Testimonials add power to your copy. How? Let me answer that question by telling you a little story about a rabble of bladder-challenged teenagers whizzing in the bushes along an Interstate near my home.
Trust me. There’s a connection.
You see, some time ago, my wife and I were on our way to a party when traffic slowed to a standstill along a stretch of highway. Nine out of ten cars were filled with teenagers, so I quickly concluded that there was a concert at the nearby arena and that the ill-designed off ramp was clogged.
Fortunately, the wait paid off with unexpected entertainment.
A young man jumped from a car ahead of us and, in obvious physical distress, ran into the weeds to the right side of the road. Thirty seconds later he reappeared, smiling the smile of a man relieved of a great burden. He reentered his car to the approving whoops of a highwayful of instant fans.
A few moments later, a girl wearing one of those glorious “I’m doing something my parents don’t approve of” expressions followed the boy’s lead, plunging into the overgrowth, beer can still in hand.
Within seconds, two-dozen others ran staggering into the bushes. And when the available flora offered no more occupancy, the less shy simply turned their backs to the road and conducted their transactions under a bright Ohio sky.
Actually, I would have liked to use the facilities myself, but my wife’s disapproving look – not to mention the traumatic memory of insulting a nest of hornets the last time I improvised a rest stop – kept me in the car.
What happened here?
This is an example of social proof, the psychological principle of accepting something because others accept it, of doing something because others are doing it.
Most of those teenagers had been drinking. And I’m sure many of them needed to relieve themselves. But the idea of doing it in public didn’t strike them as acceptable until they saw someone else doing it. And the more who did it, the more acceptable it seemed.
It’s a natural human instinct to follow the behavior of others, whether it’s wearing the same type of boring gray suit as your associates or laughing at your boss’s lame jokes because everyone else around the water cooler is laughing.
Social proof is one of the most powerful psychological forces in our lives, and that definitely applies to copywriting. And what is the most popular – perhaps the most effective – social proof technique available to copywriters?
It’s our old friend, the testimonial.
11 Ways Testimonials Influence Behavior
The standard testimonial is a customer or client saying, “I’ve tried this and I love it.” The selling power delivers is enormous because its “social proof” works on so many levels:
- Credibility – A testimonial builds confidence in your message, offer, product, and company because it offers proof that it has worked for others.
- Objectivity – People expect you to say good things about your own product, so your persuasive abilities have a limit. But your argument is multiplied tenfold when other people say good things, especially when those other people have no bias and nothing to gain.
- Similarity – The best testimonials are from those similar to your prospective customers. People give more weight to the opinions of those who are like themselves. Doctors trust doctors. Housewives trust housewives. Teenagers trust teenagers.
- Expertise – If your product lends itself to testimonials from experts, this can have an effect as great as testimonials from similar people. I’ll listen to a person like me about the high quality of a tire for my car, but I’ll also listen to a mechanic who gives the tire high marks. Imagine a mechanic saying, “The Everlast Tire is the best tire on the road. Actually, it’s a little too good. Because once I put them on a car, I never see that customer again. Those tires could put me out of business.”
- Bandwagon Effect – When many testimonials are presented together, they not only engage the social proof Effect, they also trigger the Bandwagon Effect. “Lots of people are doing it, so I have to get in on this and do it too. How can X number of people be wrong?”
- Enthusiasm – Excitement breeds excitement. And if you’re aggressive in your testimonial collection, you should be able to gather comments that brim with energy. One testimonial, around which I framed an entire promotion for one of my clients, started with the word “WOW!” Others in the same promotion contained statements such as “What a treat!” and “I love it.”
- Benefits – Testimonials also offer an objective means of relaying your most important benefits. And by collecting lots of testimonials, you have the option of organizing them in your copy so the most informative are at the beginning.
- Features – Along with benefits, features can surface in your testimonials. Because of the quirky, disorganized wording of real testimonials, they may not cover all the facts. But people are likely to mention the most important or popular features or relate how particular features help in particular situations. It makes features tangible.
- The People Factor – On a basic level, communication theory tells us that people are interested in people more than in things. Testimonials represent real people talking about their experiences and sharing their opinions. Anything real people say will be more interesting and relevant than what a copywriter can concoct.
- Quotes – Along the same lines, people like to read or hear what others have to say. Readership studies show that anything in quotation marks – even if it’s not a quote – gets high readership. Quotations are also easier to read than running text. That’s why good children’s books are often filled with quoted dialog. It actually encourages reading!
- Specifics – And finally, good testimonials allow you to share specifics about your product. And because of the higher readership value of testimonials, they will be absorbed and understood quickly and effortlessly.
You should always have a collection of good testimonials on hand to help sell your products and services. So in part 2 of this series, I’ll show you a simple method I developed for collecting testimonials. With this method, building your collection will be easier than you think.