Let’s start with a question: why do you buy from certain businesses and not others?
Sure, sure, they provide high quality products or services and all… but so do their competitors. In fact, if you think on it a bit, I bet that there are a few brands you do business with that don’t outweigh their competition in terms of their main offering.
Still, you remain loyal to your brand of choice despite potentially being able to receive better value from a competing company.
While there are a number of potential reasons for you to have made this decision, they all boil down to a single word:
It’s that simple: you’ve grown to trust the brands you do business with to provide what you’re looking to receive in exchange for your hard-earned cash.
For the modern company, the importance of building trust among target audience members simply cannot be overstated.
First and foremost, when consumers trust you, they become confident that they’re making the right decision by doing business with you. If they can’t trust you to follow through on your promises, they’re essentially gambling their money away.
Furthermore, building a sense of trust among your customer base allows you to forge a deeper, more authentic relationship with each individual you do business with. By forming this deeper relationship, you’ll be in position to continue learning more and more about your customers over time – in turn allowing you to continue evolving your offering to better fit your target audience’s needs.
To be clear, the more your customers and prospects trust you, the further they’ll let you into their lives – and the more value you’ll be able to provide for them moving forward.
On the other hand, a lack of trust among your target audience can be deadly to your organization. According to Accenture Strategy’s 2017 Global Consumer Pulse report, a lack of trust costs brands over $2.5 trillion worldwide per year. Unfortunately, over 40% of US consumers admit to having at least some level of distrust for most brands, and more than half of US consumers simply don’t trust brands at all.
Of course, there are many ways to build a sense of trust among your target audience members, such as:
- Providing value above and beyond expectations
- Being transparent and honest at all times
- Being available and accessible as much as possible
- Providing a consistently positive experience across the board
While you should definitely focus on doing all of this for your current customers, there exists a sort of catch-22, here:
Your prospective customers will need to trust you before they purchase your products or services, but you need them to purchase your products or services in order to prove your worth.
In other words, you’ll need to figure out a way to gain your prospective customers’ trust before they even use your products or services in the first place.
Which is where social proof comes in.
(NOTE: Testimonials are the best form of social proof you can add to your website. If you don’t have a way to reach out to your customers and collect testimonials, Fieldboom can help.)
In the simplest of terms, social proof revolves around the idea that people typically trust the words of their peers when they’re uncertain about or inexperienced in a specific area.
We use social proof to make decisions all the time – whether as consumers, or throughout our day-to-day life. A few examples:
- Trying out a new restaurant based on a friend’s recommendation
- Purchasing an album after a radio DJ talks about how great it is
- Adopting a new diet after seeing a coworker lose a ton of weight while doing the same
As these examples illustrate, social proof can be actively or passively communicated. In the case of the restaurant and music recommendations, the social proof was actively communicated by experienced individuals to an inexperienced audience; in the case of the dieting coworker, even though the coworker didn’t specifically recommend that the individual adopt the diet in their own life, the results spoke for themselves.
(For our purposes, we’ll be focusing on a form of active social proof throughout this article.)
For brands, leveraging social proof to build trust among inexperienced prospects is essential. According to a 2015 report from Nielsen, 83% of consumers worldwide say that peer recommendations are the most influential factor when debating whether or not to make a purchase. Additionally, 66% of consumers trust recommendations made online by people they’ve never even met more than they trust claims brands make about their own offerings.
All this being said, you definitely want to be gathering – and showcasing – as much positive social proof as you possibly can on your website, social media platforms, and elsewhere.
Throughout the rest of this article, we’re going to focus on using a specific type of social proof: customer testimonials.
Let’s dive in.
As we’ll get to in a moment, customer testimonials come in a variety of formats.
No matter the format, though, customer testimonials must always follow a few basic principles in order to be effective.
Above all else, customer testimonials must be authentic if you want to have any hope of building trust among your prospective customers.
To be sure, this simply makes sense: If a brand is going as far as to make up fake testimonials, they probably aren’t all that trustworthy to begin with.
But there’s more to this sense of authenticity than knowing enough to use actual testimonials from actual customers. You also want to be sure these testimonials are presented in the manner your customers meant them to be presented. In other words, you want to be sure that your testimonials accurately represent the customer’s true feelings about your products or services – and that you aren’t putting words in their mouth, or twisting their words in any way.
Going along with this, you also want to be sure your testimonials don’t seem forced or “coached,” as well. While many of the formats of testimonials we’ll be discussing do require you to solicit quotes, etc. from your customers, you want to allow them the freedom to express themselves in a candid and personable manner.
It’s also important that your testimonials focus on a customer’s specific experience, and/or a specific aspect of your services.
To illustrate this point, take a look at these generic (and 100% fictional) testimonials we created using the aptly-named Testimonial Generator:
First of all, even if we didn’t just tell you these testimonials were fake, you’d probably still be a bit skeptical, right?
