Testimonials can be a very effective marketing tool. Kind words from happy customers go a long way in making potential clients feel good about your product, service, or company.
In fact, they are so useful, that many people cheat when it comes to testimonials.
I have to let the cat out of the bag here – very early in my writing career, I’d write “fake” testimonials for customers if they asked.
Being young, dumb, and broke, at one time, I’d write just about anything if you paid me to. And trust me, some people paid me to write testimonials. And sign them something like “Debbie K from KY” or “John J and Family, NY”. Or “Joe’s Pizza, NJ”
Notice the one common thread? Nothing verifiable. No “real” last names. No actual towns. No website links. Lots of “Dan F from NY”. But no “Dan Furman, Kingston, NY”
So, here’s some general advice on spotting a fake testimonial:
1 – No real last names. Or all the last names are amazingly common. In this age of the internet, pictures are even meaningless.
2 – No real cities. Or only big cities. Or all testimonials come from towns in the same 4 states (trust me, coming up with different sounding cities and towns is more work than most fake testimonial people want to do.) Obviously, a local business is exempt from this rule.
3 – No website links. This is the biggie. There should be a few testimonials with real, working website links.
I have a lot of testimonials on my website. Most have a link, all but one have a last name (the one requested it not be used, but I’m sure in the face of all the other proof I supply, I can be cut some slack there.)
Trust me – 15 testimonials and not one link to a business prettymuch means all the testimonials are fake (the only exception here is if the end users are completely non-business consumers, and even then, it’s very unlikely that not one of them owns a business.)
And, of course, it goes without saying that “Joe G, Alabama” really doesn’t think all that much of the product. In fact, “Joe” is the writer’s father’s name, and “G” represents his childhood friend’s nickname (Goober.)
It took me a long time to build up the testimonials I have. And I’m proud of them. Anyone who has real testimonials will tell you the same. That’s why I want to tell you how to spot the fake ones.
And no, I don’t write them anymore. It’s just not fair to the people who earned them.
<sarcasm> And now that my conscience is clean, let me get back to this term paper I’m writing for some rich kid. </sarcasm>