How to Use Customer Testimonials in Advertising

Word of mouth can be a powerful marketing tool; after all, how many brands do you use in your daily life at the recommendation of a friend or family member? Customer testimonials make it possible for you to harness that power in your printed media.

Using the words of others helps to familiarize your audience with your brand, which makes them feel more comfortable crossing the threshold and making the commitment to your brand. However, you can’t just throw any testimonial examples onto your printed media and expect them to have an impact. You have to know how to obtain the best testimonials as well as how to use them to your advantage.

How to gather great testimonials from customers

  1. Never fabricate them

    The number one rule for how to get testimonials is this: never make them up. You might think that you can accurately reproduce a client’s voice, but your fake testimonials will never sound as real or authentic as a genuine one. Worst of all, you’ll do irreparable damage to the integrity of your brand if you’re found out.

    Example of a Customer's Handwritten Testimonial

    This testimonial was handwritten, which adds a natural touch and makes it clear to the reader that it’s authentic (not fabricated). Photo Credit: K. Nicole Murtagh

  2. Ask for customer feedback

    When clients have a positive experience with a brand, they’re usually willing to provide feedback, which is much easier to get than a testimonial. Not only will customer feedback give you a better understanding of how your brand is being perceived–it can always be turned into an effective testimonial later on.

    When put on the spot, many people will not give their honest feelings and will instead write what they think you want them to write. Asking for feedback instead of a testimonial ensures that the end result will be more organic and natural-sounding.

  3. Always ask permission

    Just because a customer said some nice things about your brand doesn’t mean you automatically have the right to reproduce it in your printed media. Always ask if you can use a statement as a testimonial and have the speaker sign a statement giving you permission to use what they said in your advertising.

    Never post a testimonial without asking permission. Not only could it lead to legal issues, you’ll also damage your brand’s reputation. You should also never attribute words to a customer if they’re not what the person actually said. Request the speaker’s approval of the final draft before it’s printed just in case you had to make any small edits for clarity.

  4. Ask people who reflect your target audience

    The people you use in your testimonials should reflect the target audience you want to reach with your printed materials. For example, if your product is intended for mothers, you’d want to use testimonials from other mothers.

    Testimonials work best when the audience can relate to the person giving them as closely as possible. This may mean being more specific; for example, first time mothers are a much different audience than mothers of teenagers.

    Targeting Your Audience with a Customer Testimonial

    Julie wants to promote her work as a copywriter, so she acquired testimonials from people similar to her target audience (creative executives and marketing directors). Photo Credit: Julie Rybarczyk

  5. Offer guidance

    Some clients would love to give a testimonial but don’t know what to say. In this case you can ask them to take a questionnaire or you can give them some suggestions and examples regarding what they might talk about.

    However, you want to avoid putting words in the customer’s mouth and situations where the customer wants you to write the testimonial for them. Again, this won’t be in their own authentic voice, so the testimonials will not be as effective. Instead, you can give your customers a basic idea of what to say, but ask that they put it in their own words.

  6. Sometimes testimonials come to you when you least expect them

    Every once in a while, a powerful endorsement may fall conveniently into your lap. You might have a customer or client who is excited about your brand and voluntarily offers praise.

    When you do receive good feedback out of the blue, ask the customer if they would allow you to use their statement in your advertising. If the feedback was given over the phone or in person, ask if they’d be willing to write down what they said.

    You can’t plan for unsolicited praise, but you can make it easier for your customers to leave feedback. Provide avenues for your customers to get in touch, such as a comment box, social media site or e-mail address.

  7. Get to know your loyal customers

    Building friendly relationships with your clients is a great way to receive feedback. The better the relationship, the more likely you can rely on them for a powerful testimonial when you need one. It’s a good idea to have a dozen or so loyal customers that you can call on at any given time.

  8. Consider testimonials from famous faces

    Attaching a famous face to a testimonial can give it more credibility since its coming from a recognizable figure.

