I bet you’ve seen this sort of advice before…
When using a testimonial, you should always:
- List the customer’s first and last name
- Include their photo
- Avoid unbelievable, over-the-top praise
Those are all fine tips to follow, but they’re really just starting points.
Optimizing your social proof requires just as much strategy and testing as improving a headline, hero image or call-to-action button.
Because if you just stick to blindly following ‘best practices,’ you could be missing out on a huge opportunity to squeeze more conversions out of your website or landing page. Here’s why:
Social proof affects different audiences in different ways. The complexity of your offer, the demographics of your visitors and a host of other factors all influence how persuasive your testimonials will be.
And that means you may want to try optimizing them in ways that seem counterintuitive at first.
Or even just plain strange.
I’ll get into more detail about this in a moment. But first, let’s make sure we’re on the same page about what typically makes for a convincing and credible testimonial.
Don’t use testimonials unless you’ve seen these tips…
Plenty of articles have already been written offering great advice for using testimonials. And those tips can generally be summed up as:
- Include a photo and other details
Providing the customer’s first and last name, location or any other relevant details makes testimonials more realistic. But an even bigger factor is including a (real) photo of the testimonial-giver. There’s plenty of research to back this up.
- Use testimonials from people your customers can relate to
According to implicit egotism theory, we generally trust people who are either like us or who we aspire to be like. And that means strong testimonials are often from folks who reflect how your prospects see themselves.
- Use testimonials from people with authority (if possible)
The most powerful testimonials come from people your audience sees as an expert or otherwise having authority. In essence, you’re ‘borrowing’ the positive feelings people have toward these individuals (this is called the Halo Effect) when you get their endorsement.
- Reinforce a specific benefit
Emphasis on specific. Vague testimonials that say things like “great experience” or “tremendous value” won’t connect with anyone. And it might even hurt your conversion rate. Instead, testimonials should be used strategically as ‘proof’ to support specific claims you’re making on your pages.
- Quash a serious objection
Research by MECLABS shows that placing testimonials near sources of anxiety (such as the ‘Add to Cart’ button) can ease objections and improve conversions. Bottom line: don’t just randomly sprinkle testimonials throughout your website. First, consider the role they’re playing on the page.
These tips make sense, right?
And if you’ve been in the conversion optimization game for any length of time, I suspect you’re already familiar with most of them.
Now, let’s dive into 3 lesser-known techniques for making your testimonials more credible, engaging and persuasive.
1) Try ‘long-form’ testimonials
Far too many articles give out generic advice like:
“Always keep your testimonials very short.”
Well, no. Not always.
Short, specific quotes from customers may work fine in certain situations. But sometimes a big, juicy testimonial can provide the exact dose of social proof that your page needs. Why?
For the same reasons that long copy can sometimes be more persuasive than short copy. Long-form sales messages often work great when your product is complicated, your audience has loads of objections or the price-tag is high.
As veteran ad man Jay Conrad Levinson puts it:
“Don’t be afraid to use lengthy copy. Of all the things people dislike about marketing, ‘lack of information’ comes in second, after ‘feeling deceived.’”
The trick is to ensure your long-form copy — or long-form testimonial — is interesting and relevant to your audience. Here’s an example:
Long-form testimonials make up the majority of content on Noah Kagan’s sales page for his How To Make A $1,000 A Month Business course. And some of them run well over 500 words!
Now, these testimonials work like sales copy in a number of different ways. But I want to point out one specific technique that makes them so effective: storytelling.
Several testimonials on the page tell raw, human stories about a problem the person was up against and how they discovered a life-changing solution thanks to Kagan’s course.
Take a look at this example:
Dave’s story kicks off with an emotional (and relatable) problem.
He then goes on to tell a story about how the course helped him, eventually building to the ‘climax’ detailing how his life changed afterwards:
In fact, some of the most effective long-form testimonials start with an emotional problem.
Now, a customer probably isn’t going to just hand you over a problem-agitate-solve testimonial by fluke. You may need to give them some guidance first.
So ask specific questions when requesting a testimonial. Things like:
- What made you seek out our product/service?
- What was the exact problem you needed to solve? How did it impact your life?
- How did our product/service solve this problem? How did it improve your