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How to Boost Conversions by Letting the Customer Do Your Marketing for You

by Dustin Walker

Your customer testimonials deserve the spotlight.

They should be front-and-center on your landing page. The headliner. The star attraction.

And yet, all-too-often, you see these vital elements of social proof treated like bit-players on the most important conversion-focused pages. They’re buried far below the hero section or crammed into some tough-to-see spot.

And that is one huge missed opportunity. Sorta like casting De Niro to play the dead guy on CSI.

Now, there’s been loads of articles written about how quality customer testimonials build trust, add credibility and generally fire up the conversion rate of landing pages. So I’m not going to re-cap those here (you can find an interesting list of testimonial facts in this post).

Instead, this article aims to show you how giving your testimonials the lead role on your landing pages can — in some situations — result in a juicy spike in conversions.

I’m talking about really playing them up like this:

Mobile Google Analytics

No missing that testimonial — or the guy who said it.

This beautiful snippet of social proof dominates the hero section. It’s personal. It’s believable. And it’s a fine example of the type of authoritative testimonial that’s worthy of being given center stage on a landing page.

Now, marketers today have a lot of amazing design and copy options for crafting the perfect hero section. So you might be wondering…

Why Make a Testimonial The Focus of Your Page?

Because your prospects are skeptical.

Even if you’ve nurtured your audience, there is likely going to be some level of doubt in the reader’s mind before they convert into a lead or customer. When they hit your landing page, they may wonder about things like:

Can I really believe what this headline is promising?

Why should I trust this company?

Is what they’re offering really a good fit for me?

But the right testimonials can blast through these doubts by immediately delivering a giant dose of proof. They build an instant bond with your prospects, showing them within seconds that your product or service solves problems for people exactly like them.

This is part of the reason why word of mouth is the driving force behind 20-50% of all purchasing decisions.

But testimonials won’t do you much good unless your readers can see them.

Prominence is Key For Results

Simply making a great testimonial more prominent on a page can have a huge impact on conversions.

Michael Aagaard, senior conversion optimizer at Unbounce, increased ebook downloads by 64.53% simply by moving two testimonials to a more prominent position on the page:

ContentVerve Control and Treatment

Image source

Why did this work so well? Aagaard’s hypothesis was that people often question whether a free ebook is really worth reading.

So to overcome this mental barrier, he increased the likelihood that visitors would see a pair of highly credible and authoritative testimonials.

And other companies have seen similar wins by making their testimonials even more prominent on their landing page. Sometimes, in a major way.

I’ll get to those examples shortly. But first, I want to make it clear that not all testimonials are worthy of that lead spot.

Believability is everything. If visitors suspect your testimonials are fake or embellished, nothing else you say will matter. They just aren’t going to trust you.

So that means, at minimum, your ‘star’ testimonial should:

  • Be from someone your customers can relate to. According to implicit egotism theory, we tend to trust or be more interested in people who are either like us or who we aspire to be like. So your testimonials must be from folks who reflect how your prospects see themselves.
  • Communicate a specific benefit or counter a serious objection. Details are key here. Testimonials that just use vague statements or include general praise for your company won’t resonate with anyone.
  • Include a real photo of the customer; not a cheesy stock pic. This is key for increasing the believability and trustworthiness of the testimonial. Adding other specific details, like their location or job title, also helps credibility as well.
  • Align with the goal of your page. If you know prospects arriving on your landing page are looking for a “quick” solution, going hard with a testimonial about how affordable your product is may not resonate as well with the audience.

With these points in mind, here are five ways to boost conversions by making a testimonial the ‘star’ of your landing page:

1. Tackle A Specific Objection or Question

The right testimonials can chisel away at your prospect’s’ most pressing concerns about signing up for your content or buying your product.

Research shows that proximity is key here. By putting testimonials (or other trust-builders) near your prospects’ source of anxiety, you can ease objections and increase conversions. For example, this might include adding them next to the ‘Add To Cart’ button.

But sometimes, you need to quash an objection from the very moment your visitor arrives. That’s when it’s time to test making a testimonial the ‘star’ of your page.

I had this theory in mind while optimizing a key sales page for LivePlan — a powerful SaaS product that helps entrepreneurs write professional business plans.

Our research showed that one of the audience’s most nagging questions before becoming a customer was: “Will this software work for my specific industry?” And it was a pretty big mental barrier to signing up.

So we A/B tested a landing page that targeted just a segment of LivePlan’s traffic: people interested in writing a business plan for a café.

But rather than just telling the audience “hey — this is for café entrepreneurs like you,” we wanted to prove it to them by making a relatable testimonial the focus of the page.

So the new landing page used social proof to tell a simple story of how café owner Brian Sung used LivePlan to write a business plan faster and with less effort (which we knew would solve the target audience’s problem).

Here was the control hero section:

LivePlan by Bplans

And here was the testimonial-focused variant:

(which was built around a quote from LivePlan user and cafe-owner Brian Sung)

LivePlan

The result: the above variant earned LivePlan a 72% increase in paid conversions (99% statistical confidence). That translated into a 53% boost in overall revenue, when you consider average order value.

