The “Why” and “How” of Testimonials

We’ve explained before how you can establish a marketing and public relations campaign to establish or improve the brand of your company and/or product. What we didn’t discuss in detail is the necessity of established credibility for your company or product. Whether you’re selling a good or a service to a customer or another business, your business’s product needs to have credibility to be perceived as cost worthy. In recent years, reviews on websites such as Amazon and Yelp, as well as across multiple independent reviewing websites, have helped create a climate in which quality is likely to be recognized, but to get the reviews to begin with, you still need someone to buy your good or service and try it out.

Thus the question is this: how do you establish the credibility of your good or service without relying on the wild card of randomly generated public reviews? The answer to this is the tried and true use of Testimonials.

A Testimonial is traditionally defined as being “a written declaration certifying to a person's character, conduct, or qualifications, or to the value, excellence, etc., of a thing.” [1] The root of the word comes from testimony, such as what one would hear in court from a witness either to confirm the perpetrator of a crime or to corroborate an alibi of someone accused. While your company may not be in any danger of legal action being taken against you, a Testimonial is a powerful tool in establishing a sense of credibility and giving a perceived unbiased perspective on the benefits and drawbacks of your product.

Over the course of this article, we’ll explain why Testimonials should be used, how you should structure Testimonials to optimize public reactions to them, and how to implement the use of Testimonials on your company’s website in the most effective way possible.

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Why Testimonials? Trust and Understanding


Recent phenomena such as the exploding hover-boards fiasco has helped create an environment where consumers are uncertain whether the materials they buy have a guarantee of quality and safety.

According to Entrepreneur magazine journalist Derek Gehl, Testimonials help build trust and overcome skepticism from potential customers. [3] This is more important now than ever, given public awareness to the tactics used in marketing as well as current market trepidations about extraneous spending. It is a scientific fact that humans rely on “social proof,” which is the peace of mind provided by the idea that people with more information on a product or situation have reassured you that the product is worth buying. [6] In other words, to paraphrase Marketing Analyst Alex Shaffer, Mob mentality takes over and we wish to do what others are doing.

While I think Shaffer’s view is somewhat cynical, it is important to understand that in a market saturated with a million businesses offering the same kinds of products and services, it only makes sense that those trying to weigh their options would look to other consumers to understand what will work. If you need any further proof, consider this statistic: 70% of customers read reviews online before they buy products. [6] The very basis of consumerism has moved into the digital age: you need to build up your credibility with your audience.

How Should You Create Testimonials? Credible Sources and Concise Reviews


Now that we’ve verified the necessity of testimonials, let’s discuss how you should organize testimonials. A good testimonial will clearly describe the benefits of your good or service, substantiate your claims, come from either someone relatable or someone admirable, and a good testimonial may also compare similar products or services [3]. You should never edit testimonials, use them without permission, or invent your own testimonials-- all of these things can severely damage your company’s credibility [3]. You need to collect testimonials from a couple key sources: ground-level consumers and people prominent in your industry. The former is especially effective in Business-to-Consumer deals, and the latter is especially effective in Business-to-Business. Common consumers are prone to trusting people they assume to be honest, unpaid fellow consumers-- not actors or paid spokespeople. Business professionals are likely to trust the advice of recognized professionals in the field because leadership in business is identified with intelligence, creativity, and the cutting edge. [4]

How do you collect these testimonials then? A good way to collect feedback is to automatically send forms to your customers to explain how they’re enjoying the product or service they purchased-- you can incentivize this with coupons or chances for rewards in exchange for their feedback. [3] If you need professional reviews, courteously submitting your product to someone in your industry (someone you may have done business with before) and asking for a review in email form could prove a boon to your company. Remember: you should make collecting testimonials easy so that you can collect feedback and utilize it in a timely manner. [6]

How Do You Implement Online? Optimizing Space and Design


By this point, you know why you need testimonials, and you’ve presumably gathered up some testimonials to use. So, then, where should you put them? Well, first off, print and video ads can very much be bolstered by testimonials-- for instance, snippets of positive movie reviews are frequently placed on posters and in trailers.Your home base for marketing in the modern era, however, is going to be your website: you need to put your testimonials on your website.

