I saw an ad for a weight loss program the other day that utilized before and after shots and user testimonials that were so unbelievable that I completely tuned out what they were saying and ultimately forgot who the company was. In this case, that’s probably a good thing! These sorts of testimonials that seem staged, coerced, or even slightly enhanced do more damage to your brand than good.
Testimonials are most effective when they are REAL and demonstrate their credibility.
That’s why the best kind of testimonial is called the reverse testimonial. These are the kind that start off with doubt or some sort of skepticism before moving into why the person recommends your business, which differs greatly to the saccharin testimonials that are usually too good to be true.
When a review starts off on the negative side, it actually triggers a psychological response of identifying with the reviewer. When someone is reading a review, they are typically evaluating your business. What sort of attitude do you typically have when you are evaluating a business? Skeptical. So, right off the bat, this review identifies with most users making it feel more personal and credible.
A reverse testimonial will then go on to demonstrate how they went from skeptical (or less than positive) to the point where they are now writing a recommendation for your business, despite their initial skeptical attitude. The best reviews will describe the specific problem they were having, how your business solved it, and by describing their unique situation to identity them as a person. These sorts of descriptors will make the review more relevant and believable to other viewers. It takes them on a personal, emotional journey leaving the reader ready to hug you.
A client that reads a reverse testimonial feels satisfied because the testimonial was not overly glowing and crammed full of every positive adjective they could find in the dictionary. Your readers will come away feeling like the review was based on reality, allowing him or her to associate with the reviewer, feeling like they were experiencing the same problem, needed the same solution, and lived in a similar world as himself. This is a much better place than rolling their eyes at the obviously staged testimonials.
This is NOT to suggest that you write better reviews for yourself, it’s to illuminate the fact that testimonials based on reality that have a bit of bitter and sweet are the better representation of your brand integrity. Let it all hang out and you’ll get much, much better results for your new client efforts.