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The Power of Testimonials

Acknowledge fears, face skeptics.

Why should prospects believe you? Chances are, your rivals are making similar claims to your company. And your prospect? He or she is probably more cynical than ever before and too buys to spend much time working out the differences between vendors.

So how can you convince prospects you are the real thing? Acknowledge fears, face prospects’ skepticism and admit to flaws, problems and errors, says veteran marketer Lee Marc Stein.

Here’s his 7-step strategy that turns skeptics into believers and buyers:

1. Recognize the power of skepticism. Every marketer knows the power of testimonials, but the most compelling and believable come from those who were the most skeptical. For example, “I doubted this system would reduce downtime any more than the other vendors we’d tried. But we’ve improved production 20%.” Equally compelling are testimonials that include details of a problem the buyer encountered with your company and how they became a convert after seeing you fix it.

2. Use their words. Customers often say things in more credible language than you could ever imagine. That’s why unedited user stories, quoting buyers verbatim and using their words to describe the benefits of your products or services pack a powerful punch.

A recent example: A new magazine targeted at men and women in the National Guard turned out to be a more powerful recruiting tool than anyone expected. Readers weren’t attracted to the official stuff, but to the first person accounts with “real soldiers and families telling real stories,” reports The New York Times, 2/01/05.

3. Look real. Instead of using fancy photos and professional models in your brochures— who always look too good to be true — try peopling them with real buyers and real workers.

4. Ask them to disqualify! If prospects don’t believe you, ask them to disqualify themselves with a quick quiz. Overall, response will go down, says Stein, but your conversion rate should increase.

5. Acknowledge skepticism. If you know most people find your claims hard to believe, say so! Or if your industry has been plagued by companies over-promising and under-delivering, acknowledge it in your marketing material. Stein suggests saying something like, “We know you’ve heard the hype, the promises that are never fulfilled. But you can count on us.”

6. Come clean about problems and stumbling blocks. By admitting faults in some areas, you’ll increase prospects’ confidence in other areas. It’s basic psychology. So if you know your product isn’t compatible with some systems, say so upfront. That’s why warts-and-all blogs work so well: Customers feel like they’re getting the whole story, not some glossy superficial brochure.

7. Provide altruistic value-added info. Another way to prove you’re the genuine article: Provide value-added tools that help them help themselves. For example, you may want to offer a white paper that provides: “Six ways to run your business so efficiently you may never need our services!”

Source: “Getting and Keeping Customers in the Age of Disbelief,” by Lee Marc Stein, president, www. leemarcstein. com

About Steven Smith

Steven M. Smith, Partner and President, graduated The Art Institute of Vancouver for Web Design & Interactive Media, Graphic & Web Design and has been featured in the Province Newspaper and the Vancouver Sun for his articles on SEO for small companies as well as Company Branding musts and misses.

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