It’s common knowledge that testimonials are a good thing. They’re frequently used in sales and marketing material to increase what we call “social proof”. However, don’t stop collecting them once you feel like you have enough to use in your marketing material. There are other benefits in collecting testimonials you might not realize. Even if no one sees them, collecting testimonials will boost referrals. Here’s how.
Humans are amazing beings and our brains work with remarkable efficiency. In fact our brains use all kinds of tricks and shortcuts to help us make decisions quickly. One of those shortcuts is that your brain processes decisions quicker when a similar decision has been made in the past. Another is that we are consistent with prior decisions, especially when we’ve made it publicly known how we feel. We’ve all experienced this one time or another. For example when two people don’t agree on something it can be difficult for one person to see the other person’s point of view. Many arguments are simply our minds trying to be efficient, it’s being consistent with what we’ve already decided. In fact, people that are great at conflict resolution are really good at giving the other party an “out”, or making them feel comfortable with changing their mind.
So what does all of this have to do with testimonials? Knowing how our brains strive to be consistent with themselves will do more than help you smooth over an argument here and there. It’s also a weapon you can use with referrals. When someone publicly shares how they feel about you and your company they’re much more likely to share that again with their friends. Don’t be surprised when they give their friend almost the exact same language in their testimonial either.
Recently I was talking with a friend about a set of headphones I should buy for work. He told me, “Torey get the Bose QuietComfort 15’s. The noise cancellation works remarkably well and are very comfortable to wear for a long period.” So that’s what I plan to buy. But the kicker is that he later sent me a link to a full review on Amazon he had done with almost the exact same words! Would he have recommended the headphones to me if he hadn’t written the review, possibly. But I can certainly tell you because he did write the review there was absolutely no hesitation when he gave me the recommendation. He knew what to say, and had already made up in his mind that they were the best headphones available. To get the most referrals, customers have to be ready to give them, and know what to say when the opportunity arises. I can guarantee that had my friend not given a review on Amazon he wouldn’t have been as confident with his recommendation, and I might not have taken it as positively as I did.
As a bonus, because we like to be consistent with ourselves there’s also a positive increase in loyalty when a customer gives a testimonial. Yes, people that give testimonials are more likely to be a long-term customer.
To sum things up it’s important to note that like everything else we talk about, testimonials are only one piece of the puzzle. It’s true that they’ll move the needle, but don’t assume your work is done when someone gives a testimonial. They’re not guaranteed to be a loyal customer and pile on the referrals only because of a testimonial. Instead, it’s about implementing a consistent and ongoing referral strategy that combines several things that work well together to move the needle. Collecting testimonials should be one of those things.
P.S. If you’re interested in learning more about how we as humans make decisions (including how we are consistent with ourselves) I strongly recommend reading Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini. He’s conducted many experiments on human behavior that will give you a new understanding of how our brains work.