Using Customer Testimonials to Build Credibility
How to use praise properly to market your business.
Testimonials from satisfied, excited customers are incredibly valuable to your marketing efforts. People are naturally a bit skeptical, which makes using praise like this especially vital for your online business. Customer testimonials and success stories, when used properly, back up your claims, showcase your value, and build trust in your brand.
Curating testimonials is foundational. Hopefully, you are capturing customer feedback and using it to improve your operations. Most of us will respond to customer concerns with corrective action. Praise, however, is often celebrated internally and then forgotten or set aside in a file somewhere. This is a missed opportunity – one you need to correct as quickly as possible.
Pro tip – – > Make an intentional effort to ask for customer feedback. Follow up with your clients to discover what they valued most about your work together, how they used your products, and the impact your services had on their business or personal experience.
Create a system for organizing and curating the responses you received. These customer comments are actually testimonials you can use to market your business effectively.
Adjust your definition of a customer testimonial.
Customer testimonials are traditionally defined as a written recommendation from a satisfied customer affirming the performance, quality, and/or value of a product or service. This is true, but it is also a bit formal.
My definition is a bit more casual. I define a customer testimonial as any bit of praise or feedback that either affirms a marketing promise or gives a potential customer a glimpse into the experience of consuming the products or services on offer. I believe customer testimonials include:
- Written recommendations
- Positive feedback given either verbally or via email
- Social posts, comments, and feedback
- Thank you notes or expressions of gratitude
- Results-based stories and anecdotes
These bits of customer feedback are marketing gold and are easily converted to a format you can use as a part of your marketing system. You need only ask for and receive permission to use the comments publicly. I never recommend using private comments without customer approval. Comments made via social media are (by their very nature) public, so you don’t need expressed permission to use them. Stories on social media are often the easiest to find and use because it saves you that step.
Support each marketing promise with a strategically placed testimonial.
In my professional copywriting opinion, every marketing promise you make on your website or in your marketing material can (and should) be supported by a strategically positioned customer testimonial or praise item. Using testimonials strategically in this way gives credibility to your claims and removes the element of disbelief from your marketing copy.
Listen, we know that some businesses promise things they can’t deliver or intentionally share only the positive parts of a given story. If you’ve ever shaken your head after hearing a sales pitch that seemed too good to be true, you know what I’m talking about.
Copywriting is all about creating a dialogue inside the mind of the reader. Good copy intentionally includes both overt and subtle marketing promises… the kind that might sound a bit too good to be true. Strategic placement of customer testimonials allows you to meet the reader in that “yeah, right…” moment and demonstrate that the claims are completely true.
Let me show you this strategy in action, in a way that is easy to understand and apply.
Imagine you pride yourself on really listening to your clients, understanding their needs, and creating a welcoming and collaborative feeling as you work together. You feel this is a main point of differentiation for your service business, and you want to make sure potential customers identify this as a reason to work with you.
Your business’ About page might say something like this – -> Working with our firm is like collaborating with an old friend. We listen closely, ask clarifying questions, and support you as you explore options. Sounds a little flat, right? Might seem a little cheesy or over the top, too.
Now, imagine you matched this claim with a strategically placed customer testimonial. Something like this – – > Michelle listened carefully while I explored a variety of strategies. She answered my questions and gave me space to experiment, all while guiding me to the perfect marketing approach for my business. Suddenly the claim made above has energy and is ultra-believable and engaging.
Use this strategy selectively, supporting the most important points of differentiation inside your message. I believe each page of website copy can only support a maximum of three testimonials or quotes. Limit your promises to three per page, and you’re all set here. This is actually a natural guideline to help you refine your messaging and keep your text concise and impactful.
Side note – -> Bloated copy is the mark of an amateur. Professional copywriters position selling points selectively to increase impact. Struggling with a bloated, ineffective copy? You might want to invest in professional copywriting services.
Use customer testimonials as case studies.
Want to maximize the effectiveness of a particularly glowing bit of positive feedback? Use it as a base for a case study or client success story. You do this by giving the testimonial context and sharing the full story of your work with this customer.
