How do you build credibility on the web? Well, there are a number of ways, but one of the best is to get credible recommendations from third parties. The best third parties are former customers and clients. I am, of course, talking about testimonials. In this article, we take a look at two rules you must follow when posting them on your site.
If you don't have testimonials on your site, there better be a good reason. They are incredibly important and can greatly improve your conversion rate. Consumers are so cynical now that most don't believe anything they read in the form of advertising. Testimonials, however, get the opposite reaction for two reasons - they are believed to be true and they come from a familiar source - other consumers.
The first rule you must follow with testimonials is a simple one. Every testimonial you post must be...real! You can't scrape them from some other site. You can't make them up out of thin air. This is not an issue of credibility. It is an issue of law. It is illegal to post fake testimonials and, if you are caught, the FTC and others will treat you very harshly. In short, don't do it.
The second rule is you need to obtain a release from the person for the testimonial. This is usually a one page document that gives your site permission to use the testimonial as you see fit. Your customers and clients have a right to control their image. If they change their mind later, you can run into big problems.
Let's consider an example. Bob is one of my best clients. He and I get along great and I provide him with a great service. He agrees to give me a testimonial and records a great video for me. I order $50,000 worth of marketing materials using his testimonial and providing copies of his video. I start sending it out. A week later he contacts me and doesn't want to be in the marketing. Without a testimonial release, I have $50,000 of marketing materials that are going to end up in the trash or my fireplace. A testimonial release can prevent this.
I am not suggesting these releases should be used to pull fast ones on your clients or customers. They should not. You should be up front when asking for a testimonial as well as describing exactly how it will be used. If you want to expand that use, you should speak with the person providing the testimony to make sure it is okay.
Having said all that, we all have had customers or clients that have gone askew for no particular reason. Obtaining a testimonial release prevents any problems from these individuals down the line. With testimonials, an ounce of prevention goes a long way.