Online case studies, reviews and testimonials are now commonplace. Countless brands use examples of their customers’ positive experiences to help advertise and market their products and services, but the approach doesn’t always work.
Internet customers are increasingly sophisticated. Where a positive review or endorsement may have once convinced somebody to press the ‘buy’ button, online customers often now need more persuasion. So how do you make sure your online case studies, reviews and testimonials add value to your website?
Become an Amateur Psychologist
Before you can really wield the power of a review or testimonial, you need to understand why this approach is effective. You don’t need to study a degree in psychology, but a basic understanding of customer behaviour will certainly help.
Testimonials and reviews build trust with customers. In a crowded marketplace, it’s difficult to decide which companies to trust. Reviews from other like-minded people tell your visitors that your products and services are worth the investment.
Customers also like to separate reality from the blurb. They appreciate reviews and case studies because they come from real people. Your official description and product detail is not as valuable to many customers because they believe you will say anything to make them part with their cash. As such, a glowing review, case study or testimonial can help your customers overcome the natural scepticism they bring to your website.
Focus on Authenticity
Online customers are less inclined to believe everything they see. High-profile cases in the media have shown customers that you can’t always believe the hype. Indeed, the travel review website Trip Advisor now devotes a whole page to describe its fraud protection policy, to make sure customers understand that the company works hard to prove the veracity of every review left on the site.
While your brand probably isn’t dealing with the same volume of reviews as Trip Advisor, you still can’t afford to let customers believe your reviews and testimonials aren’t completely authentic.
Steps you can take include:
- Use real customer photos (with their consent). A review will resonate more authentically if your visitors can see a real person’s image next to the text.
- Use social sites to help customers leave comments. This method also helps visitors get the idea that the reviewers are real people, with real social media profiles and real needs and demands.
- Don’t pay for reviews. Some companies offer copy-writing services to create customer testimonials for your brand pages, but potential clients will often see through this approach.
A customer review or testimonial is one of the simplest and most important extensions of your brand, so you must make sure the authenticity of the content is unquestionable.
A single, well-written, meaningful review of your product or service will often tell a potential customer everything he or she needs to know. Multiple pages of reviews can overwhelm a visitor to your site. Ironically, if you bombard visitors with too many reviews, you can actually make it harder for them to decide about your products and services.
Conversely, a single review may not have the impact you need to dissuade your visitors’ natural scepticism. As such, you need to consider your reviewers’ diversity, so you can cover a broad spectrum of people and values. Look for a reasonable variety of customer testimonials that different visitors can relate to. You shouldn’t ignore your target audience, but you should also avoid the possibility that you have a single spokesperson applauding your brand.
Don’t Become a Politician or a Movie Studio
Politicians and spin doctors love to find clever ways to turn a message around to suit their purposes. These specialists can turn a negative comment into a glowing review by carefully quoting (or misquoting) certain sections of a review.
Movie studios are also good at spin. For example, Peter Bradshaw from the UK’s Guardian newspaper conceded that the second installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy was ‘technically stunning’. On the official movie poster, the studio chose to write, “Stunning – The Guardian”. This misquote completely changed what Bradshaw wanted to say – and the studio knew this.
Stay true to your brand and avoid these antics. Stick to the sentiment of the customer. If he or she had a mixed reaction to the product, don’t cherry pick the good bits and ignore the negative comments. As a brand owner, you should know what your customers want to say. Don’t distort and misuse the gift of their feedback to suit your purposes.
Numbers and statistics help people understand the true value of your products and services. As such, you can better command your visitors’ attention if your reviews tell them how much money somebody saved or how much better the customer’s life was as a result of your product.
Look for statements that help quantify personal opinions. For example, it’s more powerful to hear from a customer who says that your product “lasted for 12 months” instead of saying “it lasted for ages”.
What’s more, it’s important that your reviews and testimonials are specific. Your customers want particular products and services because they address a certain need. An effective review or testimonial will help prospective customers see how your business can help them meet their needs.
In Six Sigma circles, the Voice of the Customer is a term that describes the process you can use to capture stated and unstated customer needs. You can apply this thinking to reviews and testimonials. Look for customer feedback that really helps visitors understand why this product can change their life. For example, your customer may want a product that helps them save money, but a review that also tells them they can save time is likely to have a bigger impact.
Knowing how to make the best use of customer feedback can transform your online presence. As such, you need to learn how to harness the power of your customers’ experiences by sharing their opinions with people who don’t yet understand just how good your products and services are.