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Real Friends and Virtual Strangers: Building a Testimonial Strategy

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We’ve been talking about testimonials as a crucial piece of the promotional puzzle that that can help your message stand out in a crowded field. Whether you’re planning a membership renewal drive or looking for new conference audiences, your campaign will be stronger with a great group of opinion leaders.

A few months ago, our hospitality blog encouraged clients to take a look at Testimonial Director, a company that offers a simple, templated process for collecting testimonials and making sure they contain the right information. Testimonial Director has come up with a seven-step “return on trust” strategy that rests on a crucial piece of data from the Nielsen Global Online Consumer Survey: In Nielsen’s words, consumers (which means your members, sponsors, exhibitors, and participants) “trust real friends and virtual strangers the most.”

The 2009 survey of more than 25,000 Internet consumers in 50 countries found that 90% pay attention to recommendations from people they know, while 70% rely on consumer opinions posted online. Compare those figures with confidence levels of 37% for online video ads, 33% for online banners, and 24% for text ads on mobile phones.

Testimonial Director’s seven strategies [sign-up required] map out a coherent path to getting word of mouth working in your favour:

  1. Make testimonials pervasive by featuring them throughout your website, not on a single page. Just make sure the content on each page relates to the actual testimonial.
  2. Deliver the message in multiple ways, using a variety of presentation types to appeal to the widest range of tastes and interests among your website visitors.
  3. Don’t overlook the power of written testimonials in the rush to add video to your site. Use both formats to maximum effect.
  4. Make your video productions affordable. Testimonial Director comes down in favour of in-house production to get “good quality results for the web with relatively inexpensive equipment.”
  5. Use social media to build social proof. “The real power behind social media is how it can help transform you from being a complete stranger into a known quantity, even among groups of people you’ve not even met yet.”
  6. Reach out and ask. Asking members, participants, exhibitors, and sponsors for testimonials should be a standard step in your communications and outreach cycle.
  7. Take stock. Then take action. Testimonial Director offers an implementation worksheet to help you develop and execute a coherent strategy.

In Nielsen’s terms, do you know who your “real friends” are? By finding out and inviting them to tell their stories, you can kick-start a cycle that will bring you to the next tier of new and repeat revenue—and, from there, to your next group of new best friends.