How to Get Creative With Customer TestimonialsNatalia Persin
People seek out others’ opinions when they consider a purchase. A customer testimonial from a like-minded individual is one of the best and most convincing ways to inform potential customers and entice them into a conversion.
But customer testimonials are also one of the oldest and most common marketing tools, used by countless organizations and broadcast all over the internet. Read this guide for a better understanding of customer testimonials and how to make them stand out against the competition.
Testimonials Are Social Proof Theory in Action
Social proof provides the psychological basis behind testimonials. First suggested by psychologist Robert Cialdini, social proof theory outlines our human tendency to base our own behavior off the behavior of our peers. Particularly when we aren’t sure what the proper course of action is, we turn to others for some indication.
Customer testimonials provide this social proof for purchasing decisions. As audiences and users become more informed, the research performed prior to buying becomes more detailed. Testimonials can cut through overly technical information with authentic, easy to understand recommendations.
Research shows that social proof works best when many people demonstrate proof through collective actions. What that seems to imply regarding customer testimonials is that people are more likely to treat them as a reliable source of information if there are many reviews that all have a cohesive message behind them.
Luckily for companies and the marketing creatives who work for them, this messaging is typically crystal clear when the testimonials are about a specific product or service. If the product is good, all the positive reviews should be on the same page.
Users and potential customers also tend to trust testimonials more than company-produced advertising because the testimonials usually feel more authentic. Perhaps one of the biggest indicators of authenticity is that the people leaving these reviews aren’t paid or rewarded for leaving them – let readers find out that reviews have been purchased and any credibility goes right out the window.
To get the most authentic testimonials possible, you need to get creative with how you solicit them just as you’ll have to get creative with how you broadcast them once you have them. You can usually do this just by making it easier and stress-free to leave feedback.
Don’t neglect social proof theory as you try to gather more testimonials, either. If it’s clear that most other people are leaving reviews and recording testimonials, then users are more likely to do so after they use a product or service.
Business Ratings in the Internet Age
Social media and the burgeoning internet of things are mainstays of modern social living. Like it or not, that’s the main avenue people use to shop and do research before making a purchase.
One of the earliest uses of the internet was to express opinions on basic web 1.0 forums. As technology became more sophisticated, tools developed that allowed a larger number of people to share more in-depth information about their experiences and opinions.
Now we have entire websites and apps like Yelp whose sole purpose is to provide constantly updated customer reviews of everything from laundry services to restaurants. Google Maps includes business ratings and user reviews among their location data. With such wide availability, users have come to expect business ratings as a given.
And as business ratings have become more ubiquitous, they’ve also become more important. While people have always used social proof and the opinions of others to decide which action to take, we are now able to see more behavioral examples in a less formal context than ever before.
Social media has played a major role in this shift. Tweets, TikToks, and Instagram videos allow intimate views into the lives of others. When people use these platforms to broadcast their opinions of products and services as 39% of adults report to have done, their authenticity is assumed based on the presence of other “normal,” or non-product content they’ve posted in the past.
Younger people appear to be the largest cohort that uses social media sites for this purpose. When there isn’t a history of authentic non-business posting, credibility with this and other age groups takes a hit. Which brings us to one of the latest developments in business ratings and customer testimonials: paid reviews and recommendations.
Paid Customer Testimonials
Marketing professionals have used testimonials since time immemorial and it’s no surprise they sought to guarantee positive reviews as much as possible by incentivizing people to leave feedback.
In the best-case scenario, the payment or incentive is given regardless of content. But occasionally a company takes things too far and attempts to buy good reviews, undermining their credibility and occasionally even the credibility of the site hosting the reviews.
Ideally, you won’t have to incentivize customer testimonials at all. If you can build feedback mechanisms into the UX of your product or service and make reviews a given, then people will not only be more likely to leave their own reviews but also trust in the authenticity of the testimonials left by others.
In general, paid testimonials are a pitfall that will do more harm than good. There are much better ways to get great feedback and the kind of customer testimonials that will draw in more business in the future.
How to Make Customer Testimonials Stand Out
Where do customer testimonials belong?
We’ve already touched on review sites – in most cases, linking to positive reviews and testimonials on these sites is a great way to show that people are saying great things about your company on a platform that’s outside the brand’s control.
But where should the testimonials go if they aren’t hosted by a third party? Prospective customers need to be able to see them and, perhaps more importantly, have ready access to them at the exact stage in the sales journey when the opinion of others will be most useful and informative.
No doubt we’ve all visited websites where companies have positive customer testimonials on the landing page. A constantly scrolling deck of them typically adorns the bottom of a page.
That’s far from the only way to present such information, though. Here are a few other places you can showcase positive customer testimonials to give them a bigger impact:
- Sales Pages
There’s hardly a more convenient place for customer testimonials than near the products they’re endorsing. A note about testimonials on sales pages, though: they can’t look automatic or be the same across every product page. Companies with large catalogs are better off with specific testimonials on product pages rather than general ones.
- Blog/Content Pages
One great benefit of customer testimonials is that they boost the brand’s authority in their field. Branded content has the same goal in mind so testimonials can be a huge benefit in that context. If they can share subject matter or be included in the content itself, so much the better.
