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Why Customer Testimonials Are The Ultimate Marketing Tools

5 min

In a lot of ways this blog post doesn’t need to be written – everything that I’m going to point out here, you know already. You know, for instance, that when you buy a product, especially from the internet, you’re much more likely to trust a recommendation from a friend than you are an advert commissioned by the selling company.

Indeed, you know that when you head onto Amazon or eBay, it’s the customer reviews and ratings that you’re looking at, rather than the actual product description. You want to know how trustworthy this seller is, or how good other readers found that book to be, or if there really was any trouble claiming a refund after 30 days when the service didn’t work out.

This sort of behaviour stands to reason, of course – as 21st Century human beings, we’re used to companies lying to us in order that they might convince us to buy their product. In fact, we’re not even offended any more – and perhaps are even a little bit disappointed when we find that the most expensive fair trade peanut butter on the web really is the smoothest.

For the fact is that every single jar of peanut butter on the market claims to be the smoothest yet, the crunchiest yet, or peanut-bloomin-butteriest yet. And the simple fact is that they can’t all be – it’s against the laws of physics.

And of course, as marketers ourselves, we’ve all been guilty of a little hyperbolic overselling from time to time, haven’t we? I know I have, especially in my early days. And when it comes to marketing your very own product, which you’re very much in love with – almost to the point where you might even be blinded to a few of its most glaring flaws – it’s very easy to produce content that paints said product a little, shall we say, generously.

Testimonials – Getting To The Truth Of Your Product

Officially speaking, a testimonial is a kind of formal statement, for which the author will give his/her approval for its use as part of a company’s marketing literature. Many websites have a ‘Testimonials’ section on the home page. Others have a completely separate page dedicated to testimonials. And still more like to use them a little more sparingly and just bung a few on the end of an email, blog post or what have you. And then there are even some businesses who don’t use testimonials as part of their ongoing campaigns at all!

Now, I absolutely stand by the exclamation mark at the end of the last sentence – because completely ignoring the unrivalled marketing weapon that is the customer testimonial is like going to war without any ammo (see, I told you I could be prone to the odd hyperbole from time to time).

Real people trust real people. Real people don’t trust faceless enterprises. It’s as simple as that. And so, without any customer testimonials, all your potential new customers have to go on is everything that you say about your product – and you’re not exactly going to be advertising its pitfalls, are you? No.

Why Customer Testimonials Are The Ultimate Marketing Tools

I’ve given the strict sense of testimonials above, but, to be honest, for the purposes of content marketing in 2015/2016, a great review on social media is just as good as an official testimonial. For one thing, a good review will incite more people to leave good reviews, and pretty soon you’ll have lots and lots littered all over your Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and all the rest. And this is known to increase conversions.

Some stats from BrightLocal Research – out of 2,104 respondents to an online survey about consumer usage and attitudes toward online testimonials and reviews:

  • 88% have read reviews to determine the quality of a local business
  • 39% read reviews on a regular basis
  • Only 12% do not read reviews
  • 72% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more
  • 10% of consumers don’t take any notice of online reviews
  • 88% of consumers say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations
  • Only 13% said they do not trust reviews as much as personal recommendations

Soliciting Testimonials And Reviews From Social

Ok, so I think we can all be pretty clear about the key benefits of having some great testimonials on your website, and a nice fresh stream of favourable reviews on social. But, let’s just bullet-point them here quickly so we can all be absolutely clear what we’re working towards.

Testimononials and Reviews:

  • Serve as social proof of your product
  • Build trust and credibility
  • Showcase your product in all sorts of ways (often consumers will be using your product in ways you hadn’t even thought of)
  • Allow your customers to do the hard work and sell your product for you
  • Are often candid, and un-salesy
  • Surmount skepticism

So, testimonials are great for all sorts of reasons – but how do you go about getting good ones?

Social Reviews

Social reviews, hopefully, will be generated naturally enough across your networks. And, if you get a particularly good one, you can simply drop your follower a line and ask them if you could use what they’ve said as a testimonial on your website. Often you will find that a happy customer will be more than willing to help in this way and become part of the story of your success.

But, what makes a good review? Well, I’ll tell you what makes a bad one. They go something like this:

“I love this product!! I’m so glad I bought it, and I’ll defo be buying more in the future!!”

Ok, so obviously this is positive, but it doesn’t really prove or explain anything to your visitors. It’s just vague, and even looks a bit spammy, to be honest.

Far better to have something like this:

“Wow, I used your toothpaste exactly like you told me, and I haven’t had any pain or bleeding now for 10 weeks. And the flavour of the mint is the freshest I’ve ever tasted in a paste. This stuff is literally life-changing. Recommend 100%.”

Hyperbolic statements like this are actually beneficial when it’s your real customers who are producing them. So, find these ones amongst your social reviews, and reach out to the authors.

What are your methods of soliciting customer testimonials? Do you have a questionnaire scheme, maybe? Or perhaps you approach the topic via your email list? Let us know in the comments below.

Kerry Butters
Kerry Butters
Kerry is a prolific technology writer, covering a range of subjects from design & development, SEO & social, to corporate tech & gadgets. Co-author of SitePoint's Jump Start HTML5, Kerry also heads up digital content agency markITwrite and is an all-round geek.