Second of all, even if these testimonials were real, they provide no value whatsoever in terms of what, exactly, these individuals like about the product.
For comparison, take a look at an actual testimonial from one of Fieldboom’s actual users:
Because Kevin focused on specific aspects of Fieldboom’s product, here, prospective customers who read this testimonial will have a much better idea of what to expect should they engage further with our brand.
By “appropriateness,” we mean that your testimonials should be presented in the format your prospects will expect at the given moment.
Additionally, the content of your testimonials will also dictate the format in which you’ll want to present them. Sometimes you’ll want to simply provide a quote snippet from a satisfied customer, while other times you might want to create a more longform piece of content to truly bring their experiences to life.
We’ll discuss this further in the next section, as we dig into…
Now that we’ve gone over the basic principles of soliciting and exhibiting customer testimonials, let’s look at some of the most effective ways to showcase your customer’s experiences with your brand.
Perhaps the most basic form of customer testimonial, customer quotes are just that: praise from your satisfied and successful followers, in their own words.
As we said earlier, you want to be sure the quotes you showcase focus on a specific aspect of your service or a unique experience the individual had with your brand. Additionally, you want to include as much information about the customer as you can (and as they allow).
Take a look at this quote regarding Orbit Media’s services:
Authentic? Definitely. Specific? You bet. Not only does this quote paint a picture of what Orbit Media actually does, but it also leaves no doubt that the person behind the quote actually exists – and that they truly meant every word of their statement.
Now, one of the best things about using the “basic” customer quote as a testimonial is that such quotes are incredibly versatile. In other words, you can use them pretty much anywhere on your site.
You can include them on your homepage or landing pages:
Or on a dedicated Testimonial page:
Or on pages describing the products or services you offer:
Basically, you want to determine exactly where your prospective customers will benefit from reading a solid testimonial from a customer just like them – and make sure the message is received loud and clear.
Your brand is active on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, isn’t it?
(If not…well…you should probably get on that!)
In addition to the many other benefits of having an active presence on social media, these channels can also be a treasure trove for finding customer testimonials.
Really, any and all of the positive interactions you have with your customers via your social media hubs can be used as proof that your brand offers high quality products and/or services.
But you shouldn’t stop looking for testimonials on your own social pages; you’ll also want to see where else your brand is being mentioned in a positive light, as well:
There are two main points to think about, here:
First of all, since less than 40% of satisfied customers typically post about their positive experiences with a brand, it’s essential that you take advantage of the times your customers do take the time to sing your praises.
Secondly, you might consider embedding the actual conversation directly (if possible), as it provides the context needed for your visitors to truly understand the situation. Additionally, this allows you to also showcase your brand’s responsiveness and level of engagement with your customers via social media, as well.
Along with positive mentions on social media, showcasing positive reviews of your products or services will certainly go a long way in terms of building trust among your prospective customers.
To be sure, there are a ton of different ways you can collect and exhibit such reviews:
You might provide your current customers the ability to post reviews directly to your product pages:
Or your social media hubs:
Or you could collect reviews from third-party channels, such as Yelp, TripAdvisor, TrustPilot, or Capterra – depending on your industry, of course:
Again, you can showcase these reviews directly on product pages (if applicable), on dedicated testimonial pages within your site, or sprinkled throughout your website on high-traffic pages.
Now, once again, most of your customers probably aren’t going to take it upon themselves to write a review of their experience with your brand. But a decent chunk of them will if you simply ask them to:
When soliciting reviews from your customers, there are a number of best practices to follow:
- Be sure to make it easy for them to complete the review (or opt out, if they choose to)
- Make sure they know why you’re collecting the information (i.e., that you explain that your goal is to improve the services you provide, etc.)
- Try to be as specific as possible with regard to what you want to learn about your customer’s experience. That way, they can provide feedback that’s focused on a specific aspect of your products or services.
- Use incentives sparingly – you don’t necessarily want your customers to write a positive review just so that they can receive something in return.
(Also, while you wouldn’t exactly want to publicize any negative reviews you may earn, you do want your unhappy customers to feel comfortable providing such feedback, as it will allow you to make the necessary improvements moving forward.)
(NOTE: Testimonials are the best form of social proof you can add to your website. If you don’t have a way to reach out to your customers and collect testimonials, Fieldboom can help.)
So far, we’ve discussed some of the shorter forms of customer testimonials…
Now, we’re going to dive into the more in-depth, longform testimonial formats, starting with case studies and success stories.
Basically, a case study is a longform article that discusses, in detail, a customer’s experience with your brand. These stories can focus on a specific aspect of their experience, or can dive deeper into their entire experience overall.