- Contact Pages
Although it probably won’t come across well if a website has glowing testimonials on the same page customers use for complaints, it’s still useful to have them on general contact pages. Don’t neglect the potential for positive employee testimonials on the careers page or with hiring announcements, either.
Using customer testimonials as part of promotional videos or branded video content is a winning strategy because the people watching such videos are usually already a captive audience and therefore more likely to see the testimonials. While testimonials shouldn’t distract from the larger point of the video, they can be very effective when they further the point of the content.
- By Your CTA
If you have a subscription or purchase button, placing a positive testimonial from a user who is happy they clicked the same button will help push new customers toward engagement with your call to action.
- A Dedicated Testimonials Page
Once you have enough of them, you can host all your testimonials on one page. Bear in mind that people might not find any need to visit this page. It tends to serve brands with one overarching or legacy service rather than large umbrella brands with tons of products and services on offer.
If your marketing campaign is using an email blast or banner ads on third-party sites and social media, endorsements and customer testimonials are a great way to improve the perception of your brand for people with little to no previous contact with it. When they don’t know who you are, it’s comforting to see that other people do know and are familiar with your brand.
It’s not only the location of your customer testimonials that impacts how effective they’ll be, though. Their content is also critical.
While you can’t guarantee what people are going to say about your product, there are some kinds of information you can specifically ask for when prompting satisfied customers to leave testimonials.
For instance, brands should humanize their testimonials by collecting names (and photographs, if possible) from happy customers. Adding a date to reviews and testimonials shows prospective customers that the brand’s product is good in the present, not last year.
If the product is meant for a particular kind of professional, then bonafides like job titles are important. A company that sells camera equipment, for example, would be wise to ask customers what their job title is for testimonials. Seeing a professional AD or cinematographer endorse a piece of equipment carries much more weight than just some random person.
Whatever you’re trying to make more appealing for your audience, you should endeavor to have it mentioned specifically in the testimonial. While it’s all good and well to have people saying that they like the company and its product, it’s even better if they highlight exactly what they like and why.
How to Get a Creative Testimonial
Just how much prompting you can get away with in your attempts to solicit positive customer testimonials depends on the situation. Generally speaking, you can’t make any suggestions without seriously undermining the authenticity and credibility of the resulting testimonials.
Rather, the goal should be to facilitate the review process and make it fast and easy for people to express themselves. Leaving honest testimonials – even when they include some less-than-perfect content – will encourage people to leave testimonials about their own experiences because they’ll see that their opinion will be visible and potentially useful for others.
The biggest problem for brands is that people with negative opinions are more likely to leave feedback. In some cases, that’s simply because leaving reviews and testimonials is too complicated or not straightforward enough. People who are unhappy with their experience are more driven to leave reviews and other feedback, so they’re more likely to slog through a bad process than happy customers.
After all, when we find a product that does what we want it to, we tend to move on to the next thing. With enough follow-up, brands can encourage satisfied users to create usable testimonials. Rewards such as discounts might also be used, provided they’re inconsequential enough not to be viewed as “buying off” or otherwise corrupting the impartiality of the person creating the testimonial.
Social media is also a great way to get testimonials. Not only can brands ask for them directly, but users can post their testimonials directly underneath a post as a comment. The only trouble with social media sites is that it’s more difficult to discern which people leaving testimonials are authentic users of the product.
Still, companies can generate leads for testimonials by broadcasting requests on their social media accounts. Someone will have to contact individuals to confirm that they are or have in fact been customers, but that’s not such a hard job unless you’re searching for testimonials by the dozens.
Artificial Intelligence and Customer Testimonials
Among the many ways brands are dreaming up a more creative testimonial strategy is artificial intelligence tools. For particularly large companies, AI helps get through tons of information and detect patterns. In other cases, AI has a place within the business of the company rather than only in their creative testimonial strategy.
One study found that people take AI behavior as social proof just like they do with human behavior. This fascinating idea suggests that the authority of the speaker has a lot to do with why we respect what they have to say. People who find AI to be effective and truly intelligent will take a cue from its behavior.
Prospective customers probably won’t take a testimonial from “AI-BOT-28857291” very seriously, but the findings of the study do indicate that the collective aspect of testimonials is a huge part of the reason they’re so effective. AI is generally viewed as a collective kind of intelligence, according to the researcher.
So as technology continues to develop in seemingly every direction, using AI and automated systems to collect and broadcast information about the user base can be a huge boon for any creative testimonial strategy. People need to be able to see that they are part of a community of users if these positive testimonials are to affect sales.
Branding and Customer Testimonials
To get the best engagement from your customers, you have to have a strong branding strategy already in place. If they feel good about your brand before they buy and only feel better after a purchase, people will be more comfortable leaving feedback so they can play a small part in recreating that experience for others.
Testimonials are part of a cyclical influence with branding. Good branding gets more and better testimonials while good testimonials in turn boost branding. Master both and you’ll have a winning strategy that demonstrates the brand’s value to your target market.
Brands need a creative testimonial strategy if they want their testimonials to stand out. Because they utilize our need for social proof so well, customer testimonials are one of the most popular methods of enticing new customers. But people come into contact with so many testimonials that they tend to notice them less.
Use the tips and explanations in this guide to get better customer testimonials and make the ones you have more visible and impactful. People still want to know that others have had positive experiences before they commit to making a purchase, but it’s up to brands and the creatives who work for them to make this information available to new customers.