Why you should use testimonials in your advertising

Why you should use testimonials in your advertising

As a marketing tool, testimonials can be incredibly powerful and, best of all, they’re free. If you’re not using testimonials to promote your business, here’s why you should consider making them part of your marketing strategy.

Why do testimonials work?

Testimonials help promote your business because they are honest assessments written by real people, not for any fee or inducement. Positive reviews are worth their weight in gold, especially if they are given freely with no expectation. Customers rely a great deal on word-of-mouth, independent reviews and recommendations — just look at the popularity of TripAdvisor and Consumer Reports.  Testimonials are based on trust and carry much more weight than advertising alone.

How to approach customers to get them

Asking a customer to provide you with a testimonial sounds like hard work, so it’s better to ask them for “feedback” if they’ve had great service from you. Often, all you’ll need (or want) to use is a few lines from the customer detailing their positive experience, rather than an essay. Feedback is more informal and you are more likely to get a genuine response that sounds natural and not forced. You can ask for feedback via your website or even go old school and have feedback forms available on-site. If a customer tells you they’ve had a good experience, ask them if they’ll consider writing it down and letting you use it to let others know. Remember, you’ll need their permission to use it in your marketing.

When and where to use them

Testimonials lose value if you bombard your customers with them; then both you and they can seem disingenuous. Think about putting a few on the home page of your website, but don’t overdo it; three or four is fine. If you have more, consider a link for customers to “see more” if they want to, or present them as a rolling section on one side of the site (your web designer will be able to advise you on this). You can also use them in mailings, newsletters or your print advertising. Keep them short and sweet though.

How to get them right

The beauty of testimonials is that they are written by real people, using their own voice. Don’t over-edit (aside from correcting grammatical errors or editing for sense). Keeping them as close to the original as possible helps maintain credibility — not every customer is going to sound the same, so try and keep their original “voice”.

When asking for feedback for a testimonial, encourage the customer to mention specifics. For example, they might have had trouble finding a particular tire, but when they came to your store, your staff found and ordered it quickly and was helpful and polite. Problem-and-solution testimonials or specific-case scenarios (something they particularly liked or were impressed by) are much more valuable than generalizations such as “you guys were awesome!” (Even if you were.)

It’s not OK to fake them

Never, ever fake testimonials. There’s a big chance you will be found out and the damage that will cause to your brand will be huge. People don’t like being deceived and that’s exactly what you would be doing, no matter how much anecdotal evidence you have that your customers are happy. It’s also against Federal Regulations on Commercial Practices so this can get you into hot water with the law, too. Better not to use testimonials at all than to fake them and lose your credibility.

Why you should include photos

If you can, use photos of the customer alongside their testimonials; this further enhances credibility — not only did the customer say those great things about your business, they are happy to be identified by their picture as well as their name. Not everyone will want an image of themselves on your website, but there’s no harm in asking.

What does the law say about testimonials?

There are strict Federal Regulations on Commercial Practices, particularly governing the use of endorsements and testimonials.  Above all, testimonials must be true and accurate, and if you use testimonials you need a record substantiating what that person said — either in writing, by email or on an online form.

If you offer inducements (free services, discounts, products) to someone in return for a testimonial you have to disclose it next to the testimonial, which goes against the whole point of having them in the first place.

Used well, testimonials can really benefit your business by letting potential customers know what other customers think about you and why you are better than the competition. Keeping it real and using only what true customers are saying about your products and services is the key to establishing trust and bringing more people through your door.

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