Typically, you’ll want to offer multiple case studies or success stories that focus on:
- A variety of customer types (i.e., multiple customers from each of your segments)
- Different products or services you offer (or different use cases)
- Any unexpected (positive) results your customers have experienced
Since this type of content is longer and more in-depth, you’ll want to create a separate section of your site on which to showcase your case studies or success stories. To make this dedicated section more visible, you can includes snippets on your other pages, along with a link to the case study the snippet was taken from.
You might also consider offering your case studies as lead magnets by placing them behind mailing list signup forms. Nothing wrong with killing two birds with one stone, right?
To play the role of Captain Obvious for a moment, video testimonials are, quite simply, testimonials presented by customers in video format.
Of course, since creating such content is definitely a bit more involved than simply typing out a paragraph or two, video testimonials will typically be longer and more in-depth…but not so long that your viewers get bored. The main thing to focus on, here, is ensuring your subject knows to stick to a certain topic, such as a specific experience, or a specific feature of your product they found intriguing or helpful.
<iframe src=”https://player.vimeo.com/video/197182519″ width=”640″ height=”360″ frameborder=”0″ allowfullscreen></iframe>
As far as creating video testimonials, this can happen in one of two ways. If preferred (and logistically possible), you might want to have a representative of your company meet with the subject of the video and create the content together. Or, since your customers almost certainly have a smartphone at arm’s length, they can take the reins and create a more candid video on their own.
Whichever method you choose, one of the main things to keep in mind is that they should at least give an air of candidness. While you, again, want to provide a bit of direction to your customers when creating these videos, you don’t want them to feel as if they need to stick to a script or anything. Remember: authenticity is key.
As far as presentation goes, you have two options:
- Showcase individual videos from each of your volunteer customers separately
- Include snippets from each video within a more longer-form video created by your team
Which brings us to…
If you want to go really in-depth with a customer’s experiences with your brand, you might opt to create a full-blown documentary in which they play the role of hero – with your products or services being the supporting cast.
Needless to say, this format isn’t exactly the best option for certain companies. Typically, you’d only want to consider creating a fully fleshed-out customer documentary if your products or services are multi-faceted, are used over an elongated period of time, and drastically alter the course of your user’s life or existence. For example, if your product revolves around weight training, exercise, or healthy living, you would definitely want to consider showcasing a successful customer’s transformation over time via documentary format.
As with the aforementioned video testimonials, these documentaries can include a mixture of user-created and internally-created content – but will ultimately be edited and put together by your in-house team (or a contracted third-party, as the case may be).
As for why this format can be so effective:
By presenting a user’s experience in such an in-depth way, you first of all are providing hard evidence that your product actually does what you claim it does. Additionally, you’ll be able to showcase to prospective customers exactly how much time and effort they’ll need to put into the process in order to be successful; in doing so, you, again, communicate the idea that, although your product will help them grow, it’s they who are truly in charge of their own destiny.
Positive testimonials from fellow customers is great and all…
But if you can get a well-known individual or entity from within your industry to say a few good things about your brand, you’ve basically got it made.
Influencer testimonials can come in the form of…well…pretty much any of the formats we’ve discussed throughout this article – with special attention being called to who the individual providing the testimonial is:
Or, you can opt to showcase a list of individuals or companies that utilize your services, as ClearSlide does here:
(Note: You always need to get permission of your customers before using their words, likenesses, etc. – even if you’re just stating that a certain entity uses your products or services. Don’t overlook this important step.)
At any rate, if you provide your services to anyone with a higher-than-average reputation, you definitely want to consider connecting with them and seeing if they’d be willing to provide some kind words about your brand. Again, high praise from a well-known entity is going to go much further than the same words would had they come from an “average” customer*.
*There is no such thing as the “average” customer. You know this!
A combination of influencer testimony and social proof, gaining positive press coverage from trusted sources can be an enormous boon for your brand.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to understand that having a publication like the New York Times write about your company is going to be good for business, right?
Of course, you also want to maximize any positive press coverage you receive as best you can, reposting it on your social media pages, as well as your website.
In similar fashion to how you would present popular entities that utilize your services on your site, you can also showcase links to positive press coverage, as well.
(Again, you want to confirm with the publications in question that they are okay with you showcasing this information on your company’s website.)
It’s worth saying it one more time:
It’s incredibly difficult to get prospective customers to trust your claims without any verification from those who have experience with your brand. While you can certainly build this trust over time once your new customers become more engaged, you need to look to your current customers to help spur this initial engagement.
Once again, though, your current customers may or may not take it upon themselves to provide this essential feedback in the first place – which is where we come in.
As you’ve seen above, testimonials and case studies are the best form of social proof you can add to your website and use in your marketing funnel. If you don’t have a way to reach out to your customers to collect feedback, Fieldboom can help.