The Power of the Testimonial


For b2b marketers, the use of testimonials is well understood.  The “let’s get our customers to say how brilliant we are” approach echoes from Marketing and Sales on an annual basis.  Sometimes those testimonials are given as case studies, such as how Salesforce.com demonstrates it’s solutions.  Sometimes it’s a snippet or quote, used as a teaser (link).  And sometimes it’s a full blown video endorsement.  Bottom line, virtually every company is pushing out testimonials to anyone, trying to convince prospective customers that since customer A bought, and we know how fussy customer A is, then you should buy our product or service.

But there’s a couple problems with many approaches to using testimonials:

1.  Who?

Unless the testimony is from a famously scrupulous buyer of a particular product or service it’s usually the power of the brand that the buyer represents that is the weight behind the testimony.  And if the brand doing the endorsing isn’t well known, it may not be doing much good to get your prospects attention or respect.

2.  What?

Many testimonies dwell on the generic pushing of the product, from the perspective of the testifier.  Just like in a court case where multiple testimonies are given, some are more believable than others.  Testimonials which lack specifics, or which don’t address the more common problems or concerns of buyers, do little for a b2b brand.

3.  When?

The overuse of testimonials ignores where the buyer in the purchase cycle.  Too many are put at the ‘generate awareness’ phase at the top of the sales funnel, when really a quality endorsement has more play in the middle to bottom of the sales funnel when the prospect is poised to purchase.  Think about the last time you bought a laptop.  Did testimonials of unknown customers play much of a role in developing your short list of brands to consider?  Or did you research on-line the options, work out the features you needed, talk to a sales rep and see the machine, and check out ads for promotional specials or search for a deal via Google?  If you’re like most people, the testimonial may have played a role throughout the process, but most notably towards the end after all other features and benefit boxes had been ticked.

So here’s three tips to help improve the testimonial as a tactic in your content arsenal:

1.  Make it credible – ensure the giver of the testimony, or the company/brand they represent, is likely to be known or respected by the audience you’re trying to influence

2.  Be choosy – although many salespeople use the offer of a testimonial as a ‘feel good’ for them and their customer, as the marketer your job is to wield the testimonial to address some of the common objections or even misperceptions prospects may have about your brand.  Get the right commentator to deliver the right comments.

3.  Use selectively – overuse of testimonials in the early stages of the sales funnel dilutes their impact.  Try to map out the customer journey and what information is needed at what stage, and see what happens when you push testimonials further down the funnel.  Or even better, divide the testimonials into categories related to the stage in the funnel a prospect is at.  Those related to common objections can sit earlier in the journey.  Those related to specific issues or challenges can come later.

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