The infamous scientist Stanley Milgram, best known for his highly unethical study on obedience and authority, conducted another, less-well-known study in the sixties that shows us the power of testimonials.
He had actors stand at the bottom of a building and simply look up. There wasn’t anything to look at, and that was the point; Milgram wanted to know how many passersby would look up as they walked by, too.
You can probably guess the results. Many of the bystanders looked up to see what the actors were looking at. As the number of actors increased, the more bystanders looked to see what was up.
Milgram wanted to test the well-observed phenomena that humans are directly influenced by others. His test showed very clearly that people are more likely to participate in an activity if they see others already are.
In marketing, we call this social proof. If a group of people are using a software, service, or, yes, a real estate agent team, then you’re more likely to trust them. Consciously or not.
Why social proof is different than advertising
The Internet era has created a generation of skeptical advertising consumers. We’re a lot less likely to believe claims made in traditional advertisements.
Studies back this up; about half of Americans don’t trust ad claims. 44% think that advertisements are straight-up dishonest. And a vast majority of people think that ad claims are at least somewhat exaggerated.
But testimonials are exempt from this ad mistrust:
39% of consumers said they read reviews on a regular basis to determine whether a local business is worth their money. And almost ninety percent of consumers have sought out reviews in order to evaluate a business they were interested in.
That’s because consumers don’t see reviews and testimonials as advertising – they see it as a personal recommendation that happens to be facilitated by the Internet. And here’s the kicker: almost ninety percent of consumers weigh digital testimonials as trustworthy as a personal recommendation.
So testimonials = free word of mouth advertising that you can use to generate better leads.
Size matters (at least, the number of testimonials matters)
The majority of consumers seek out about six to ten reviews when they’re evaluating a brand (which, by the way, is a “Think” stage of the buyer funnel – learn more about these stages here!)
When you add testimonials to your website, consider adding at least ten. Too many more can appear cluttered (although this can be alleviated with a clean design and separated pages), and too few makes it look like you cherry-picked the good ones. Overall, better more than less, as long as they’re streamlined.
The trick? Ask every one of your clients for a testimonial. Or almost all of them. You’re not guaranteed to get a review from everyone you ask, and not every review you receive will be useful and publishable.
Skip the awkwardness by building the testimonial-ask into your customer journey. Every client should receive a request for a testimonial after closing. Here are some great examples of not-at-all-awkward testimonial request emails.
And don’t worry too much about bothering your clients. It’s a well-documented phenomenon that people actually prefer those that have asked them for favours. You’re actually increasing your brand loyalty by requesting a review.
What your testimonials say matters
Getting a client to write a testimonial is one thing. But getting them to write a great testimonial, that convinces new clients to hire you, is another entirely.
The key pieces of a great testimonial are:
Honest and positive aren’t too hard to get – simply asking your clients is often enough to get an honest and positive review. But… specific?
Instead of just asking for a testimonial in the body of an email, direct your client to a Google form or other survey software that has specific questions.
- What was your biggest worry before hiring my team? Did it come true, and if not, what happened instead?
- If you were recommending me to your best friend, what would you say?
- What were your expectations, and did we meet or exceed them?
- What were the best three things about your real estate journey with us?
By asking specific questions (and making it easy for your clients to answer with a one-click form) you can get higher-quality, converting testimonials.
Where you have testimonials matters
Review aggregate sites like Rotten Tomatoes and Yelp have a somewhat-unclear, but decidedly large, impact on consumer purchasing. But one thing is for certain: consumers look for reviews and testimonials wherever they can find them.
It seems that the most effective testimonials appear where the subject has little control over them. Think the Baywatch trailer vs. Rotten Tomatoes. Which review are you more likely to believe?
So, of course, we want our glowing real estate testimonials to appear in the places where we can’t put them. Which poses the problem of getting them there in the first place.
Building testimonial sources on Google reviews, Reddit, and other impactful third-party review hubs takes planning and, well, asking for them. Your clients aren’t likely to write you a glowing Facebook review if you don’t ask, so get asking!
- Make it easy. Send your client a direct link to your Facebook, Google, ratemyagent.com, even Yelp page. Don’t ask them to go to more than one place, though.
- Use Google forms to make filling out a testimonial questionnaire easier and quicker.
- Prepare clients for your testimonial ask in advance by letting them know, in person, that they’ll receive a request via email later.
- Make it complimentary. Ask them if you can “feature” them on your site with their comments on their experience. Everyone loves a little spotlight!
How you react to testimonials matters
One thing to note about third party testimonial hubs is that, while you can’t edit what’s there, you can respond. And a great response is some of the best PR you can get.
- Don’t be defensive. Even if the reviewer is wrong, or not sharing half the story. Sleep on it and reply only when you’re feeling calm and a little generous.
- Remember that your response is marketing. Potential customers will read it. Reflect on your brand – is your brand kind, thoughtful, and fun? Keep that tone in your reply.
- Thank the reviewer for taking their time to leave a review.
- Apologize for their experience.
- Admit you made a mistake or that you could have handled the situation better.
- Explain next steps, like future training or even “we’re taking a look at our policy” – this shows potential clients that, while one reviewer had a bad experience, it’s not likely to happen again.
- Don’t offer compensation. Freebies make a lot of sense for product-oriented businesses, but since realty is a service, it’s not something you want to offer discounts for.
What your reader does next matters
Nora is searching for an agent to sell her home. She googles agents in her area, and reads the Google reviews for a whole bunch of them. She narrows her search to four different agents, and opens their website in separate tabs.
One of those tabs is your website. She gets a great first impression from your site. She reads your bio, your marketing strategy for home sales, and then lands on your testimonial page.
After she reads your testimonials, she jumps to the next tab. She doesn’t end up choosing any of those agents – and instead, goes with an agent her sister recommended.
Convincing is one thing. Converting is another.
Getting a customer to do something, like fill out a form or contact you, is a tricky and nitpicky non-science. Conversion is an entirely separate topic that we’ll have to cover in a different blog post (coming soon!)
After convincing content, like testimonials or marketing strategy pages, add a place where the user can click straight to a form. We call these “panels” at Artifakt, and our panels always direct a user to a “lead” page.
Lead pages are pages with forms that help direct leads to contacting you. They have little content, and instead the only text before the form is a clear-cut benefit.
Benefits, like testimonials, are one of the key pieces of your conversion strategy. You can’t just expect a client to fill out a form; instead, you have to give them a very clear reason why it’ll be good for them.
Ultimately, this all boils down to design. Is your site designed for conversion? Are you getting the most mileage out of your testimonials?