10 Quick and Simple Ways to Power Up Your Customer Testimonials


When we were kids, my friends and I made up a game we called “Made You Look.” Three or four of us would get fairly close together – in a shopping plaza, on the street, or anywhere there were lots of people – and look up as if we saw something incredible.

It would never fail. Passers-by would glance up to see what we were looking at. Some would stop and stand there for half a minute trying to discern the object of our attention. And the more of us doing it, the more people would look. One time in New York City, we did this with a dozen cohorts and virtually stopped traffic on Broadway.

We knew it was smart aleck juvenile humor. But what we didn’t know was that it was a classic demonstration of a powerful psychological principle called Social Proof. The idea behind Social Proof is simple: People are all copycats to some degree. We do what others do simply because others are doing it.

Does it work in marketing? Yes. And one of the best ways to use Social Proof to your advantage is to include testimonials in your promotions.

In the first two parts of this series, we discovered why testimonials are powerful and looked at how to set up a testimonial collection system. Now let’s see what to do with your testimonials once you have them.

Making the Most of Your Testimonials

Once you have a pile of great testimonials, you’ll want to start using them in your promotions right away. And to get the most bang for your buck, you should:

1. Select testimonials from customers similar to your prospects.

This increases the feeling of identification and relevance. A teacher will believe other teachers. A business owner will believe other business owners. The more similarity you can show, the more weight your testimonials carry. Even seemingly nonsensical similarities, such as where people live, have an effect. “Oh, he’s from Ohio too!”

2. Select testimonials that give specifics.

Consider these two testimonials for a lawn fertilizer:

“I think Lawn Magic is a wonderful product. My lawn looks great.”

“For 6 years I tried every weed control powder and spray at my local garden store, but nothing could get rid of those darned dandelions. Then I saw your ad for Lawn Magic and decided to give it a try. I tried the Quick Cover method you suggested and WOW! Just a week later, there’s not a single speck of yellow anywhere – except in my neighbor’s yard.”

Which one makes you want to try the product?

3. Edit carefully and lightly.

Don’t change the meaning. Don’t enhance. And don’t present words and phrases out of context. If a statement is too long, awkwardly punctuated, or otherwise unclear, you are justified in taking a blue pencil to the copy. But keep it light, otherwise you’ll lose the special flavor of actual testimonials.

4. Group testimonials for greater impact.

This packs a doubly powerful psychological wallop because a group of testimonials proves your claims and engages the Bandwagon Effect – “Lots of people are doing it. I want to do it, too!” Seeing testimonial after testimonial sends a visual signal that your product has widespread appeal.

5. Use many short quotes instead of a few long ones.

If you’re going for the Bandwagon Effect, this just makes sense. It’s a matter of showing as many people as you can who approve of the thing you’re selling. Twenty pithy testimonials are more powerful than 5 big chatty ones. On the other hand …

6. Don’t be afraid of long testimonials.

Sometimes, you get a gem that says it all. It may be a story, an emotional revelation, an authoritative remark from an expert, or just a simple comment that hits the nail on the head. You might want to separate it visually from the others, in a sidebar, for example. If it’s paragraphs long though, don’t use it as a testimonial; use it as a success story.

7. Include full names, titles, and locations when possible.

This makes testimonials more real and relevant and enhances their credibility. I’ve even seen one instance where a seminar marketer included phone numbers and challenged readers to call other attendees. Obviously, you must consider privacy issues, but remember that, in general, full names are more believable than initials. Titles show authority, experience, or expertise. Locations, such as cities and states, help prove that people are real.

8. Feature photographs (maybe).

They are further proof that your testimonials are real. And they help prospects identify with your customers. This can be tricky, though. Sometimes photos can subtract impact if they are of poor quality or show people who – for whatever reason – don’t look right. One investment promotion I saw used blurry black and white photos of an odd assortment of people I instantly perceived as total losers. Use good photos or none at all.

9. Enclose each testimonial in quotation marks.

Readership studies show that people are strongly attracted to quoted copy. It draws the eye. It makes reading easier and faster. And the subject matter is usually more relevant and interesting, since people are endlessly fascinated by other people – in what they do and what they say.

10. Use a powerful headline to introduce testimonials.

Don’t settle for a lame, do-nothing header, such as “Here’s what people are saying about the Laminator 2000.” Follow standard headline rules and provide a complete message, such as “Over 124,000 small businesses like yours rely on the Laminator 2000 to make their own professional-looking tags, instruction sheets, and signs.”

A Fun Office Game

Want to have some fun around the office? Try my “Made You Look” game. For best results, have one or more colleagues do the looking while you watch from a distance. You’ll have a good laugh while performing a classic psychological experiment.

Next time … how to use what we’ve learned about Social Proof to build credibility with testimonial “stand ins.”

About the Author: Dean Rieck is a leading direct marketing copywriter. For more copywriting and selling tips, sign up for Dean’s FREE direct response newsletter or subscribe to the Direct Creative Blog.

Print Friendly

What do you want to learn?

Click to get a free course and resources about:

Reader Comments (43)

  1. says

    Most testimonials on websites are BS but the ones that give very specific detail are worth their weight in gold. Also, don’t forget the power of having the testimonial giver post them on the business listing at Google, Yahoo, & MSN Local + Citysearch and any other relevant local review website.

