If your website, blog, premium content offers, marketing programs, etc. are on point, you’re doing a fantastic job of establishing expertise in your industry and drawing prospects to you. But do you find that prospects come and go without ever becoming customers?
It’s time to step it up a notch by leveraging your current customers’ positive experiences to serve as “social proof” and make it easier for prospects to become customers.
There are typically four ways to do this: case studies, customer snapshots, testimonials, and reviews. There are differences that affect how you make and use them and how they’re viewed from a potential customer’s perspective.
Case studies are in-depth, detailed descriptions of a customer situation. They consist of several pages with analytics and details that discuss the customer’s problem and the process a business (you) used to address the problem.
Frequently used by consulting companies or businesses with long sales cycles like software companies, case studies are qualitative research and can be time- and resource-intensive as well as expensive to create. And let’s be honest – analytics are boring to read.
You could view customer snapshots as watered-down case studies in a testimonial format. They’re usually short documents or videos that have a little more oomph than a testimonial. Like case studies, they state the customer’s challenge, why they chose you to fix it, and how they’re doing now. Like testimonials, they’re given by customers who are happy with your business.
Numbers may be included, but customer snapshots avoid the depth and breadth of information about the customer buying process, their goals, and their return on investment.
Testimonials are perfect for showing prospects how much your services helped someone (without all the math). Anyone who’s willing to give a testimonial is happy with your business and willing to gush about how much your product or service improved their jobs or lives, helped them reach a goal, etc.
Testimonials can be as short as a quote or paragraph or written in an interview format, but they’re best presented as video. You need your customers’ permission, of course, but literally hearing an endorsement is a powerful way to convince prospects to take the plunge.
Unlike case studies and testimonials, you have very little control over reviews (actually, you have no control other than that you can specifically ask happy customers to leave you a review). They appear on third-party sites like Google, Yelp, and Angie’s List as well as on social media. Reviews are independent customer opinions written either as short blurb explaining someone’s experience or with a star-rating system; some contain pictures.
Reviews are considered the most trustworthy form of social proof for your business because of your lack of control over them. They’re more “real” to prospects because they know you can’t edit them or choose only the positive ones. The secret to reviews is handling them correctly. Prospects are looking to see if others like them had positive experiences with you, but they’re also paying attention to how you handle negative reviews; with the right approach, you can prevent them from causing too much harm.
So which do you use?
Prospective customers can’t dispute case studies – numbers are numbers. Prospects may ask for more information, but they probably won’t argue your math. (You can read an example below.)
Less costly to make with fewer analytics to read combine to make customer snapshots into “hardier” testimonials. People are comforted by statistics but also by hearing others like them endorse a product they’re considering.
Testimonials are feel-good stories, which prospects like, but they know you’re only going to post testimonials that make you look good.
Reviews are the most difficult kind of social proof, seeing as you have no control over them, but if you handle them right, they can make you look just as good as case studies, customer snapshots, and testimonials.
Eighty-eight percent of people use the above options to help them make purchasing decisions; they know that social proof can spare them a bad experience or poor investment, and case studies, customer snapshots, testimonials, and reviews are all ways to help point a prospect in your direction, so the verdict is: use all of the above (where applicable).
Want to learn more about testimonials and reviews and how to handle them? Drop us a line – we can help!