How do you get good client testimonials for your sales copy, for example, content for a landing page, when you don’t have a lot of previous clients?
There’s no doubt that social proof is one of the key ways people decide to buy or try your products or services.
I get asked about this by some of my consulting clients who are starting a new business or product launch. Nothing can back fire and destroy trust and credibility more quickly than phony testimonials, as well as vague or anonymous comments.
I’ve been working with an old client who’s been working hard to master blogging so he can have a strong online presence. He’s just about ready to start offering products and services for sale.
He’s got a solid reputation as an expert in his field, but up until now, he’s been working for someone else. He doesn’t feel comfortable using testimonials or positive comments acquired when he was a part of a team effort.
I don’t blame him. Not only will he not feel authentic and sincere, but depending on what the old clients say, it might not ring true for his new company, products or services. Readers can smell a phony testimonial a mile away from the computer screen.
There are a couple key persuasion triggers to remember when composing sales content:
- Social proof
There are more, but these four are essential. You have to convince readers you know what you’re talking about, you’re sincere and wouldn’t stretch the truth with them, you’re likeable, honest, hard working… and you’ve got plenty of people who can back you up.
Social proof is a very strong persuasive tool and practically every sales page I’ve seen on the Web uses testimonials. But there are good ones and mediocre ones, and … well, phony ones.
I’m not saying a phony one is made up or false. (Although, I guess some low-lifes would do this too.) I’m saying a phony testimonial is one that looks phony because it is:
- Is written by a friend, relative, or colleague obviously in cahoots with you or biased
- Is written but not signed or only has initials
- Has no first and last name, photo or link to their site
- Is vague or irrelevant to the product or service at hand
Don’t even think about getting away with weak or ineffective testimonials, because your credibility is at stake. If you don’t have good, strong statements by clients who have actually experienced what it’s like to work with you, consider other means of connecting with readers and establishing your credibility (see my suggestion further down.)
A perfect example can be seen on Internet marketing gurus sites. They are notorious for having testimonials from all their friends, you know, those ‘same old faces’ you see at all the Internet marketing conferences and product launches. They promote each other. It stinks. Talk about an “old boys club,” although by now, there are a few women there too (very few).
Do you know why they do this, even though everyone knows they are scratching each others’ backs?
News flash: Because it works! That’s right, social proof works. Even phony ones work, but I still don’t recommend you do this.
A bit of background, in case you’re wondering… I’m not making this stuff up, it’s been researched to death by scientists and marketers. Our brains rely on what others say so that we save our neurons from working too hard. We take short cuts to making decisions. We’re hard-wired that way.
To some people on the web, it’s better to have client testimonials from friends and colleagues even if it’s obvious they are back scratching each other.
Not every thing that’s dumb should be avoided, according to such experts. So what if it’s obvious testimonials come from their friends? Not everyone will know that. And besides, if their friends are important or well-known, then they piggy back on their reputations.
What should you do if you don’t have famous Internet rock stars to tell everyone how cool you are? What if you don’t have a long track record to prove you’re good? What if you have a few quotes from other people but they aren’t specific to this product or service you’re offering?
And here’s a dilemma some of my professional clients (psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers) face: what if my clients’ want to protect their anonymity, and I’m ethically bound not to share their names?
Here are my suggestions if you face challenges in gathering ideal testimonials from clients.
- If you protect client confidentiality, explain this and include the quote, with something that says because of ethical standards, client names cannot be revealed.
- If you don’t have previous clients to give you quotes, say so. “This product has only been used in testing and focus groups; here’s some feedback from initial reviewers.”
- If you have quotes from previous clients, not for your current offering, use them but say so.
- Ask clients to write a testimonial for you and suggest they add a few results from working with you. This makes a testimonial specific and more authentic.
- Ask clients to call a telephone recording system and record their testimonials. Adding voice makes the testimonial alive and credible. (Same is true of video testimonials, even more so.)
- Ask people on social media sites if they need such a product, or if this product seems like a good idea to them. This generates general comments, but in the absence of specific one, could also work.
And here’s what I’d do if I were completely new and had zero client testimonials to post: I’d tell my story, my back story, the emotional reasons I am offering such a product or service.
Maybe you had a hard time and at one point you said “Enough!” You decided to put an end to the problem, situation, challenge. Be as up front and real as possible, tell people the truth.
If you don’t have social proof, yet, then so be it. Be as truthful with your readers as possible. Build trust by being trustworthy.