Who Needs approval?
I would like to think that I don’t need other people’s seal of approval before making my decisions. I would like to think that I can choose a product or service that will be perfect for me without hearing other people’s opinions on the subject. But in all reality, it is a psychological fact that we all rely on other people’s opinions to make our at least some of our choices, especially in choosing goods and services.
When it comes to areas in which we do not have a lot of experience or knowledge, we tend to approach someone who does. That’s why there are specialists in so many areas. Think about this. If you want to build a house, you hire a builder. The builder may know a lot about building houses, but even he won’t complete the job alone- he will hire electricians, framers, plumbers, painters, etc. He trusts people who are more experienced in specialized areas than he is. He probably even hires his contractors based on recommendations and referrals. (I used to work for a builder, so I know!)
Does it really work?
Let’s apply this principle to selling online. Words are very powerful. When someone is marketing their own product or service, it is easy for them to “talk it up” or make it sounds like it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread (which we can all agree is a pretty convenient product). It is often more important to consumers to find out what their peers or previous consumers think of a product- how did it work? How pleased are they? Did it solve the problem it promised to solve? Did it achieve its intended goal?
Combined Insurance Company of America founder, W. Clement Stone, very successfully sold life insurance, an intangible product, to his customers by using this simple technique: He sent his salesmen out to speak to potential customers with only a binder of over 200 testimonials from previous satisfied customers. Salesmen would flip through the binder, read a few testimonials, and attempt to close the sale. If a customer was not sold, the salesman would flip through a few more testimonials, and attempt to close the sale once more. The rate at which customers signed up for his insurance was astounding! Usually before 25 testimonials, a sale was made.
Here is another example. A software developer created software and during its test phase, he gave it away to his target audience for free in exchange for their feedback. He received dozens of responses to his new program. Before he had content for his website, and while the website was under construction, he simply posted the feedback responses and testimonials. The only other information he gave was his email address, so prospective customers could contact him for more information. Needless to say, his tactic was proven to be quite successful, receiving hundreds of pre-orders!
What can I do?
In the internet world, where online marketing techniques are highly questionable, consumers often refer to forums, blogs, reviews and networking sites to find out whether a product or service is worth spending money on. It is always interesting to me that websites insert testimonials as an afterthought or an additional “content filler” if you will. But placed strategically, a testimonial within web copy or as a headline can help sell a product or service faster than a marketer selling his own product.
Now how can you get consumers to write a testimonial? This is actually pretty simple. Send clients or customers a brief request with a few short questions and ask them to complete this at their earliest convenience. These should be specific and quantifiable, such as “I received 5X more traffic after using this software,” or “I lost 10 pounds after using this product”, etc. If you cannot coax your customers to respond, then consider giving your product or services away for free in exchange for feedback. Never underestimate the power of social proof, acceptance and satisfaction.