“A pat on the back is only a few vertebrae removed from a kick in the pants, but is miles ahead in results.” – Ella Wheeler Wilcox

One of the best ways to promote your product is through customer testimonials. On Tuesday, I explained that you can make your testimonials as strong as possible by ensuring that they have both powerful, unique language and a captivating presentation.

But that’s not all there is to using testimonials in your sales packages.

Why Big Brands Want Big Stars

As you may know, there is a distinction between testimonials, which come from satisfied customers, and endorsements, which come from recognized authorities or other influential people such as celebrities. Both are effective, but the impact of having a recognized authority endorse your product or service can be enormous. One small but significant study showed a 300 percent difference between the response rates of two otherwise identical direct-marketing pieces when one was accompanied by an endorsement.

The study was completed in 2005 by Klein Buendel, a consultant specializing in health education issues. Researchers found that 12 percent of high school teachers visited an online anti-smoking website after receiving information about a Web-based anti-smoking program accompanied by a letter from an influential opinion maker. Of teachers who received the promotional material without the endorsement, only four percent checked out the site. When the promotion was accompanied by testimonials from fellow educators, teachers were 14 percent more likely to make the anti-smoking program part of their lesson plan.

The reason endorsements work, says Robert Cialdini, author of Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, is that “when faced with a choice people often look around to see what others have done to guide their decision.”

There’s More Than One Way to Incorporate Testimonials Into Your Package

One effective way to use testimonials (this is a technique I often used when I was copywriting full-time) is to weave testimonials into stories that illustrate, indirectly, the benefits of the product you are selling

If the testimonials you have don’t lend themselves to use as stories, you can put them on a separate sheet. This “gate” (alternate point of entry to your sales message for your reader) can be a different size or color than your main letter. Setting off a large group of testimonials like this can have a tremendous impact. Your prospect will be impressed by the number of testimonials you have collected.

But as I pointed out in the AWAI copywriting program, “These techniques don’t exist in a vacuum. You should use combinations of story testimonials, standalone gates, and testimonials in sidebars in your promotions when appropriate.”

When to Use More, When to Use Less

One question that comes up frequently is “How many testimonials are enough?”

I have two thoughts on this:

  1. As a general rule, it is better to use a few really good testimonials than a big bunch that are just so-so.
  2. But if you have a product that seems too good to be true – or if you’re making some very strong promises – you should stock your promotion with as many testimonials as possible. This volume of evidence should overcome any initial skepticism a prospect may have.

Keep It Real

Bob Bly, a great copywriter and teacher of copywriters, has written about testimonials in ETR before. He’s pointed out that generalized testimonials that “sound like testimonials” (i.e., “Your product is great!”) are not as effective as specific praise for particular benefits. Avoid puffery, Bly advises. Hyperbole is easy to write, but resist the temptation to use it – and avoid including testimonials that sound like exaggerated plugs for your product, even if they are genuine.

Bly warns against “polishing” plain prose to make it sound better. “Rough, even ungrammatical” quotes are good, because they will be seen as authentic, he says.

Authenticity is the key.

When Kathy Gulrich was a fledgling advertising executive working on a farm chemicals account, she was sent out to record interviews with farmers to be used as testimonials. What she heard blew her away: “It wasn’t so much what the farmers said, but how they said it. They spoke with conviction – clearly from a place of knowledge and experience. Every interview flowed with the rhythms of regional dialect, personal anecdotes, and touches of humor. Man, these guys were so real!” said Gulrich in Build Your Business with Testimonials.

The authenticity of these testimonials, Gulrich said, struck a chord with other farmers – and the series of ads based on them outperformed all previous advertising for the company.

Keep these issues in mind the next time you write (or review) a promotion for your product or service, and you’re sure to see an increase in your sales.

[Ed. Note: Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Palm Beach Letter. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.]

Mark Morgan Ford

Mark Morgan Ford was the creator of Early To Rise. In 2011, Mark retired from ETR and now writes the Wealth Builders Club. His advice, in our opinion, continues to get better and better with every essay, particularly in the controversial ones we have shared today. We encourage you to read everything you can that has been written by Mark.