July 07, 2021
We've now covered the science behind why customer testimonials are so powerful, and how your business can attract more buyers to your site and convert them at a higher rate by employing them liberally in your marketing. In this chapter of The Definitive Guide to Testimonials we'll get on the same page as to what we mean by customer testimonials, and review some examples and guidelines for creating a good one.
Definition: Customer testimonials are written or filmed statements from a current or former customer describing their use of a product or service and the benefits, performance, quality, and/or value that they have witnessed.
In short, testimonials are evidence of customers talking about your product or service in their own words. At their best, they are authentic, descriptive, and specific so that future buyers can identify with the customer, the problem, and how they solved it.
Check out real video testimonial examples from customers like Google, Comscore, and Martha Stoumen Wines.
In business, testimonials usually take one of three forms:
Marketers feature the words that a customer said or wrote and provide the customer acknowledgement as part of their website or marketing communications.
Quotes can be extemporaneous (e.g. the customer was caught in the moment or posted on social media or sent via email) or often they are scripted by the marketer and then approved by the customer.
Marketers film a customer speaking on camera. Typically, a marketer asks a set of interview questions that a customer may or may not have seen prior and then gives his opinions on camera.
Learn more how marketing teams use Vocal Video to streamline the creation of customer testimonial videos.
Marketers may cite a review that was posted online on a review site, ecommerce site, or solicit it directly from the customer. Often times, reviews include a rating on a 5 star scale (1 star being the worst and 5 stars being the best) and an explanation of why the customer gave the rating. Reviews can either be written or captured on video.
That said, there are still plenty of other marketing tactics that build trust. Here are a couple:
Customer logos and other trust marks, such as Better Business Bureau or ePrivacy marks.
Long form, written 3-4 page documents describing the challenges, use case, solution, and benefits realized by a particular customer or firm. Check out this testimonial example & template.
Data & Statistics
Original research or 3rd party conducted research or statistics on your customer base or market.
Variety of customer logos featured to show the breadth of customer types, typically on home page and customer pages.
Testimonial and social proof marketing are often confused with influencer and paid celebrity endorsement marketing techniques. Let’s try to draw a clear dividing line between the two practices.
Celebrity endorsements are the practice of paying a celebrity to appear in an advertisement, infomercial, or at a promotional event to both create buzz and also lend their credibility to the product or service. Celebrity endorsements are common on TV whereby models or actresses, like Jennifer Garner or Cindy Crawford will extol the benefits of a shampoo or beauty product, implying that it’s part of their daily regiment. Ryan Seacrest (an American TV host and radio personality) is paid to promote Ford products. The dirty truth is that most celebrities don’t actually use the products that they endorse on a daily basis.
The promise and practice of influencer marketing on social media has increased this practice of pay to play endorsements. Influencer marketing is when marketers hire, pay, or provide free product samples to influencers to get the word out about their product or service to the influencer’s followers. Influencers typically have large dedicated followings on a social platform like YouTube, Instagram, or Twitter. By having the influencer endorse a product on social media, the marketers hope to reach a broader audience and stimulate organic demand for their product.
Paid endorsements and influencer marketing blur the line of what is true word of mouth marketing. Influencer marketing is focused on finding, recruiting influencers with large social reach, not on finding real life users and consumers and placing their stories front and center in your marketing. And, the promise has not panned out for many businesses with reports of high costs and diminishing rewards for their influencer marketing campaigns.
Use of genuine testimonials in your marketing focuses on showcasing advocates for your brand, giving them a voice, and not compromising truth and believability by compensating them directly for their statements. Testimonials subjects are selected not for their expansive social networks, but for their true experience with your product or service. Done right, testimonial based marketing is genuine, authentic, and highly trustworthy.
6 Attributes of a Kick Ass Testimonial
Most of us probably feel like we instinctively know what a good testimonial is when we see it. However, it turns out there is a science behind what makes good testimonials. The cardinal rule is always put yourself in the shoes of the buyer. What will appeal to them? What matters most? So let’s dissect the key traits of a great testimonial:
Pro tip: One trap marketers often fall into is that they try to cram all value messages into a single testimonial. A better strategy is to have a focussed testimonial that solely speaks directly and clearly to one value point.
4. Focus on Authenticity and Sincerity (not polish and scripts) - You want your prospective buyers to connect personally with the customer in the testimonials. It is ok if they stutter or stumble over words as long as they deliver the intended message. Marketers often fall victim to targeting perfection with the most charismatic or polished speakers and invest thousands of dollars on professional lighting, staged appearances, and scripted performances. However, these subjects and productions can come across as either overly scripted, less knowledgeable and lacking substance. We naturally connect and trust individuals who show some vulnerability and are more like “real people.” Thus, always err on the side of creating trust through sincerity and authenticity and focus less on polish and glamour.
5. Visually Compelling - Yes, substance matters (authentic, concise, specific testimonials are super important), but don’t skimp on form either when it comes to testimonials. That means don’t just type a customer quote in plain text into the body of your web page. Create designs with stylized quotes and rounded corners to set your testimonials off from the rest of the content and make them stand out. Add pictures of your customers, clearly cite their name, title, and company affiliation to their quote. For videos, invest in video production and motion graphics to break up the video and provide a professional feel. The visual aesthetic of your testimonials is a great way to draw attention to your customers in your marketing.
6. Use Video Whenever Possible - Invest in making customer videos. While video can be time consuming to make and it adds complexity in terms of how to shoot compelling footage, especially when customers are not local to you. Nonetheless, the research on the power of video is overwhelming. According to Forbes, 90% of customers say video helps them make buying decisions and 64% of buyers say that seeing a video makes them more likely to buy. Plus, viewers retain 95% of a message when they watch it in a video, compared to 10% when reading it in text. (Wirebuzz).
Net net: customer videos engage buyers at a higher rate than other types of content forms and positively influence purchasing decisions. Read our definitive research on video testimonials.
The 6 guidelines above are important considerations for producing compelling testimonials. But, buyers aren’t just myopically evaluating each testimonial individually. They are sizing you, your site, and its product or service up overall. They won’t be swayed by a single compelling testimonial if there are no other customer markers. Prospects want to see that there is a wide and deep outpouring of support and love from your customer base as a whole, not just one or two individuals. Buyers will scrutinize 3 other factors to gauge the depth and breadth of the customer base’s love and how much trust they will award your brand.
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Testimonial Video Templates
Research: The ROI of Video Testimonials
Video Series: Behind the Marketing
Reinventing Video Testimonials
The Definitive Guide to Customer Testimonials
Can software replace a video testimonial service?
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