    Example of a Celebrity Testimonial

    This testimonial for a written memoir carries extra weight because it comes from a well-known name: actor Neil Patrick Harris.

    Some people to consider include:

    • industry leaders
    • local celebrities
    • critics
    • big name clients
    • community leaders
    • local sports figures
    • miscellaneous famous people in general

    Avoid using testimonials from people who might be “infamous” or controversial (for instance, a politician known for making divisive comments). It’s not worth getting a name people know if it’ll tarnish your brand.

    You shouldn’t rely too heavily on famous faces because in the long run, it’s better to use testimonials from people that the target audience can relate to.

  9. Never pay for testimonials

    It’s rarely worth your money to pay for an endorsement. These so-called “guru” testimonials won’t help your brand because the people giving them will do so for any brand, which lessens the impact.

    However, it’s perfectly acceptable to offer a free gift or an incentive to the people you do use in your testimonials. A friendly gesture of thanks is always appreciated by customers and may lead to more positive feedback in the future.

  10. Give testimonials to get testimonials

    Sometimes you have to give a little to get a little. Offer testimonials to other businesses and you just might get the same in return. Choose a business that compliments your brand or brands that are well known. Again, you want to avoid “infamous” companies whose endorsement could damage your brand.

    When giving a testimonial to another company, make sure it’s of the same quality that you would hope to receive in return. It should be honest, authentic and relatable.

Best practices for using customer testimonials in your marketing

  1. Know the rules

    The Federal Trade Commission has set guidelines governing the use of testimonials and endorsements. Read over these guidelines before using testimonials in your print media to make sure you’re following the rules. For example, if a customer’s endorsement includes results that are not typical, you must include a disclaimer that states this.

  2. Don’t edit out the speaker’s voice

    Avoid making any edits if at all possible. Doing so will only take away from the unique voice that your customer has provided for you. Only make edits for clarity or to eliminate spelling errors.

    When you do make an edit, use brackets to indicate which areas you had to change. Do not add anything else to the testimonial that might change the message.

    Some examples:

    Original text – “He went out of his way to treat me like I was special.”

    Good: “[The salesperson] went out of his way to treat me like I was special.”

    Bad: “[The friendly salesperson] went out of his way to treat me like I was special.”

    When you do make edits, make sure the customer has a chance to see the changes and sign off on them before you publish anything.

  3. Include as many details about the speaker as possible

    An anonymous testimonial isn’t effective and comes across as untrustworthy. You need as much information as you can to show authenticity. Whenever possible, use a full first name, last name and a title.

    Titles should be used to indicate that the person is relatable to the target audience. Therefore, pick the title that is going to best show the audience that the speaker is “one of them.”

    For example, if you were targeting mothers in your print ad, you’d write “Jane Doe, Mother of Two” instead of “Jane Doe, Lawyer.” In some cases, you might use more than one title if the speaker has a secondary title that makes them well known or credible, such as: “Jane Doe, President of XYZ and Mother of Two.”

    Consider adding a geographical location (such as a city or state) that coincides with the location of your target audience. People are more willing to listen to members of their own community because they expect them to have similar values.

    You probably don’t want to include actual contact info such as a phone number or e-mail address, but a URL of the speaker’s website can add further credibility to their testimonial.

    Testimonial with Details About the Customer

    This testimonial includes the customer’s full name, title and even a URL so that readers can ensure she’s a real person. Photo Credit: TAMZ

  4. Use photos

    Adding a photo of the speaker adds to the credibility of the testimonial because it gives the reader a face to go along with their statement. Make sure that the photo is clear and that the customer looks happy.

    Never use stock photos or pictures of models to “fake” what the speaker might look like. Again, your audience will see right through it and you’ll lose the credibility you were seeking from using photos in the first place. Besides, your audience wants to see people that look like the ones they see in their everyday lives.

