How to Effectively Use Testimonials

Adding this single element to your website can multiply your profits--and get your customers selling your products for you.

What do people who've actually purchased and used your product or service think about it?

Answering that question is one of the most fundamental tasks your website needs to accomplish--and it's as simple to do as it is important.

By using testimonials (reviews and comments from your satisfied customers) in text, audio or video format on your website, you not only answer the question, you also transform your sales pitch into a credible, unbiased recommendation for your product.

Overcome Buyer Skepticism
Adding testimonials is probably one of the easiest ways to improve your website, and a good one can generate more selling power than some of the best sales copy out there.

So why are testimonials so effective?

  • Testimonials build trust. Whether your customers are raving about what your product has done for them or about the great service you gave, they're telling your visitors first and foremost that they had a positive experience with your products and company.
  • Testimonials aren't "salesy." Because testimonials aren't written in your "voice," they stand out in your copy as candid and unbiased accounts of how well your product works.
  • Testimonials overcome skepticism. A good testimonial has the power to convince even your "tough sell" visitors that your product or service really made a difference in your customer's life--and can help them, too.

How to Choose the Right Testimonial
When you're choosing testimonials, there are a few key ingredients to look for that make the difference between an ineffective testimonial and one that sells. Here's an example of a glowing, but ultimately ineffective testimonial:

"I love this product! I can't get enough! I'm so glad I bought your stuff and I'll definitely be back to get more!"

What could be wrong with that? It sounds like you have a happy customer on your hands!

But what does this testimonial really tell your visitors? Does it prove the product works, or explain exactly how your customer benefited from using it? While the feedback is definitely positive, the testimonial doesn't provide enough detail to have any real impact on your visitors.

Here's an example of the kind of effective, benefits-driven testimonial that'll turn a visitor into a customer:

"I used the methods you told me to use, and for three days my phone's been ringing! I sold over $3,500 in goods and services in three days! It's the first time in five months that anyone had really purchased anything."

What makes this testimonial so powerful? Let's break down the elements of an effective testimonial in more detail:

  • A good testimonial is filled with benefits. A comment like, "This product is great!" is nice to hear, but it doesn't tell visitors what your product can actually do for them.
  • You want the benefits of what you offer to be front and center in every testimonial: "This product doubled our profits in a month!" or "This product made the pain in my back disappear completely--and did it fast!" or "We've never seen any product that could get the rust off our car without damaging the paint--until now."

  • A good testimonial substantiates your claims. If you say your product can do something, your testimonials should back up your promises, complete with actual facts and figures. How much money did your customers save by using your product? How much time did they save by using your service? How did it solve their problems or improve their lives?
  • A good testimonial is from someone your audience can relate to. You want your visitors to see that your product helped someone just like them. Make sure your testimonials come from someone with whom your target market can identify.
  • If you sell primarily to seniors, for example, ask your customers if you can include their age along with the testimonial. If you're selling to moms with children, ask if you can mention how many kids they have or include a photo of their family.

  • A good testimonial is credible. Accompany each testimonial with the first name, last name and hometown of each testimonial-giver to show that your endorsements come from real people. Always try to include a photo as well.
  • And if you can, take it to the next level by including audio or video testimonials for maximum effect. Do anything you can to help your visitors connect with your testimonial-givers on a personal level.

  • A good testimonial endorses the key benefits of your product. It's fun to hear that your super-duper floor cleaner smells nice or that the bottle doesn't drip--both things that matter to people who would consider using your product. But have you established that it cleans their floors well?
  • A good testimonial is comparative. Did your customers try another product that didn't work before they found yours? You want your visitors to know what your product can do that other products can't. Choose testimonials that set your product apart from your competition.

Now that you know what you're looking for in a testimonial, how do you actually gather the reviews you need from your customers?

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Derek Gehl is the CEO of the Internet Marketing Center, an internet marketing firm that has helped thousands of people learn to start and run their own online businesses.IMC hosts a new Search Marketing Lab Forum, where members have their strategy questions answered by search marketing specialists.

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