No testimonials? 17 other trust-building copy techniques

March 29, 2010 by Dean Rieck
Filed under: Miscellaneous 

testimonial techniquesIt’s copywriting 101.

Every sales pitch can benefit from one or more testimonials. They provide third-party endorsements, build trust, and, if you have a lot of them, engage the “bandwagon” effect — the more people doing it, the more acceptable it is.

But what happens when you have no testimonials to work with? You just have to write your copy without them. Right?

Wrong. And here’s why.

There’s nothing magic about testimonials. Yes, you read that right. Testimonials are powerful, but they are just one way to accomplish an end. What end? To build trust in a company or product.

As long as you can build trust, that’s all that matters. So if there are other techniques for building trust, you can get by without standard testimonials.

And as it happens, there are plenty of other ways to build trust. Here are a few.

Use indirect testimonials. List businesses using the product. Or list the states or countries in which it is sold, the industries served, the percentage of Fortune 500 companies who use it, or even the types of professionals who trust it.

Show pictures of customers. This is usually better than showing the typical still life of a box or gadget. An action picture can show the product, the kind of people who use it, and the benefits. Seeing is believing.

Share case histories of select customers. Studies show that tangible case histories can be more effective than dry statistics. Describe how someone solved a problem or derived a big benefit. Before and after descriptions work particularly well.

Mention how long the company has been in business. This subtly suggests popularity. Of course, time is relative to the kind of business. If it’s an online company, being in business ten years makes it an old timer. If it’s a brick-and-mortar company, ten years makes it an infant.

Tout the number of sales. It always helps to keep good records. Dig through sales reports and see what figures you can come up with. You might have to estimate, but make it reasonable and believable. And be sure you have data to support your claim.

Highlight the number of customers served. McDonald’s built an empire by displaying on their signs a running count of the number of burgers they sold. If you’ve sold a million units of a product, how can any buyer go wrong?

Warn customers about limited supply due to demand. This shows popularity plus scarcity, another powerful human motivator. However, be careful to use real limits and stick to them. If you cry wolf, people will eventually stop believing you.

Announce the speed of sales due to demand. This combines popularity with urgency. If a widget is the fastest selling, say it. If not, maybe it’s the most consistent seller over a certain time period.

Mention how long the product has been a bestseller. This says popularity, quality, and consistency. This can often be more effective than how long a company has been around.

Cite information on market leadership. Being first or tops in a market is unbeatable as a trust-builder. It must be the leader for a reason, right?

Reveal the seasonal demand of the product. Not only does this show public acceptance, it also overcomes inertia and can encourage early orders. A good example is the rush to buy the latest fad toy during the holidays. Demand means scarcity, and scarcity makes people want it more.

Show celebrities using the product. This invokes the “halo” effect, connecting the good feeling people have for the celebrity to the product. You must have permission from the celebrities, of course.

Display a seal of approval by trusted organization. Years ago, the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval could instantly boost sales for nearly any product. Today it could be approval by the Better Business Bureau, an environmental group declaring that the product is “green,” or a product selection by Oprah.

Cite favorable reviews. Prominent bloggers, noted gurus, commentators, experts, and others frequently review products. Make sure they know about your product so you’ll have a shot at getting a good review.

Cite mentions in the media. People trust newsworthy products more than products others have never heard of. So when the product is mentioned, you can cite the source for borrowed credibility.

Associate the product with respected publications. “As seen in Wired Magazine.” List the magazines you advertise in to show implied public approval of your product. This can also work for well-known blogs. “As seen on Mashable.”

Associate the product with respected media. It may seem hokey, but “As seen on TV” works. Many stores have entire sections devoted to these products because they’re proven sellers. Television is considered credible. If you appear there, you have instant credibility. List the networks where your advertisements have appeared.

Let me be clear. If you have testimonials, use them. If you don’t, get some.

However, these examples show the importance of understanding why certain copywriting techniques work. When you know only what works, you’re a prisoner of the techniques you know. When you know why they work, you are on your way to becoming a copywriting Jedi Master.

Related posts:

  1. Credible copywriting: Who ya’ gonna trust?

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Smart Comments

2 Comments on No testimonials? 17 other trust-building copy techniques

  1. Merryl Rosenthal on Apr 9th, 2010 4:02 am
  2. What a helpful article! I have many testimonials,
    but it had never occurred to me to mention
    that many of the “canned articles” and press
    releases I’ve written over the years have been
    used as-is by both print and broadcast media.
    I’ll be sure to mention that fact on my website.


  3. Franck @Disques Durs Externes on Feb 19th, 2012 11:41 am
  4. Very interesting tips here. Some are generally used but some are really new for me. Thanks for sharing.