    You can also include pictures of the product or service that the customer is talking about, especially if you can get one of them actually using the product in action. This increases the authority of the testimonial and helps to quell any fears or reprehension that your audience might have.

    Testimonial with Customer's Photo

    This ad contains a testimonial as well as photo of both the customer and the product (a professionally organized closet). Photo Credit: Laura Stafford

  5. Use testimonials that solve a problem or answer a question

    When selecting which testimonials to use in your print materials, focus on the examples that demonstrate how your brand or product solved a particular problem. This problem should be relatable to the target audience, preferably something they themselves might have had to deal with.

    Testimonials can also answer questions or quell any fears that your audience might have about your brand. This makes it easier for customers to take the plunge and make a commitment to your product or service.

    For example

    “I was surprised by how easy it was to order online.”
    “I’ve never had a bad meal from this restaurant, the food is always prepared with the finest care.”

    “I needed to get a last-minute haircut and I was worried I would need to make an appointment, but they found a way to fit me in and my hair looked fantastic!”

  6. Stay specific

    Not all testimonials are beneficial to your brand. Only use examples that are detailed and specific. Generic testimonials are not as strong, even if they give your brand a lot of praise.

    A good endorsement should add context and details to help you prove a point or deliver a message. Learn to spot the difference between generic feedback and a specific testimonial.

    Generic Feedback: “I love going to Dr. Stark! He’s so friendly and caring!”

    Specific Testimonial: “I used to be afraid of going to the dentist, but Dr. Stark and his staff helped me get over my fear by answering my questions and keeping me as comfortable as possible.”

    Example of a Detailed Customer Testimonial

    This testimonial is extra-authoritative because it contains very specific details from the customer.
    Photo Credit: Hatch Design Group

  7. Share the praise with others

    If you receive a customer testimonial that includes other brand names or products, don’t edit them out or throw them away just because you want the audience to focus on your own brand or product. In some cases, including a competitor’s name can give you an advantage over them, especially when used for comparisons. For example:

    “Brand X green tea tastes just as great as Brand Y… and it costs less, too!”

    Mentioning your brand alongside other well-known brands can help you piggy-back on their good reputation. Additionally, testimonials that mention brands that aren’t direct competitors might even lead to future business partnerships.

  8. Testimonials should be easily scanned

    Like any printed media, your testimonials should be easily scanned, not hidden within a wall of text. Use bold and italics to highlight the most important segments, especially if the testimonial is on the longer side.

    Separate your endorsements from the other elements in your media through use of block quoting and quotation marks.

    Example of a Scannable Customer Testimonial

    This mailer uses quotation marks and bolding to make the testimonial stand out. Photo Credit: Lisa Yudin

  9. Pair testimonials with relevant copy

    The location of your testimonials can affect their effectiveness. Sometimes they work best near the areas of your copy that are most applicable to the quote. For example, if you have a section of a brochure talking about your product is reliable; include some testimonials that back up these claims.

    If your media has more than one page, consider putting a testimonial on every one, ensuring that each one is relevant to the information given on that page.

Conclusion

Whether or not you use it for testimonials, it’s crucial to receive customer feedback because it lets you know what you’re doing right. Glowing endorsements not only boost your brand and advertising, they boost the spirit of your employees and act as a reminder that there are people who appreciate the hard work you all do together.

Do you have any tips for acquiring good testimonials? Have you received a particularly powerful testimonial that you’d be willing to share? Leave your thoughts and examples in the comments!

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How to Use Customer Testimonials in Advertising

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Posted in Copywriting, Marketing

One Response to “How to Use Customer Testimonials in Advertising”

  • Jeremy says:

    This article provided good information about customer testimonials. This is something that we are beginning to implement at TexVisions and the guidance provided will help. The handwritten note in the first example really stood out and went together so well with the products. Also, the information about staying specific makes the comments stand out and differentiates them from some that look like the business wrote them and the put anonymous at the end.


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