This article is part of the, “But WHY, Naomi?” series.
Testimonials are usually approached from the perspective of hard results. Conventional wisdom dictates that if people can see exactly how well a product or service performs, they’ll be more likely to buy it.
I lost X pounds!
I got Y dates!
I scored Z followers!
Conventional wisdom also says that bigger is better. The bigger the results, the bigger the selling power.
- “I lost 120 pounds” is bigger, and therefore better, than “I lost 12.”
- “I got 50 dates” is bigger, and therefore better, than “I got 5.”
- “I scored 100,000 followers” is is bigger, and therefore better, than “I got 192.”
I’ve always taken a different approach in the testimonials I publish, both on the products in my store, and with the coaching that I offer. (There’s one exception, and I’ll tell you about that in a moment.).
For me, selling has never been about proving that a product or service works. For me, the assumption is that the product or service damned well better work, because if it doesn’t, you’re on the road to Refundville. And nobody refers their friends to things that don’t work.
My approach – and I think it’s an effective one, as I’ve never had more than a 3% refund rate in an industry where 20%+ is the norm – is to focus my testimonials on what the customer experience is. Not what they achieve, not what they accomplish, but how they feel about their direct experience.
People click buy once they feel safe and comfortable enough to do so.
There are dozens or hundreds of products and services that you have not purchased yet – and perhaps never will – even though you know they will work. Even though you know they’re good. Even though you know that a bamillion other people have experienced big results.
You’ve seen the testimonials and reviews for those things. And yet? You don’t buy. Something inside you isn’t quite ready yet. The product or service may be awesome, but maybe you’re not feeling comfortable with how awesome YOU are.
That exercise equipment? You don’t know if you’ll use it.
That coach? You don’t know how you’d feel about that level of accountability.
That online course? You don’t know if you’re going to ever open it up and use it.
So you’re not comfortable. You don’t know if you’re going to regret the purchase, or end up feeling good about it, whether it’s because you didn’t open it, or you didn’t like the coach or trainer who made the product.
Uncomfortable, unsure people don’t buy. They’re what I refer to as “almost buyers”, the people who are really, really interested in making the purchase, but are either feeling skittish or they don’t have enough supporting information to make it a done deal in their heads.
To get around this, I use experience-based testimonials.
Take a look at my coaching page. There’s not one single result there. No mentions of revenue growth, or list growth, or anything like that. It’s just people talking about what working with me is like.
When Kris sent testimonial requests to the clients you see on that page, she specifically asked them to leave out anything about results. The testimonial request was centered around how I made these clients feel about themselves, their business, and their time together with me.
The goal of these testimonials was to create a feeling of safety and comfort for potential new clients when it came to how they would feel talking to me on the phone. If they’re thinking of hiring a marketing coach, that’s a relationship of sorts. New people have to have some data to decide if the relationship sounds like the kind of thing that would click with them.
This is especially true with introverts and more creative people. They want to know that their coach will listen, will be kind to them, and will pay attention to the unique characteristics of their business.
Essentially, experience-based testimonials are really good at helping someone figure out if I’m “their kind of person”.
But what about products? Don’t you need numbers to sell?
Not in my experience, no. Numbers or results alone aren’t indicative of anything. That’s why they have to put that asterisk next to them to say, “results not typical”.
(Aside: The most hilarious sales email I’ve ever seen came from Frank Kern, who said successful results were NOT typical, and that the typical person buying his program would probably use the DVDs as coasters.)
When someone sees a result or a number in a testimonial for a product, they always have to kind of ask themselves in the back of their minds, will this give me the same result? This is especially true in business, because the difference between any two businesses is like apples and rocketships. Just because one person used this product to grow their Pinterest follow count by 100,000 people, doesn’t mean someone else can. Or will. Or even wants to.
But experience is different. If one person found a product easy-to-follow, or straightforward, or funny, or encouraging, chances are high that other people will too. Because emotional experiences are far more universal. We all know how feelings feel.
When a bunch of people are saying the experience felt good, that resonates. That creates safety and comfort. And in my experience, that gets a lot of those “almost buyers” to become “actual buyers”.
Should everyone do what I’m doing with their testimonials?
I won’t say yes. I’ve been doing this for over a decade, and I have a degree of name recognition. I’m also not trying to maximize sales of my products and services. I’m not trying to convince anyone to buy. So am I making fewer sales than I might if I was all about the numbers?
Maybe. But my clients and customers always feel safe. And that has created a culture of repeat purchases from the IttyBiz family, so it’s working for me.
You said there was one exception. What is it?
The one exception I’ve made to this is with the testimonials for The 1-Hour Content Plan.
Those testimonials do have numbers in them, because I explicitly promise that you can use it to come up with at least 81 viable content ideas in 1 hour or less using the process inside.
With a promise that explicit, I chose testimonials that supported that promise. But in that case, it wasn’t to show how big the numbers worked out to. It was to demonstrate that real people, in varied industries, were able to hit at least 81 ideas in an hour or less.
One more thing: Experience-based testimonials are easier to write.
One of the problems people run into with results-based testimonials is that you have to wait for the results. Not everyone will use your product, or use it immediately, or achieve great things with it right away. If you have to wait around for that, you have a bottleneck to deal with.
Like, if you’re a personal trainer, and you specialize in helping people who are morbidly obese and they’ve tried everything. You may have a 100% success rate with them. These clients may love you more than anything else on earth. They may pay for their freaking friends to have a session with you – you’re that good.
Are they all ready to give you a written testimonial with pictures? Probably not. Waiting around for a bunch of morbidly obese people to feel comfortable enough with their body to talk about their weight and take before-and-after photos… yeah. That’s going to take a while.
If you go with the other approach, though, your clients can sing your praises now. “Holy cow, I feel totally understood. I love that she gave me a workout plan that accounted for my bum knees. AND I started losing weight way faster than I expected!” doesn’t require that an active client feels “done” before they can write about their experience.
This is true with my clients, too. If you hire a coach to help you grow your list, you can’t give them a numbers-based testimonial until you have numbers to report. Plus, you have to be willing to divulge that information publicly, which not everyone is willing to do.
(Advice: And they probably shouldn’t. The internet lasts forever, and you have no control over how people use your testimonials in the future. You may not want to blast your list size, your launch numbers, or your money problems all over someone else’s sales page. You're welcome.)
But experience-based testimonials are easy for a client or customer to write, which means they’re far more likely to do it.
Easier for me. Easier for the customer. Everybody wins.
Click here to read more in the “But Why, Naomi?” series.
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