I’d found just the right book for my vacation last week
…or so I thought! I had been taken in by the back cover, the table of contents, and a five-star rating on Amazon, so now I was all set for some truly juicy new business-related revelations.
I could hardly wait to begin. The first few chapters began enjoyably enough, but they weren’t too helpful. Hmmmmm. I kept going. The middle didn’t exactly light my socks ablaze either, but I trudged on, certain I’d discover some content worthy of all those five-star ratings. Nope: it was a complete dud. Don’t you hate when that happens?
But you know, it got me thinking…
What makes a review, testimonial, or endorsement especially effective… and how can you create one?
– Want to slice through the hoopla & recognise a useful review when you see it?
– Want to compose more impactful recommendations for your friends & co-workers?
– Want to leverage more compelling testimonials & endorsements from your consumers, clients, & buyers?
You can- – and it’s surprisingly easy to do.
There are the pair of basic elements that will make all the difference in winning over an audience.
Before I share them, though, we’ll first take a quick moment to realise what’s occuring when folks use reviews, recommendations, endorsements, & other kinds of ‘social proof. ‘
Each one of these things are tools that help people reduce risk and make a case for their decision to purchase- – or reject- – a specific product, service, or idea. People understand that they’re being “sold”, and these tools enable them to step away from the marketer by giving attention to the “objective” voices of other purchasers. What they are truly attempting to do is to decide if they can replicate the experience other folks have had.
Think about it for a moment. When you read a review, aren’t you truly trying to answer questions like these?
– Is this person like me?
– Did they have an issue like the one I have?
– Do I suspect this product/service/idea resolved their issue?
– Is this solution something I can apply to my present situation as well?
Sure! And because that’s what people are thinking, a useful review, recommendation, or testimonial must do two key things: 1) concentrate on a specific problem and 2) provide specific details.
A problem-centered viewpoint is the key to convincing a doubtful audience.
Go to LinkedIn.com and have a look at the testimonials folks have written for each other. You’ll soon see that all those well-meaning blurbs mix together pretty quickly: “Sandy is the sharpest person I have ever worked with”; “Lynn is a real accounting whiz!”; “Bob is smart, nice, and tons of fun!”
It’s no different for products & services, either- – they are “all good”, all the time.
The result? Even though reviews can be handy, we start to discount them. We start to see all that fluff and puffery as nothing more than hype and hyperbole.
You can change that. Small business expert Sean d’Souza advises an extremely handy tool called the “Reverse Testimonial.” Reverse testimonials are particularly persuasive because they start with a nagging doubt/problem and then go on to show the way in which the person, product, or service triumphed over that initial objection.
Let’s re-do our LinkedIn examples to see this system at work:
– “Too many PhDs are full of ‘head-knowledge ‘ and can’t cross the bridge from theory-land into the real world. Sandy is different. Sandy takes all that intellectual horse-power and channels it into practical solutions, like the time…”
– “I thought all advertising execs were shallow, flashy folks who just wanted to win awards for creating hip commercials until I met Lynn. What Lynn does is…”
– “When you first meet Bob, he looks like a scurvy pirate, but really, he is smart, nice, and tons of fun!”(wink- – simply a reminder to use this technique with discretion).
Do you see what a difference this system can make? And obviously, it’s not just for giving recommendations. The next time you ask for testimonials on your business, encourage your clients to talk about their primary concern (s) and what happened once they went forward with you.
Deliver more details to improve your impact.
The strongest reviews, recommendations, & endorsements provide precise details to help an audience internalize if a solution will work for them.
This weekend, a coupon in the Sunday paper for a dog-and-cat-hair product featured a marvelous quote signed by “Pet Owner in NY City.” Pet Owner in N. Y. City? ! Can we narrow that down just a little, fellows? ! Wouldn’t you be more predisposed to trust a testimonial from “Barbara in the Bronx”? Or better yet ,: “Barbara Jenkins, Bronx, NY “, with a picture of both Barbara and her ‘baby ‘, followed by a story about how difficult it is to get Bailey’s brown fur off her favorite living room chair and light-colored carpet before visitors arrive? Can’t you see how those explicit details might really connect with this corporation’s target audience?
Looking for particular details makes you a more discerning consumer, too. If I had taken a few additional moments to really read some of the five-star reviews on amazon.com for that new business book I just read, I could have discerned that they were full of puffery & low in detailed business or marketing insights. What a great reminder: any time a seller uses the ‘friends-and-family ‘ plan to score near-perfect ratings, it’s “buyer beware!”
So remember- – it’s all about clearing up the problem and adding credible details:
To read, write, or leverage reviews to your benefit, first identify the real issue that must be unravelled and then add supporting details that make it more relevant to a particular situation.
So the next time you give or get a recommendation, try these 2 straightforward steps… You and your audience will appreciate the difference they can make!
Marie Elwood is an Atlanta marketing strategy consultant who helps top branding companies with new products and consumer insights.