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Better Testimonials, More Conversions

Posted on 2.19.2009

Gone are the days when anything appearing on the (Internet) screen was believable. While it would be wonderful to return to those times, it just won't happen. These days, consumers are more savvy, sophisticated and more than willing to poke some holes in the arguments put forth by merchants and marketers that blatantly espouse the benefits and advantages of products or services without proof that it's worked. Easy access caused and now magnifies (thanks to social media) the problem and it's creating an environment that can diminish the trust and credibility that others might put in your enterprise - a major problem for Internet retailers and Web entrepreneurs.

It should come as no surprise that a major point of concern for those doing business online regards their credibility. This issue is amplified for small businesses who as quickly as the click of a mouse button, can be dismissed, never to be visited again online - a virtual death knell.  One way to combat this terrifying scenario is by focusing on the presence of testimonials at your website. Let's review some basics of presenting testimonials to aid in conversions.

Transparency and Clarity; Don't Just Think About It
Transparency was the buzzword du-jour a mere eighteen months ago and hopefully it's made an impression on your communication strategy. Simply integrating empty quotes from semi-satisfied customers and social networking badges into your pages is not enough. A page that is full of genuine testimonies to the quality of a product or the knowledge and efficiency of a customer support staff is the only real way to make sure that future clients know what your priorities are and why they can believe in your enterprise. But you can go farther with this than you may think. Focus on integrating testimonials into your site which tell a story about usage and make sure it contains clear, meaningful language. Ask highly specific questions of your users/consumers, such as "how much time has product a saved you on a weekly basis?" Not all testimonials need to be completely glowing representations though. Being candid shows honesty and that's an essential part of building trust. Why not show a testimonials such as "my widget broke and a replacement was sent to me in 72 hours - awesome!". 

Put Testimonials To Work (When Consumers Need It)
As testimonials became more common on Web pages, savvy marketers learned how to use them to help increase conversions. To make these credibility indicators more powerful, marketers must use them within the sales funnel, when points of anxiety may interrupt the sale/buying process. For example, Website Magazine publishes a handful of testimonials on landing pages for its professional level subscriptions. Take a look at any successful independent merchant and you'll likely find the same - when a decision needs to be made they let others do the selling for them. It is essential when considering which testimonials to use that you also consider the intensity of the message in relation to the proximity of the point/argument being made in the sales copy and how it might be perceived by consumers.

It should come as no surprise that merchants risk everything by displaying exaggerated and unsubstantiated claims - they may turn away consumers. The problem is amplified though when fake endorsements make their way onto a testimonials page - which ultimately leads to no one believing the testimonials they encounter anywhere. Understand that when the quality of information is debatable, consumers will analyze the quality of the source. For those that don't want to invest time in proving to consumers that testimonials are genuine or authentic, there are a handful of services like Authenticated Testimonials which provide a service that validates that the authenticity of consumer testimonials.

Reworking Tired Testimonial Pages
Marketers need to step up their efforts with testimonials if they want to improve results. By itself, displaying a list of quotes from random customers into a page is not likely to produce a significant gain alone. You need to provide authoritative testimonials and use them strategically on your pages if you want to see a major impact. One way to increase testimonial effectiveness is by organizing them into categories and applying them to the most relevant areas.

For example, a blogger might include twitter testimonials about their own content when encouraging visitors to sign up for a newsletter or subscribe to a news feed.

An iPhone developer might include a testimonial on a custom landing page of those that have used the application.

Doing so conveys to consumers that you listen, something followers want from the publishers they are consuming content from.

Testimonials Work... So Use Them!
While there is no guarantee that testimonials will work definitively to increase your conversions, it's definitely something to test. If testimonials are used at your website, you can improve their effectiveness though by ensuring they fit within the flow of the sales process, make sure they tell a story, soothe a pain point and/or answer a question. Take some time to make sure that your testimonials are providing you with the support and the help that you require to get your conversions on the upswing!

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