Start with an explanation of the problem or issue the customer faced prior to work with you or using your product. Perhaps this customer struggled with a recurring operational problem or was dealing with an inability to generate revenue, serve clients, or work efficiently. Describe the problem in objective terms: What was the root issue and how did it limit your customer? How did the customer feel about the problem? What other solutions did the customer consider or try?
Now talk about the solution. What did you do to help the customer? Describe your product or service here as well
Wrap up this short case study with statistics (if you have them) and details about the successful resolution to the problem. This is your moment to shine… and use the customer testimonial to give credibility and life to the results you share.
Case studies like this – and the longer, more involved version I describe in this article – are incredibly powerful. They allow potential customers to envision the experience of working with you. They expand the reader’s understanding of what is possible for them, and they create a longing for similar results. Don’t neglect this aspect of your marketing strategy.
How to use customer testimonials as social proof.
Depending on your business model and marketing position, you may receive a fair number of positive posts and comments on social media platforms. This type of praise is perfect for placement on sales pages and landing pages because it provides a quick injection of social proof – creating energy and excitement about the product or service on offer.
I recommend capturing this type of customer testimonial via a screenshot you can place strategically within the sales page or landing page you’re promoting. Screenshots make it obvious that the comment was made on a social platform, lending credibility to the post, tweet, or comment. Again, while I typically recommend getting permission when using customer testimonials, this is not strictly necessary when using social comments. Since these comments are already in the public domain, they are quite safe to use. If you can get permission, however, it is always polite to do so.
Maximizing the impact of a traditional praise page.
In my work with clients, I’ve reviewed the copy on a number of traditional praise pages. Quite often, I’ve seen lengthy blocks of quoted text served up in a small font that’s difficult to read. The attribution on these quotes is sometimes vague (Jim, Portland Oregon) or anonymous (another satisfied customer). While there is nothing wrong with a traditional praise page, there is nothing effective about these examples.
A traditional praise page can be a great strategy for sharing additional testimonials and praise points you weren’t able to share in one of the other strategies I’ve noted. However, slapping customer testimonials together willy-nilly just doesn’t work.
I recommend pulling out the most impactful phrase or snippet as a call out in different color, size, or font at the beginning of the testimonial. This creates a type of header readers can scan to get the main point of the quote without reading the entire thing. I also recommend sharing the most powerful and impactful testimonials first so they are read prior to scrolling.
Here’s how this looks…
“…guided me to explore options and challenge myself.”
“Michelle’s process supported me as I considered a number of goals and got clear on the purpose of my marketing system. She truly listened to me, and carefully guided me to explore options and challenge myself. Through the process, I got clear on what I needed and my revenue has increased as a result. Thanks, Michelle!”
- Sue Smith, ABC Company
This presentation makes it easy for potential customers to skim the praise page and consume the points I want to be emphasized. Strategic callouts like this capture reader interest and make each testimonial more powerful as a result.
Notice I use the full name of the client and the company. This lends credibility to the testimonial itself by attributing the quote to a real person at a real company. Sometimes this isn’t possible, however. You may need to protect your customer’s anonymity due to your business model or the nature of your work. In cases like these, it’s okay to refer to the type of client rather than a personal name. If you are a psychiatrist, for example, you might attribute a quote this way – – > “Chronic anxiety patient, age 37”. The key in an anonymous attribution is to create credibility through context.
Thinking strategically allows you to get the best possible results.
Proper use of customer testimonials is an incredibly effective way to elevate your marketing game. Challenge yourself to curate praise, ask for feedback, and take advantage of positive emails and social comments. Analyze your marketing copy (website, social, printed material) to determine where customer testimonials might have the most impact. Then actively employ some or all of the strategies I’ve shared to increase your marketing impact.
Struggling to clarify your message, generate leads, or market your business effectively? I work closely with select clients to solve problems like these. Together we create and implement custom marketing strategy aligned with their business model. Sound interesting? Let’s talk.
The polite way to decline a project and guide the client to a solution that doesn’t involve your services.