There were a few variables at play here, but ultimately I believe it proved the hypothesis that LivePlan customers needed to feel confident that the software would work for their specific industry before converting.

This approach wouldn’t have worked without the right testimonial: Brian Sung is someone that the audience either sees themselves in or aspires to be like. And that likely created an even deeper connection with the audience as they arrived on that page.

2. Build Credibility With An Authoritative Testimonial

Do you have a customer who wields a lot of influence in your niche?  Grab a testimonial from them and test playing it up big on your homepage or landing page.

Why?

Because when you use testimonials from influencers or experts, you’re able to essentially ‘borrow’ the positive feelings people have toward these individuals. This is in part due to the cognitive bias known as the Halo Effect.

But there’s another powerful benefit of using authoritative testimonials: your audience will be more likely to trust and believe them (along with all the other messaging that follows on the page).

If the reader either recognizes or respects the person giving the testimonial, they’re going to be far more likely to believe what’s being said about your product. But the testimonial-giver must be seen as a relevant expert to your audience. Here’s an example:

Salesforce often uses credible and authoritative testimonials as the focus of its landing pages. The audience may not always recognize the person’s name, but leveraging proof from a senior director at a well-known brand establishes instant credibility:

Salesforce

3. Combine with PAS To Pull The Reader In

The problem-agitate-solve (PAS) copywriting formula works gangbusters on landing pages. Copywriting master Dan Kennedy said, “it may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented.”

PAS follows a simple, three-step process:

Problem: Identify the reader’s problem.
Agitate: Stir up all the painful emotions connected with the problem.
Solve: Give them a solution.

But you can really amp up the power of PAS by using an experiential testimonial to reinforce your message.

Here’s an example from the team at Copy Hackers, who used the PAS formula to optimize a homepage for SweatBlock (below is just an excerpt from the full page):

Sweat Block Armpits

The testimonial from Brianna is powerful stuff. It agitates the audience’s problem in a very personal way by detailing how Brianna’s sweating issue caused “horrific” embarrassment at her kid’s school. But it also shows how she discovered a solution.

Without that lengthy testimonial, the homepage wouldn’t have had the same emotional impact.

4. Snatch Attention With A Testimonial Headline

When you use your customer’s exact words as copy, you’re able to mirror what your prospects are thinking and feeling when they arrive on your website.

And that can create an instant connection with your audience.

This is part of the reason why testimonials can work well as headlines — assuming you have one that’s right for the job.

For example, LKR Social Media saw their conversion rate jump by 23% when they tested a testimonial headline. And Highrise saw an impressive 102.5% boost in conversions when they tested the testimonial-focused page below:

HighRise Contacts Leads

But subsequent tests, using different customer photos and messages in the headlines, didn’t have a major impact on the results. So it’s tough to say how much the actual headline influenced the lift that Highrise experienced.

While marketers should test testimonial headlines (as long as they meet the criteria discussed earlier), there’s another way to use your customers’ words as headline copy.

By searching through your testimonials, reviews or survey data, you can find phrases that can be ‘swiped’ and then used to write persuasive headlines or subheads. Often, this means using your customers’ exact words verbatim as copy.

5. Show Prospects A Better Version of Themselves

If you’ve studied copywriting at all, you’ve probably heard the adage…

People don’t buy products, they buy better versions of themselves.

Here’s essentially what this means:

Many marketers focus on the specific benefits of their offer when writing copy: what the customer gets and how they come out ahead by using the product or service. And that’s great. But the most powerful messaging takes this a step further.

By communicating what copywriting legend Bob Bly calls the ‘ultimate benefit,’ you reveal the deepest, most important ways in which a product improves the customer’s life.

For example, a benefit of using a new productivity app is that you can finish your work faster. But the ‘ultimate benefit’ might be that you’ll impress your boss and finally get that long-deserved pay raise.

Testimonials provide a powerful way to communicate these deeper benefits because they help the audience visualize this better version of themselves.

Here’s an example from BlogTalkRadio, which is a platform for people to create and broadcast talk radio shows online. The landing page uses a specific benefit as the headline and then illustrates the ‘ultimate benefit’ with an unmissable testimonial:

Blog Talk Radio

Here you have an average guy who’s interviewing “the biggest names in Hollywood.” Wow.

Assuming the target audience aspires to be like Jamey, this testimonial touches on the ‘ultimate benefit’ of having a wildly successful talk radio show.

And it starts to get the reader daydreaming about what their own success might look like.

It’s Really About Giving Your Customers Center Stage

Testimonials work because they’re real.

Not only do they tell authentic, honest stories that connect emotionally with your audience — they also provide compelling proof of the promises you’re making.

After all, people are far more likely to believe their peers or experts than they are a marketer.

Now, maybe using a testimonial as the focus of your landing page isn’t a good fit in your situation. And that’s fine (although I do recommend testing it).

But no matter what your strategy is, the more you allow your customers to do the marketing for you — by listening to them and using their words to guide your content —  the stronger your conversion rates will be.

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Dustin Walker

About The Author: Dustin Walker is a copywriter and partner at Good Funnel -- a conversion-focused agency that uses marketing strategy and loads of customer research to help businesses fire up their revenue. Click here to connect with Dustin or download a free conversion copywriting worksheet.

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