Nearly across the board, we recommend that clients include customer testimonials on their websites.

Testimonials allow you to incorporate an objective perspective on your business as part of your marketing. They let you showcase how great your business is — without having to say it yourself.

Here are some other reasons why testimonials are so important, and some tips on using them successfully.

Don’t be a salesman.
Yes, you need to include compelling features and benefits on your site. That’s marketing 101. But Nielsen studies have shown that recommendations from people you know or opinions written by consumers online are the most trusted forms of advertising.

So readers will take your marketing copy into consideration when they’re making a buying decision. But they’re more likely to be convinced by product reviews and testimonials written by other consumers. That includes everything from reviews on Expedia and Amazon, to case studies that include customer comments,  to customer quotes in the sidebars of a B2B site.

Include  testimonials that resonate.
Another study, this one by Edelman, showed that people trust their peers as the best source of information about a company. And the individual they most trust as a company spokesman is “a person like me.”

So when you’re thinking about asking customers to write a testimonial, think first about the potential customers you want to reach. Which of your current customers are most like your target customers? Try to include testimonials from customers who your prospects are likely to see as people “just like them.” Those testimonials will be the most meaningful and have the most impact.

Include specific results.
Testimonials are at their most powerful when they include tangible details. Check out this testimonial, for example, from a website we built for Burton Pools: Our in-floor cleaning system …  is now the talk of the neighborhood because it is so efficient and keeps the pool looking so clean and inviting. Larry helped me draw the outline on the lawn and spent a lot of time developing what we had in mind to do, while staying within our budget. Grant, Robert, Josh, Terrell, and Mark worked harder in the heat of the summer than anyone I have ever seen. Jessie even got in the cold water to monitor the in-floor system without a complaint. I had wanted a pool all my life and this is truly a dream come true built by a “dream team.”

If you had to choose between a builder with that kind of specific testimonial on their site, versus one with no testimonial, which would you choose?

Be real.
If you’re going to the trouble to include testimonials on your site, make sure they’re from real people. Reading a glowing testimonial from “Susan T. in Florida” is meaningless—even if Susan actually exists. If you don’t have customers who are willing to stand behind their testimonials with a full name (and, even better, a company and title), you probably shouldn’t have testimonials on your site at all.

And one final caution. Don’t even think about asking your marketing staff to pen bogus testimonials or product reviews. One company who did this is now paying out $300,000 in penalties to the State of New York. If they weren’t sure customers trusted them beforehand … now they know.

Want to talk to Atomic about developing strong content for your website?