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Before buying a book or a pair of headphones from Amazon, it's highly likely you'd read a few reviews to ensure you're making the right decision. For consumers, reviews are vital in helping make purchasing decisions. But the same is also true for organizations that buy a product or service from other businesses.

In the case of business-to-business (B2B) marketing, testimonials can carry a lot of weight in highly competitive markets and must be carefully planned and executed. Before choosing which company to purchase from, B2B buyers spend a long time considering their budgets, product effectiveness, vendor professionalism—and the testimonials of peers.

B2B companies know how to talk up their products or services, emphasizing how efficient and cost-effective they are. But customers don't want marketing spiel; they want balanced and unbiased feedback from people they can relate to. They also want concrete figures and results.

Testimonials build trust between the company and its users, and they help customers overcome any skepticism they might have. They also allow for comparison among similar products, which might help you get the edge over your competitors.

A good testimonial outlines key benefits, makes comparisons with other products, and backs up the claims you've made about your product or service. That's why many businesses choose to include a form of testimonial in their marketing. But some are more effective than others.

Research

Research backs up the claim that customer testimonials are effective. Testimonials beat all other types of content marketing for their effectiveness, WebDAM found:

Some 78% of people say they trust reviews as much as recommendations from acquaintances, and it's interesting to note that the inclusion of both positive and negative reviews is perceived as more trustworthy than just positive reviews.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, 30% of people suspected some form of censorship, so it's important to make testimonials appear as genuine as possible.

Research also demonstrates that not overwhelming your users is best, so picking no more than 3-5 examples is enough to provide an effective testimony.

Three Testimonial Types

Quotes

The simplest forms of testimonial are quotes and feedback from customers or clients about their experience with your firm or product. Those can then be displayed on websites and social media pages as well as print collateral.

In the age of short attention spans, such quotes should be succinct and snappy to catch attention immediately. The testimonial comments should usually give information on how customers found the process, how effective the service or product was, and whether they would recommend it to other businesses.

One benefit of displaying quotes is that they are relatively easy to get hold of: They just require contacting a few customers and kindly requesting comments.

However, they may not always be as valuable and effective as other methods. Quotes could easily be embellished or made up, so they might not appear as trustworthy as other testimonial methods. Therefore, to make quotes seem as real as they actually are, include the person's name, company, other information, as appropriate.

Case Studies

For digital B2B organizations, case studies are particularly powerful, showcasing the results delivered to a previous client. These real-life stories should be informative and more in-depth than simple quotes. They could also include infographics or graphs demonstrating results over time, or images and screenshots that detail the process.

They should outline the background of the company that used your service, what problems it was aiming to address, why it chose your company, how it found the process of using your product or service, and what impact it had on the company and ROI.

Case studies are particularly powerful when featured on your website, but also on third-party sites.

Here's a general guideline of what a case study should probably include:

  • Mention the challenge the client company faced. For example, perhaps it wasn't ranking well in search engine results.
  • The solution would therefore be provided by your digital marketing company specializing in SEO.
  • Both firms would work together to implement a strategy.
  • The case study would then present the results: how the collaboration made a difference to rankings and ROI. In this example, it might be displayed as a graph demonstrating increase in traffic or screenshots of search results pages.
  • Finally, the case study would offer a recommendation by the client company to others in the same situation as they.

One disadvantage to this method is that it can be too much for some people to take in, especially if a lot of data is included.

Videos

For most of us, videos are a more impactful, believable, and memorable testimonial method than many others. You can see someone's body language and better gauge their emotions in videos, which are also more memorable and relatable. Furthermore, most people are visual learners, and so they prefer watching and listening over reading.

Videos are also good for your website's bounce and conversion rates, which improve your SEO and ROI, respectively.

There are some cons to videos, however. They could slow down your website, and they rely on people to click on them (if you haven't set up autoplay, which is not usually a good idea), and they might not watch the entire video. Many people might not bother, particularly if the video is not engaging in the first few seconds or if it's of poor quality.

Another downside is that videos can be more time-consuming and expensive to produce, so they aren't the best option for everyone.

Ways to Collect Testimonials

Surveys

One easy way to gain testimonial quotes is a simple and short survey, whereby you ask questions relating to the experience of the customer. You can take quotes from the responses—so long as you gain permission to do so.

Another idea is to offer an incentive—for example, entry into a random prize drawing—for anyone who fills out the survey.

Your survey can be sent via email. Ensure the questionnaire is not so long that it overwhelms the respondent, and ask questions that would elicit quotable answers you can use. Check your survey instrument and gain feedback on it before you let it go live.

Existing Reviews

If you have a Trust Pilot, Yotpo, or Google account, you might already have reviews online. You could take those directly or approach the customers who wrote them for more feedback. If you're asking for further comments, don't be overly pushy.

Using Someone Relatable

Ideally, you'll choose to quote people who will have a lot in common with your target audience. Those commonalities will make them relatable to whoever is reading or listening, and those readers or listeners will trust the review more than they otherwise might.

Not Being 'Salesy'

Being too salesy is a sure way to put off potential customers: They have come for some genuine feedback on the service, they don't want a sales pitch. So ensure that testimonials are direct from your customers or clients rather than having been penned by you for them.

Comparisons

Comparisons are powerful in reviews: They give the potential customer a more concrete idea of your services and can help them stand apart.

* * *

Overall, when you ask a customer for a testimonial, you're proving that his or her opinion matters to you. That can go a long way toward building a lasting relationship.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
image of Ella Patenall

Ella Patenall is a content marketer at Inspiring Interns & Graduates, a UK-based graduate-recruitment agency. She writes about marketing, HR, and careers.

LinkedIn: Ella Patenall