Testimonials As Sales Tools – To Fake Or Not To Fake?

January 14, 2019

In the online marketing field, we often encounter a lot of “best practices” with the purpose of improving the general Conversion Rate Optimization (CRO) of a certain campaign or general marketing effort.

We also see a lot of studies to back-up some of these ideas, but there are so many of them, that we don’t actually know which one works best for us and we don’t have time to test them all.

What to do, then? Well, the purpose of this article is to shed some light on the importance of customer testimonials as sales tools.

Why is Social Proof Important?

Recent research done by Granify on the customer’s behavior revealed that “social proof” is more important than promotions and lower prices to people who usually shop online. But, that’s not the only thing to focus on.

We also have at our disposal another type of research that could actually show with stats which social proof works best for each online marketing effort. You’re a Google search away from that.

But… it seems that a higher ROI may be obtained from the old-fashioned word-of-mouth advertising. Yup, you heard it right! Apparently, traditional marketing is not all dead and buried as you may think.

Testimonials Build Trust

A report from McKinsey Quarterly – a business magazine for senior executives focused on management and organizational theory – shows that consumers are a little (if not a lot) overwhelmed by choices, so “the word-of-mouth cuts through the noise quickly and effectively”.

The same report also states that this traditional marketing strategy it’s even more important when a customer is buying something for the first time or when that something is cheaper than normal.

This tends to make people research more, seek more reviews and “deliberate longer than they otherwise would.” The truth is that customers are more search-savvy than before and they can see right through when the reviews they come across are just too good to be true. But this is not the case with all social proof. More and more companies are adding credibility to their business and come as more trustworthy when using real client testimonials.

Social Trust Signals

Social trust signals are more important than ever for a couple of reasons. Firstly, the use of this social proof is invaluable to marketers and seen as the most powerful persuasion tool at their disposal.

Using real insights from real people in all of the marketing materials is a simple demonstration that your company has flesh-and-blood fans that have actually found value in what you offer, so much so that they are ready to pass that information along. That’s great, right?

Another reason is that today’s consumers are using social media to its fullest, so companies could easily see their customer’s opinions in real-time and use those to improve their overall sales experience. The truth is that most of them don’t actually do that.

Answering comments on Facebook or Twitter, or Google My Business reviews, even if they are not positive makes the business more transparent and also, makes people feel like their opinion matters, a human psychological trait that can be put to good use in all online marketing efforts.

Types of Customer Testimonials Used as Sales Tools

In regard to the best types of testimonials, even though they are similar in content it could be said that the choice depends on the business’s strategy. What’s certain is that every one of them brings value and a lot of benefits:

1. The Social Media Interaction

There are a lot of brands today that use this type of customer testimonial as it is organic, natural and directly captured from the social media channels, with no editing and no specific intent.

It’s always advisable to answer all these reviews from customers, no matter what they are saying and especially if they are not so happy about the experience with the brand.

It’s also advisable to keep a close look on all social media channels, either comments, recommendations or private messages and reply to them as this will also help build your brand’s trust and acknowledge the time and effort the customer took into writing them, thus acknowledging their opinion. People really like to be acknowledged, remember?

2. Case Studies

This is mostly used within online marketing B2B efforts because these are in-depth data-driven analysis that focuses on multiple aspects and thus, can provide valuable and trustworthy information on a number of issues that the customer needs clearing before accessing the actual services.

3. Website Testimonials

These are simple, short and clear recommendations from satisfied past or present customers. They can be extremely effective on a landing page and are usually accompanied by the customer’s photo and job title, for extra trust. We all need a little bit of that, don’t we?

These kinds of testimonials are a subject by themselves, but more about that in a future article. There is a lot of advice on where to place them, how long should they be, should you change them regularly and so on.

The most important of all is that you should absolutely use them to improve your brand’s credibility.

4. The Industry Insider Testimonial

This is another type of customer testimonial frequently used by B2B companies because they feature an opinion of a trusted and respected individual in a specific niche.

This one not only focuses on the proven power testimonials generally have, but it also leverages the knowledge, reputation, and experience of a thought-leader. So, double-power!

The industry insider testimonials are an excellent way of highlighting a brand’s attributes – and increase sales – with the trusted opinion of a satisfied permanent customer.

How to Use Customer Testimonials and Social Proof

Before gathering all-time customer’s insights on your products and services, maybe try and put yourself in the shoes of an actual future client.

Try and remake the steps he or she took to arrive on your website and even though you will realize that each customer journey is different, the purpose is the same: they have a problem and are actively searching for a solution.

So, now taking into account the intent of your future customer – the understanding of what leads them to your business – you can have a clear perspective on the best way to use your customer testimonials as an effective trust signal.

A well-positioned review or recommendation can be seen as giving special attention to customer service, an action that speaks directly to the customer’s decision-making. 

A lot of neuroscience research focuses on the importance of the emotional factor in comparison with the logical one when making a decision.

Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio proved that Descartes’ main argument “We think, thus we exist.” is in fact, kind of wrong. At the point of decision, it seems that emotion trumps reason.

People will give more attention and trust on the emotional side of an argument than on the logical one. We all see that every day. This can be well observed in online marketing also.

All you have to do is read your customer’s testimonials and decide for yourself.

How to Get Better Customer Testimonials

Testimonials are a significant marketing tool, as we’ve seen so far.It’s been our experience that asking for a testimonial can be a long and arduous process.

Sometimes it seems easier to just ask a friend to repeat after you or invent a statement that touches on all your key selling features. The value of a real testimonial can’t be stressed enough, in our opinion.

Sometimes getting one is really difficult. I’ve been asked to write testimonials for people I’ve worked with and it’s hard! Instead, we’ve found writing down a client’s comments after a positive discussion and then sending it to them asking for their approval to use their statements to be the most effective.

When someone else basically writes it for me after speaking with me, it’s easy to just reply “approved!” It is in my own words and expresses what I wanted to say as part of a conversation rather than having to fight writer’s block.

In terms of fake testimonials or testimonials written from friends, we always suggest avoiding them. Sometimes potential clients will want to speak to the person who provided such a rave review. If you have a good relationship with your clients, they’re often willing to network with others who are also interested in using your services.