Testimonials add something very special to your website, when they’re authentic. It’s a third party who presumably has nothing to gain by saying good things about you. Readers are more inclined to believe a third party, but poorly executed testimonials just won’t do.
You can go on and on about how great you are and all the benefits people get when they do business with you, but it’s still just you talking. You’re biased, and people know it… “Of course they say it’s the best thing since sliced bread, they came up with it!”
When a third party talks about how great you are, it’s completely different. They don’t profit when you make a sale. Yet, they took the time to write a few words expressing their satisfaction. A visitor to your site can read some testimonials and feel reassured that real people have gotten real benefit from doing business with you.
Of course, since the testimonial is on your website you could have written it yourself or edited it heavily. In fact, a lot of people do write the testimonials themselves and ask clients to sign off on it as if they had written it. Don’t do that. Your testimonials will all sound the same and people will not be swayed by the words.
Your testimonials must be authentic, and there’s a few basic things you can do to make sure they come across as the words of real, three-dimensional human beings:
Get people to write their own testimonials. The main reason I hear why people write testimonials for their customers or clients is that they asked for testimonials and never got them. It’s not because people don’t want to write them or don’t have time. It’s because they don’t know what to say.
When you ask someone for a testimonial, give them some guidance. Ask them what benefits they received from buying your products or services. Ask them what they would tell a close friend who was considering buying your products or services. Whatever you do, don’t just say, “Can you send me a testimonial?”
Everyone has their own voice and that’s the single most important thing to capture in order to make your testimonials authentic. The varying tone and voice in your testimonials will make everything believable to the reader.
Give attributions for each testimonial. Real people have names, occupations, and live in specific places. Provide that info along with the testimonial!
Nothing says unauthentic like testimonials without names. Granted, some industries shouldn’t give out names for confidentiality reasons, but whenever possible provide a name.
If you serve a wide geographic region you can show that off by listing the location with each testimonial. This will reassure readers that you’re a match for them even if they live further away from your home base. Additionally, it adds another layer of authenticity.
Listing the occupation of your testimonial’s author is another way to show visitors they’re in the right place, that what you offer can help them. This is especially useful in the business to business market. It lets you demonstrate that you either serve a wide range of industries or have a specific niche that you focus on.
Got pictures? Use them! Reading words and names is one thing. Seeing someone’s face is another. If feasible, provide a picture along with each testimonial. Outside of video, nothing will make your testimonials more three dimensional than a picture.
Remember to capture and showcase the unique voice and identity that goes with each testimonial. Your visitors will recognize the authenticity and be reassured by the third party validation.
Of course, testimonials aren’t as powerful as reviews in third party websites or publications, or word of mouth. They are a powerful sales tool, though. I suggest having a section of your website devoted to showing them off, and using them any place where a visitors will be making a decision on whether to do business with you or not.