Don’t Underestimate the Power of Testimonials

Nearly every company – from very big ones to the smallest neighborhood vendor – can benefit from good testimonials. Testimonials have been used in advertising for more than a hundred years as they are a simple way to inspire confidence in a potential customer. A testimonial acts as a third-party endorsement of your product or service. They can be even more valuable than advertising.

In 2002, two authors named Jack Trout and Al Ries published a book that described a major shift in the way people perceive advertising. In the book The Fall of Advertising and the Rise of PR, the authors explained that the environment had become so cluttered with advertising messages that the public largely tuned them out. As a result of this glut of ads, in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer arenas, buyers began to trust third-party endorsements more than ads. A feature or even a positive review in PC Magazine began to mean more than a full-page ad by Microsoft as it was seen as an impartial endorsement. Quickly, the game became getting editorial attention and reviews for products and services.

Currently, online reviews provide a ready source of testimonials that can benefit just about any business. Google, Yahoo, Angie’s List, Yelp, Yellowpages.com, TripAdvisor.com, Citysearch.com – the number of sites that accept customer reviews keeps increasing. Even feedback on Amazon and eBay constitute third-party endorsements. There are also special sites that accept doctor, dentist and other professional reviews.

Posting testimonials in your office or place of business where other visitors can see them is a good thing – but getting online reviews is even better. Encourage your customers to provide online reviews if they like the service or the products you have provided. You can also remind them to check in via Facebook when they arrive and comment on your service when they leave.

For a business like a hair salon, restaurant or even a tire store, you could give your customers a brightly colored slip that reminds them that a positive review would be appreciated. Just hand it out with the receipt. While you can suggest some sites where a review would be valuable – Angie’s List is highly regarded by many consumers – you should not mount a vigorous campaign to generate reviews. Some sites may step in and remove a flurry of positive reviews that appear to have resulted from an aggressive campaign by a business.

Pick Your Words as Carefully as You Pick Your Friends

As time goes on, Google continues to make refinements in the way the search engine operates, all with the goal of offering the customer the freshest, most relevant content in response to their queries.

Google’s search engine is increasingly able to differentiate natural writing from unnatural writing that is only intended to appeal to the Google’s web crawling bots.

As Google progressively tries to make their algorithms simulate human thinking and perception, those website owners who create content that appeals to real people are rewarded.

Therefore, many people study Google’s strategies carefully so they can ferret out the most scientific methods of putting content on their website that will pull them to the top of the search results. While there is nothing wrong with this activity, there is one factor in developing content for a website that many people miss: They focus so much attention on Google’s parameters that they leave their customers’ hearts and minds out of the equation.

Go ahead and make your content conform to Google’s parameters. But then make sure that every line of text talks to a customer. If a potential customer arrives at your site (courtesy of your website showing up on the first page of Google’s search results) and then is not sold on your product by your content, you might as well have shown up on page 99 in the search results.

Who is your primary customer? How do they think? How do they normally express themselves? What educational level do they tend to have? How does your product make their life better or their business more successful? The language you choose for your content should take these factors into account.

Imagine that you are offering supplies or services for children. Well, mothers have a different viewpoint than grandmothers and teachers, but they all deal with children. You may want to create separate features for each of these three types of customers so you can address their specific reasons for looking for your type of children’s service or products. In each of these separate articles, you can zero in on the language, viewpoint and problems of a mom, a grandmother or a teacher and show how those problems are solved by the use of your product or service.

The same thing goes for different types of corporations, different types of lawyers, government agencies and so on. Take the time to find out any specialized lingo or emerging situations that you can offer a solution to.

And never, ever fail to sell the benefits of using your product or service with all the honest persuasion you can muster. Use romance, use imagery, use imagination, but remember that what will sell the product or service is when you offer a benefit that is near and dear to your customers’ hearts. Like the old Kodak film slogan, “We capture your memories forever.” They didn’t sell film, they sold memories.

When you match your content up to Google’s guidelines AND use the right words to reach into the hearts and minds of your primary customers, you really maximize the impact of your website.