Testimonials and the power of social proof

Loom bands

Loom bands are a perfect example of how word of mouth recommendations and testimonials can sell a product

Over the past few weeks, I have been marvelling at the power of testimonials, social proof and word of mouth recommendations to sell a product.

Loom bands. If you’re a parent to a child between the ages of six and eleven, I’m sure you know what I mean. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, don’t worry, you’ll find out soon as I’m told loom bands have left the playground to cross into the mainstream, adorning the wrists of celebrities and public figures such as the Duchess of Cambridge, the Duchess of Cornwall, David Beckham and Fearne Cotton.

Isn’t it strange how every once in a while a new craze sweeps the nation? A month ago, I’d never heard of loom bands and now I’m our family’s chief loom band designer and maker. My boys – who, stereotypically, favour colours such as blue and green – adorn their wrists with a vibrant collection of neon pink, orange, purple, yellow and rainbow coloured loom band bracelets (with some black and camouflage designs thrown into the mix for fun). They spend hours sitting around with their friends making bracelets for one another and trying out new techniques from YouTube tutorials.

My oldest son even put together an impressive pitch about why 300 loom bands for a £1 is a great way to spend his pocket money; he pointed out benefits such as strengthening his fingers (good for writing), encouraging his creativity and keeping him  away from the XBox as reasons we should head into town at the earliest opportunity to stock up. With benefits like that, I was sold, but what sold me on them even more was my son’s enthusiasm.

Just this morning, another mum approached me in the playground because I was wearing this morning’s loom band creations by my six-year-old to ask where she could buy them for her son.

The whole loom band phenomenon just goes to show how word of mouth recommendations can make a huge difference to sales. They create desirability, aspiration, inspiration, and a sense of being part of a group or tribe (and it’s not just primary school children who respond to these things).

So, the question is, are you using leveraging the power of word of mouth recommendations, reviews and testimonials to boost your business?

Do you collect and use testimonials in your marketing? Do you have a Google My Business (formerly Google Places) page for your customers to leave reviews? Are people using social media to talk about your business, services or products?

Or are you vaguely cynical about the power of customer reviews having seen some obviously fake testimonials in the past? They stand out a mile, don’t they?!

Perhaps you feel shy about asking your customers for testimonials or think that your customers will praise you unprompted for a job well done?

The harsh reality is that even when you have provided an outstanding service or life-changing product, your customers simply may not think or find the time to write a glowing testimonial without a gentle nudge from you. It’s not because they don’t value your business, it’s just that they’re busy.

I recently read an article about stats that should change businesses but haven’t on LinkedIn. Two of these stats were:

  • A dissatisfied customer will tell between 9-15 people about their experience. Around 13% of dissatisfied customers tell more than 20 people. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs
  • Happy customers who get their issue resolved tell about 4-6 people about their experience. – White House Office of Consumer Affairs

As these stats show, people are less likely to gush glowing praise than to air their grievances. That’s just human nature.

Testimonials help overcome fear

Testimonials help overcome the fear that potential customers may feel Photo credit: https://flic.kr/p/dCBurg

But, as business owners, we should all be actively asking for testimonials and using them to support our marketing efforts. In fact, testimonials, word of mouth recommendations and reviews could be some of the most powerful weapons in your marketing arsenal. Why? Because they remove the fear that is one of the biggest barriers to buying. 

When we are new to a company, despite the feeling that a specific product or service is exactly what we need, there’s always a nagging fear of the unknown. What if the purchase is a mistake? What if we don’t get value for money? What if the product doesn’t do what we believe it will do? What if we make fools of ourselves for putting our trust or money in the wrong place?

Testimonials are a fantastic way of telling potential customers that other people just like them have purchased from your company in the past and they were so pleased with their purchase that they’re happy to tell the world about it.

Building a bank of strong testimonials

The more you can support a product or service with genuine testimonials, the better. It’s equally important that your testimonials are strong. Too often, companies publish bland, generic testimonials that lose their impact.

In my opinion, it isn’t enough to feature a testimonial saying, “Thanks. Your web design service was great”. Your customers want to know why it was great, how was it better than all the other web design services out there?

A more powerful testimonial would be, “The responsive design of my new website is amazing. My customers love being able to view it from any device. It’s so user-friendly and my website traffic has gone up by 400% since the new website launched! Thank you for talking me through the content management system. Your clear instructions and patience have been amazing.”

A testimonial like this shows people the potential barriers to buying (e.g. worries about not being able to understand or use the content management system), the benefits of the service (website traffic has gone up), great features (responsive design) and the fact that customers love this because the website is more user friendly.

Which one would persuade you more?

Asking for testimonials

It’s a good idea to send your customers a polite email asking whether they’d be willing to provide a testimonial that you could use in your on and offline marketing materials. Be clear about how you intend to use the testimonial so there’s no confusion. To make life easier and take any stress out of the process. you can ask a few questions. Try these:

  1. Was there an obstacle that might have prevented you from buying this product? e.g price, not knowing enough about it, worries about understanding the technology, etc.?
  2. What happened as a result of buying this product?
  3. What one feature did you like most about this product?
  4. Can you name three other benefits of buying this product/service?
  5. Would you recommend this product? If so, why?
  6. Is there anything you’d like to add?

World famous copywriter, Bob Bly, recommends ending your email or letter by saying, “I look forward to learning what you like about my service but I also welcome any suggestions or criticisms, too”. This can help your customers to feel that their opinion is valued. It can also provide you with feedback to improve your products or services for future customers.

Steer clear of fakes

If you are shy about asking for testimonials, you might be tempted to write fake ones. Personally, I wouldn’t recommend that route. Even testimonials written by amazing copywriters don’t quite ring true.

The same goes for short testimonials, such as, “…..amazing….”, “….simply incredible….”, “….life changing….” as I think people can be quite cynical about the editing process. After all, these words might really have come from a complaint saying, “The incompetence of your company was simply incredible. I find it amazing that anyone can operate this way. I was looking for life changing but what I got was life draining!”

In the past I’ve had clients who’ve asked me to write a testimonial on their behalf for them to check and approve. I respect that people are busy but these days, I tend to respond saying that I would love to be able to use their own words because it feels more authentic and that I have provided a few questions to guide them. I’m not looking for War and Peace, just two or three sentences about the benefits of using my services.


When was the last time you asked for a testimonial? Do you routinely ask for them? Has anyone ever refused? Do you keep your testimonials on file? Do you remember to use them on and offline? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the Comments section below or over on my Facebook page.



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