Over the last month I have worked on a couple of projects where clients have asked my opinion on the value of online testimonials.  It did make me think:  do they really add value to your website and prospective consumers or has it become so common place that they hold little or no value?

From discussions with colleagues and clients it became apparent that some people consider it ‘cheesy’ and yet another method of ‘blowing your own horn’.  Testimonials are often overused and can lack legitimacy which is causing customers to not always trust its truthfulness.  General testimonials are often too vague and do not give prospective consumers a reason to care about them.  Where they are more specific they are often outdated and relate to services and/or products which has become obsolete or are not offered to the consumer anymore.

When used correctly though I do think that testimonials can offer prospective buyers proof that you have delivered what you promised in your marketing and that your marketing messages are not mere assertions.  While advertising certainly is a powerful marketing tool, third party endorsements will carry more weight than anything you say about yourself. They can be the next best thing to a direct referral and can give your potential customers the reassurance that your products and services are really worth considering.

I found a great web article written by Susan Gunelius which outlines how to create effective and meaningful customer testimonials:

  1. It must be authentic to be believable:  authenticate testimonials by using full names and pictures of the customers providing the testimonials (you can even embed audio or video to make it more interactive).
  2. It must be quantifiable:  put hard numbers in them whenever possible.
  3. It must be specific to give prospective consumers a reason to care about them.  Ask customers to personalize your customer testimonials and apply them to their own lives.
  4. It must be obtained from a diverse audience to ensure a large consumer base can relate to it – ensure your customer testimonials come from a diverse group of people who have a variety of experiences with or benefits from your products or services.
  5. Ensure you have obtained permission to use the customer testimonial on you website.
In my opinion testimonials can still add great value to your website and products or services.  If you ensure that they are recent, verifiable and demonstrate to prospective consumers why they can trust you with their custom, people will respond positively to it which will ultimately translate to positive results for your business.

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