The power of ‘social proof’ has become increasingly important.

– When shopping around for an accountant or a plumber, you probably ask your friends and neighbours who they recommend

– When booking a hotel, you might check TripAdvisor as well as the hotel’s own website

– When you buy from Amazon, you may well read the reviews before you order

For selling products, you need reviews. For selling yourself, you need recommendations. And for selling a service, you need testimonials. If you don’t use these tools in your marketing communications, you’re missing a trick!

We get so many sales messages bombarding us these days, that we see through most ‘marketing speak’. As consumers, we know you are after the money in our pockets, and we don’t want to give it to you (unless you really can convince us you provide what we want). But, if someone exactly like us says: “Hey, I used so-and-so and they were really good!”, we are much more likely to buy.

As a supplier, it’s all very well sharing testimonials that say: “Thank you, you were great.” It gives you a warm fuzzy feeling when clients tell you that. But it doesn’t help your marketing as it doesn’t tell the whole story to potential customers.

People buy results. So what you really need is a testimonial in the format of problem — solution — results. In the client’s own words, start with the situation before you got involved, explain what you did to help them, and finally what results you achieved.

For example: “I needed an electrician to fix the faulty lighting in my kitchen. Acme Electrics did a wonderful job at an affordable price. Now I can see what I’m cooking!” Jean Smith, Purley

If possible, include your client’s photo to make the message even more convincing. Or, best of all, use a video of them speaking. I’ve been told the law states that testimonials must be real. I’ve never known it to happen, but someone could potentially say: “I don’t believe anyone said that about you — prove it!” So keep all the nice messages that people have sent you (it’s a good boost to morale too).

Remember not to quote anyone’s name in your marketing without permission, especially online, where anyone can see it. If you can’t get their permission, you can use their initials or job title e.g. Chief Executive of Global Corporation. Alternatively, treat the story as an anonymous case study where individuals are not identified at all.

The more nice things people say about you, the more new customers you will attract. Promise!

I originally wrote this article for Fresh Business Thinking

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