14 Apr


I’ll put this out there straight away: I’m not a fan of testimonials on websites, or any marketing literature.

I understand that they serve as social proof of the good service that you / your company offer, but …

Anyone can make up a testimonial, by writing something positive about their own company and sticking a random person’s name after it.
… or, a copywriter could do it – I’ve been approached to make up testimonials in the past.
As my job is all about writing in different voices, it wouldn’t have been hard for me to do it, and have the testimonials all appear as if they were written by different people.

In any case, think about it: how often do you query a company’s testimonials? How often do you say to a company; ‘actually, can I phone up the person who gave this testimonial, please?’
It’s just not something we really do. It seems a bit aggressive.

The other thing that I see, are testimonials which have come from close friends or business associates of people. For business owners I know, I’ll visit their website and see five testimonials, four of which have come from friends who’ve written them as a favour, rather than from genuine customers/clients – another reason I don’t trust testimonials.

However, if you do want to use testimonials, and have them on your website / in your marketing brochure, I suggest the following:

* Show five, carefully selected testimonials. Few people will bother to read more than five, plus it forces you to choose your very best ones, rather than every testimonial you’ve ever received.

* Try to use testimonials which mention specifics about a job you did for a client, or a problem you solved, rather than testimonials which praise you for general things, like ‘great service’.

* Keep the testimonials short and sweet (or ask the client to ‘just write a few lines’). Beyond five or six lines, no-one will read a full testimonial and it’ll just take up space: no-one is going to read a full paragraph that just goes on and on.

* People may disagree with me on this, but I say copy and paste testimonials (typos included) from e.g the client’s email, so they retain their individuality and look like they were written by real people. They look too polished if they’re all perfect and written in the same tone.

* A repetition of an earlier point, but worth repeating: do not write them all yourself, or fake them. It shows.
One of the worst examples I saw of this was someone who’d started every ‘testimonial’ on his website with ‘I endorse’. This is too awkward a phrase to appear once, let alone five times, in testimonials … unless they’d all been written by the same person.

*I’d also say, it’s worth being brave and retaining details of those who gave you testimonials. If they’re genuine testimonials, and you’re good at what you do, you’ll happy to let potential clients check them out.

So, that’s it: I’m not a huge fan of testimonials, but I do understand how they can be used as social proof, and that there are good and bad ways to write them up.

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