For where to put these testimonials, there are a variety of options to consider. Some people say that placing your best testimonials front and center on your website is effective [3]. We’d recommend that you place an excellent testimonial on your homepage, but it doesn't need to be the focus of the homepage. Placing testimonials in context on all your pages could be beneficial: this means that you would place testimonials on pages specifically relevant to each individual testimonial (Ex: placing a review for your company’s customer service on your customer service page). [6]

When it comes to design, even more options appear in terms of formatting. One point that we find to be extremely helpful is that you can emphasize the important parts of the testimonials with italics and bold [4]. If a review were to say, “This product helped me overcome my arthritic pain and become active again. [Insert Product Name Here] helped me reclaim my life,” then you can easily help the reader’s eyes focus where you want in the quotes like this: “This product helped me overcome my arthritic pain and become active again. [Insert Product Name Here] helped me reclaim my life.” Another point that has been suggested is that structuring testimonials to look like entertaining ads on your page can help your company extend visibility, especially if you then use those testimonials as ads on external websites [2]. A testimonial with a well-designed frame and a picture to emphasize its points is certain to increase in impact.

Finally, relying on video or audio of testimonials can also be effective [4]. A video of an elderly person giving a testimonial about their health care may evoke more empathy in your audience than a textual ad, and the right kind of music certainly helps create atmosphere. However, this also runs the risk of being mixed in with the average advertisement, which consumers are more prone than ever to block out. You can even overuse this technique on your website, as many internet users tend to be predisposed to mute audio or video that suddenly starts playing when visiting a page outside of YouTube or news outlet sites.

The best way to implement any and all of these strategies is mixing them up and seeing what works. The new media analysis website “HubSpot” has collected a variety of examples of effective testimonial pages. [5] The effectiveness of these sites is amplified by the variety between text-only testimonials and available videos to watch with interviews and other testimonials: extended paragraphic testimonials in the style of old magazine stories testifying the effectiveness of your product are also highlighted here.

Don’t limit yourself to one set plan of how to implement these testimonials online: you’re likely to need trial and error to get a good grasp of what your consumer base is going to respond most positively to.


Conclusion


Think of the Stock Market Crash in 2008, the recalls on smartphones, the bank fraud cases popping up left and right across the globe: because of the uncertainty of corporate honesty, business transactions require credibility now more than ever. You need to build up this credibility to grow and maintain your consumer base. Testimonials are capable of helping you do that because they are perceived to be impartial indicators of quality.

Gathering them can be a simple and easy process: email lists and rewards programs can help your consumer base provide you with feedback, incentivize returning customers, and improve your image amongst current consumers and potential consumers. Implementation online carries a variety of options and experimentation is a likely requirement, but there are a plethora of guides and examples to sift through in order to get started.

It only makes sense that people want to do business with a company they can trust. If you’re a good company, then you can receive good testimonials. If you have credibility problems and you assume testimonials you gather would reflect problems with your product, then that’s a sign you need to restructure and earn those glowing testimonials.

As long as your company exists, it’s never too late to secure that glorious five-star review from a consumer or business leader. If your company is doing as it should, the testimonies will reflect that and help your business grow.


Questions?

Contact us by email at alliaudrey@idesigncollaborative.com.


  [1] http://www.dictionary.com/browse/testimonial
[2] http://www.dexmedia.com/blog/5-effective-ways-use-testimonials-website/
[3] https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/83752
[4] https://www.quicksprout.com/2010/10/21/how-to-effectively-use-testimonials/
[5] http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/testimonial-page-examples#sm.0000nocx1g1an6ddzpvbs7soqiake
[6] https://vtldesign.com/vital-design-news-jobs-and-culture/vital/how-to-use-testimonials-increase-website-conversions/