  2. says

    Claire, good point. I never edit testimonials without permission, which effectively makes it their “quote” by agreement. I’m sure Dean does the same thing.

  3. says

    Dean, powerful stuff- rest assured that I will be using the same-profession testimonials and the Bandwagon tool too. How should I format them, in long sidebars like Clayton does?

  4. says

    Good points. Getting testimonials right is key to building trust.

    Number (7) is the one I really try to impress on my clients. Testimonials that are backed up with a full name have the ring of truth about them. Getting this wrong can cause serious damage – if you ascribe a quote just to “J.S., London” or “Dave, New York” they look fake right away.

    Another question I often get asked is about testimonial placement – in the bodycopy, in the left margin, in the right margin, on a separate page, in callout boxes, or a combination? Personally I think it depends on the style of the site and the product on offer, but I’d be interested in folks’ perspectives.

  5. says


    What I meant was that when you get misspelled words or really bad grammar or punctuation, I think it’s okay to correct it. Or if the quote is 10 paragraphs long and you only want a few sentences, you can trim it. The key is to never change the meaning or intent.

    For example, if you get a quote that reads, “I really loove this product.” It would be okay to for you to correct the spelling so that it reads, “I really love this product.”

    Your release for using the testimonials should include permission to use the quote in full or in part or to edit for clarity, grammar, punctuation, etc. I didn’t put that in my previous article on collecting testimonials but should have. Since the testimonials become your property, you should be sure you have full rights to do what you need to do.

    The Direct Marketing Association guidelines on ethical business practice says this about testimonials:

    Testimonials and endorsements should be used only if they are:
    a. Authorized by the person quoted
    b. Genuine and related to the experience of the person giving them both at the time made and at the time of the promotion and
    c. Not taken out of context so as to distort the endorser’s opinion or experience with the product.


  6. says

    Another way to add credibility to a testimonial is to add a picture of the person — and even better, an audio or video file. That way your prospective customers can read it, see it, hear it — and they’ll be more prone to BELIEVE it.

  7. says

    Jonathan Fields suggested to me a long time ago to put testimonials on my site and it was one of the best things I ever did.

    Hey, that sounds like a…

  8. says

    Getting testimonials is the key to building trust? I never thought it was serious, but now, I’l think about it! Great article.

  9. says

    I like the specific testimony bit. Having a customer set such high expectations really makes a big difference. And also hearing the time frame in which it should work draws attention. People want results-fast.

  10. says

    I think those pages with the video testimonials are quite effective. Problem is those are the hardest to get. Most people would agree to write some text, far fewer would agree to be videotaped…

  11. says

    The testimonials are key to sales. And a picture of the person is a great asset. As pointed out above in another comment videos are hard to get and sometimes so are the photos.

  12. says

    There are some websites which try to sell products based only on testimonials.

    So, to many testimonials present on a website and far too less anything else would make me think twice before buying …

    There are some companies who ‘abuse’ in using testimonials. What do you think about that?

  13. says

    Nice. T.E.A.S.E. (in comments) ain’t bad, either.

    Just as testimonials are growing in importance, so is the abuse issue (noted in Pavel’s comment). The UK just passed a law that makes it illegal to abuse the good-faith rules of comments (say, anonymously reviewing your own restaurant or book… or posing as someone else and leaving a negative comment, etc).

    Wrote about it a few weeks ago…

  14. says


    With all due respect, you’re not quite right about the Consumer Protection Act. My view is that the legislation isn’t as shocking as it’s being talked up to be, and, in fact, simply applies to British online traders the same standards that the UK’s traditional retailers have always had to adhere to.

    Under the new rules it’s not illegal to anonymously review your own product, or pose as someone else to slate a third party’s product, *unless* the contents of your comments are actively misleading. In other words, if by your actions you seek to defraud customers of money, or competitors of legitimate business, you’re in trouble.

    As far as I understand it, if you wrote fake testimonials for a product (which would be a bad idea in any case – see previous comments) the prosecuting authority would have to prove that those fakes contained statements that were factually inaccurate, and that you could reasonably be expected to know that they were.

    Over here in the UK the Labour government has all but drowned us in repressive laws, but this isn’t really one of them.

  15. says

    I find that most testimonials are short and telling nothing more than “you are the best” or “I am going to use your service more” kind of testimonials. It is less appealing.

  16. says

    I have had great success using audio testimonials with photos. In order to ensure that I get testimonials with “meat,” I ask the testimonial-giver to cover a brief list of subjects. For me, that’s the person’s name, location, practice area (all of my clients are lawyers), the type of project we worked on together, the nature of the legal issues addressed, and then any comments about my performance.

    It takes time to get the testimonials (I record them over the phone), but it’s well worth it.

  17. says


    Photos add credibility. But you have to be careful. If they’re blurry, dark, or show shifty-looking people or people who don’t look like your average customer, they can do more harm than good.

  18. says

    Wow – I can’t even begin to describe how much this post has helped me.

    I recently hosted a contest last month where 5 people received a copy of my new eBook before it’s launched (not launched yet, but will be soon!). I’m now working on the sales page, and have gotten some pretty good feedback from the people who already read the eBook.

    I’m going to ask them for testimonials to see how it goes. Thanks for walking me through the process. I’m hoping the launch goes smoothly!


Comments are open for seven days. This article's comments are now closed.