A recent article from Marketing Prof reminded me that all testimonials are not equal.

Holly Buchanan opens a post at the FutureNow blog with a pair of seemingly contradictory ideas: that testimonials work very well and that they don’t work at all. Both are true, she argues, because customer praise can be a two-edged sword: If it appears inauthentic or doesn’t offer true insight, it can actually have a negative impact.

According to Buchanan, effective testimonials:

  1. Are specific in their commendation. A generic testimonial like “I enjoyed my time at your hotel” won’t grab the attention of a business traveler in the same way as, “I was impressed by the 24-hour concierge service, especially when they found an all-night printer at 3 am.”
  2. Address possible objections. You gain credibility when a happy customer explains how her initial skepticism was unfounded. “By addressing and voicing what many perspective customers may be feeling,” says Buchanan, “these testimonials are powerful persuaders.”
  3. Are shown in a proper context. The testimonials on your website’s landing page, for instance, will be different from those on product pages or order forms; each should be appropriate for where a customer might be in the sales process.

The Po!nt: Not all testimonials are created equal. “Testimonials hurt you when people don’t think they’re real,” says Buchanan. “Anything that sounds vague or cliche can smack of insincerity.”