All of us look to others to help us decide how to act, to guide our behavior and to determine whether something is correct. The more people doing it, the more correct it seems.

Last month I talked about going beyond testimonials. Here are some tips to get the most from testimonials:

Actively collect testimonials. Your business should have a file of testimonials and success stories ready to go for any promotion. Don't wait until you need them. Create an ongoing system of collection, and get written permission to use the testimonials in perpetuity.

Use testimonials from people similar and relevant to prospects. The people you quote in a given promotion should be as much like your ideal prospect as possible. This increases identification and the feeling of relevance. A teacher will believe other teachers; a business owner will believe other business owners; a senior will believe other seniors. Testimonials also are more effective when they are from experts or people with relevant experience. This is one reason you should collect lots of testimonials from a variety of people — you can carefully select targeted quotes when you need them.

Use real testimonials. Don't try to rewrite or fabricate testimonials. No matter how poorly worded, the real words of real people are always more believable than anything a writer can come up with. Besides, making them up isn't ethical. If you have trouble getting favorable quotes, there's something wrong with what you're selling. Fix it!

Edit testimonials carefully. If you must edit, do so carefully and honestly. Don't change the meaning. Don't enhance. Don't present words and phrases out of context.

Prefer many short quotes over a few long quotes. Testimonials show that people — lots of people — buy your product, use your service, or support your cause. The more people who praise you, the more credible you are. However, don't allow your testimonials to degenerate into meaningless, one-word blurbs like those used to promote Hollywood movies: “Incredible,” “A Blockbuster,” “A Must See.”

Don't be afraid of long testimonials. Sometimes you get a gem that says it all. It may be a story, an emotional revelation, an authoritative remark from an expert or just a simple comment that hits the nail on the head. Use it.

Group testimonials. When possible, separate out testimonials as an insert in a direct mail package. In a print ad or brochure, group testimonials in one place. Generally, scattering them decreases the bandwagon effect. If you use a headline to introduce the testimonials, don't use an empty statement: “What people are saying about XYZ company…” State a benefit or say something meaningful: “More than 88,000 smart people like you trust XYZ for long-lasting thingamabobs.”

Use full names, titles, locations and photographs. Testimonials are a form of proof; so whenever you have a chance to increase the credibility of that proof, do it. Full names are more believable than initials. An appropriate title is an indication of a person's experience or expertise. A city and state helps prove the person is real, as does a photograph. A photo also helps people identify with the person quoted.

Choose relevant and persuasive testimonials. Don't use testimonials to entertain or fill space. Use them to help prove your promise and lead your prospect to a decision. They should convey enthusiasm and hit benefits and hot buttons.

Turn a particularly good testimonial into a lift letter. It could be a letter written especially for your mailing or a reprint of an outstanding comment you want to share.

Use a testimonial as a headline or benefit statement. Quoted copy increases readership and credibility. But when the copy is an actual testimonial, it's doubly effective.

Feature testimonials by converts. Comments from someone who has been converted from another product or service are more believable and powerful than comments from customers who may not have shopped around.

Dean Rieck is president of Direct Creative, Columbus, OH, a direct marketing creative firm. His e-mail address is [email protected]

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