Tuesday, January 31, 2006

The Power of the Testimonial

I recently got an email from someone who purchased a copy of my music CD from my site. This, in and of itself, isn’t really all that strange, but this one was really nice and made me stop and think for a minute.

Here’s an excerpt: “...I just feel like I have to say something- my brothers and I are in a band and love to rock out, but we couldn't really find the direction we wanted to take our music until my brother heard about you and we got a CD. Your music has changed my life, and now I can't stop listening to it!”

After letting the good feeling of having my work touch someone settled in, one of my first thoughts was, “I need to put this on my website!”

A healthy testimonials page can do a lot for your website. Right off the bat, it can help build confidence in you as a business and in your product. Your customers are encountering you for the first time. They have no history with you, no trust built up. Why should they risk their money with you? With a good testimonials page, they can see that you’ve got good history with other clients.

If you’ve been around a while, it can help to show your business’ longevity. You’re not just a “Here today, gone tomorrow” store, but one with an established clientele. If you’re relatively new, it can help to show you as a growing company.

People shopping always have objections. Hopefully, many of them will be dispelled by your main page text or your product description. Some of them can also be addressed by other clients in your testimonials page.

Most of all, good testimonials can show a potential customer that they’re not alone.

Now, as your company grows and sells more and more, you’ll receive testimonials and be able to post those on your site. But what about as a startup? How can you establish that without a big clientele? Here’s some suggestions:

First of all, if you’re selling products supplied by someone else, contact your suppliers or the manufacturer. They might have some testimonials on file that they could share with you. As long as they are product-centered, they’ll not be deceptive, and they’ll serve until you can get some of your own.

Another idea is to get some of your products, and take them to family and friends. Give them the products and ask them to write a few words about the products. Again, make the testimonials centered around the products and their benefits, rather than your company.

As you begin to make sales, follow up each sale some time later with a contact, probably an email. Ask them how they’re enjoying their product, and how they’re using it. Not only with this generate some spontaneous testimonials, but it will also make for good back-end customer service and communication. It might even lead to additional upsales.

Once you’ve got some testimonials, you’ll want to post them effectively on your site. One thing that a lot of people do wrong with their testimonials is to post too many of them. Long, scrolling pages of one after the other is detrimental. People won’t read them all, and it can even impact your credibility. Begin with the ones you have. As you get more and more, start being choosy of the ones you post. Choose testimonials that are strong and favorable. Choose the ones that directly address the objections that potential customers might have. If you’ve received any from someone with a recognizable name, especially someone with some authority in your industry, definitely choose to post that one on your site, probably near the top.

Some say they shouldn’t be edited, but I feel like it’s best to cut out the parts that don’t directly relate to the message. Sometimes testimonial letters can be quite long and contain information that’s not as impactful. I’d edit all of that information out. I don’t ever change the words of a testimonial, however, and I don’t like to write them and have the giver “sign” it.

Cite the quotation, if possible, with a full name and a linkback to their website, if it’s relevant. That will give your testimonial more credibility, and will also boost the site of the writer for a bit of “return the favor”.

The quote that I cited in the beginning of this article can now be found on my testimonials page, at http://markhansenmusic.com/fans.htm. Build your own testimonials up, and strengthen your position with your customers!

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