Testimonial pages can often make or break a sale during the online transaction process. When done right, they offer reassurance, trust and integrity. When they are done wrong, they are sleazy and make the company seem untrustworthy.

Doing testimonials right naturally involves some level of investment, without any guaranteed results. It’s easy to slap together a testimonials page on a website to check the box, but without the right level of care, this page will probably hinder more than it will help.

Getting a testimonials page right is difficult. It can be hard to know what to include, or how best to present your testimonials so that it comes across as genuine.

Here are 6 elements of testimonial pages from some of the biggest online brands. Hopefully at least one of these ideas will give you inspiration to really make a good investment in your testimonials page today.

1. Use video

Video is one of the most powerful mediums for conveying sentiment and the feeling of trust. Square makes excellent use of video by taking you into the businesses of some of their customers. By seeing and hearing those people’s stories and by allowing them to explain what a difference Square has made to them in their own words, you can quite easily see how it could also benefit your business and solve your problems.

Now, granted, you probably don’t have the cash to hire a production company to produce videos at the same quality as Square.

But video in any form can be powerful. It is now quite possible to buy a decent camera and get access to post production software at a reasonable cost. If you were to take the effort to learn even the basics, and you are confident enough to take on something new, you could very reasonably create your own video series for very little investment.

On the other hand, you could just make the investment and create killer testimonial videos like Square has. If you are a company with a product that would benefit from this form of content, pull that trigger.

2. Case studies

When collecting testimonials, it tempting to just get a quick sound bite from a client. People are busy and you probably don’t want to trouble them for more than just a few words. But a few words won’t make a sale. Even if you distil someone’s comments down to a killer quote, it’s still not as powerful when it not within context.

Campaign Monitor has undertaken a number of case studies with their clients to really understand how their product is being used and how it benefits them.

A killer quote will be a nice and simple reason why someone would want to buy your product. However, a case study has the room to explore the finer details. For example, in Jason’s case study, he explains the pain points he finds when having to deal with email newsletters. It is likely that these pain points will be felt by all of your target customers. Jason also goes on to explain how he uses the product and what benefits and improvements he has found by using the service.

Don’t skimp on the details and try to show how your product is really helping your clients by investing in a case study. Sound bites are quick and easy, but you are leaving a lot of value on the table by not exploring the details.

3. Target the right person

SendGrid is an API for sending transactional emails like notifications or confirmations. SendGrid is the kind of product that solves a problem that you would rather not have to deal with. As such, it’s never going to be a sexy problem.

SendGrid is aimed at the technical members of a company. If SendGrid can get the developers as advocates, it makes it much easier to get the people with the authority to spend money to say yes.

If you look at the job titles of a lot of the people who have given SendGrid testimonials, you will see a lot of them are from people in technical roles. A common one is Chief Technical Officer.

When a new company is exploring SendGrid as an option to solve their email problem, it will highly likely be one of the technical team that first discovers SendGrid. SendGrid has cleverly positioned itself to appeal to the technical members of the team so that they can act as the evangelist of the product within the company.

When you are gathering testimonials, it’s important to get them from the right people within the company. It’s important to understand who is going to be your target customer. You don’t always have to go straight to the top, as in the case of SendGrid, it is far more likely that the company will first be pitched by someone without purchasing power. It is therefore imperative that you get this person on side first.

Think about who you are targeting and then gather testimonials from people in their shoes.

4. Use well known people

It’s easy to gather testimonials from a random selection of your customers. However, an unknown name is not really very convincing because it’s hard to trust someone you don’t know. If you are lucky enough to have well known customers, target them to give you a testimonial.

When people are in a position of trust, they are far more likely to pick and choose who they are willing to recommend to their audience. That person has a special relationship with their audience, and so they have to be mindful not to abuse that trust. When you see a well known figure giving a recommendation, you know it is more sincere because they are putting themselves on the line.

When you see unknown names in testimonials, they become pretty much worthless. When friends of the business give testimonials, it’s not much of a recommendation.

MediaTemple‘s first testimonial is from well known author and business man Gary Vaynerchuk. This can be seen as a very highly valuable testimonial because of how much work Gary has put into building a relationship of trust with his audience.

Don’t use unknown names in your testimonials. When a potential customer sees an unknown name it does not offer any kind of trust because they don’t understand the context of the recommendation. Find authoritative people within your industry and secure them as company advocates so they can help spread your product to their audience.

5. Obvious First step

Testimonial pages are often in their own section of the website. When you are creating landing pages and a sales process it’s easy to just segment all of your testimonials content into it’s own section. But it’s important that you allow your customer to follow a logical path to taking the first step.

The first step can make or break a sales process. When you don’t offer an easy and obvious first step you will likely loose a percentage of your potential customers who become confused or bounce away to a competitor.

WP-Engine has an excellent first step process on their testimonials page. They offer a free speed test evaluation that you can receive by signing up with your email. If you are just thinking about moving your WordPress site to WP-Engine, you might not be ready to start migrating your files and database across straight away. WP-Engine have realised this and so their call to action is simply a no obligation speed test. I assume that this then leads into a drip email marketing campaign that converts really well.

Don’t segment your testimonials page off without providing an obvious first step to people who want to take the first action.

6. Don’t use one page

Finally, one of the big opportunities of effective testimonials is to not have a single page or section at all. Instead, target specific elements of your websites with relevant testimonials from your customers.

When you think about it, having a testimonials page is quite counter-intuitive to the decision process. I don’t think many people click on the testimonials page to be convinced that they should make a purchase all in one page. Testimonials are really good for reassuring that the risk of making a purchase is worth it.

37 Signals use testimonials effectively throughout their Basecamp website by not having a single dedicated page.

For example, their page on current customers uses video to show how Basecamp can be used to manage projects. One of the unique selling proposition of Basecamp is it’s ease of use. Again, 37 Signals home in on this by creating a dedicated page that uses customer testimonials to show this attribute of the product.

Don’t feel like you have to have a dedicated testimonials page and then sprinkle sound bites through the transaction process. If your product has big benefits that you want to emphasis, testimonials can be an effective way to prove that your current customers are benefiting from them and they make fantastic landing pages for the start of your sales funnel.

Conclusion

As I mentioned at the top of this post, testimonials are a great way of showing how genuinely good your product really is. When you have customers that are really happy, you will want to leverage that excellent relationship for further growth. Testimonials offer reassurance that a product or service will solve a problem and it allows your potential customers to see how they will benefit by becoming your customer.

However, when testimonials are just a list of unknown names with a one sentence quote and no contextual link to who that person is or how they use your product, you are probably doing more harm than good. This low investment testimonial is rife across the Internet as shady companies look to legitimise themselves with faceless testimonials.

Don’t slip into this low effort testimonials approach. Investing in high quality case studies or in-depth customer interviews with photographs and video will seem like an investment with an ambiguous return. But it’s clear that effective testimonials will not only improve your conversion, it will also legitimise your company and brand to a much wider audience.