For months my partner couldn’t sit. In fact, she could hardly walk. And at the lowest point, it seemed like the problem would never go away.
Physical therapists advised exercises, strapped tape across her bum (I’m still not sure why) and prescribed painkillers to mask the discomfort. Still, nothing improved.
Eventually an MRI scan was ordered. The cause of the problem was discovered: a prolapse in the L4/L5 lumber region.
To you and me: a slipped disc.
It was bad. In layman’s terms the shock-absorber thing that sits between the little bony bits of your spine was protruding back and to the left. And like some mysterious shooter on the grassy knoll, the true cause was unknown. We just knew it had happened and it wasn’t good.
The next stage was drugs – lots of them. For weeks my partner laid in bed whilst nerve-slowing narcotics attempted to ease the pain. But it soon became clear that ‘the drugs don’t work’.
From surgeon to pain-specialist, physical therapist to health nutritionist, we searched for someone who could offer a solution to the problem. Each offered their ideas and in each case, it seemed to work for a while. But sooner or later, we hit a problem and soon after that point, the answers always dried up.
When it comes to back ailments, I’ve come to realise that everyone has their own story. You probably have one. If you don’t, you will at some point. It’s just a matter of time.
In fact, it’s become clear to me that because no one really knows what’s right or wrong when it comes to the spine…
It’s an industry based almost entirely on testimonials.
As my poor partner struggled on, taxi drivers would notice it was difficult getting into the car and advise garlic tablets to easy the joints because they ‘knew a guy who had the same problem’…
Waiters would see her standing between courses to relieve some of the pressure and advise a certain type of pillow because their ‘wife had the same problem’…
Or a gym instructor would see her wriggling on a floor mat to build her core muscles and advise a different exercise because – guess what – ‘they knew this woman who had the same problem’.
We’d hear testimonial after testimonial and in each case we couldn’t help but wonder if the solution being shared this time would be the one to help solve our problem. That’s the pull with testimonials – if it worked for them, why can’t it work for me?
Eventually, one testimonial led us to a chiropractic physician in Cheam – a little town just south of London. We went along to hear the spiel. Whilst waiting for our consultation, we were shown what amounted to a video sales letter. It seemed strange, but effective. Then, as we continued to wait, we picked up a folder, which lay on the coffee table.
In this folder was testimonial after testimonial. On the left hand-side of the page you could read a typed print-out of the letter, whilst the original handwritten version could be read on the right. Interesting, I thought.
As we read through the folder we found letters from old women, young children and middle-aged men – all describing symptoms similar to my partners and then explaining how the technique that the physician practices had helped to solve them.
The folder was incredibly convincing. Before we’d even sat down for the consultation we had already been instilled with a sense of hope, a feeling that this could well be the right solution for us too.
Later that day, as we walked around Cheam Park, giving the whole thing some thought, my partner kept coming back to those testimonials that we’d read in the folder before the consultation itself. They had formed a platform of both trust and hope. Trust that after so many people had advised us badly, this woman was proven. And hope that people had been in this same position and had found the solution here.
My partner’s back will never be 100% – it’s just one of those things that happens and stays with you whatever happens – but since we opted to work with the chiropractic physician in Cheam, we have seen a significant reduction in pain and a huge improvement in her mobility. We run for the bus again now.
Whether the testimonials we read in the folder were genuine or not and whether the consultation alone would have convinced us that she offered the right solution, I don’t know. The point is those testimonials were there and they provided a strong and convincing basis to the consolation that followed.
But do people read testimonials in long copy?
Generally, people don’t read testimonials.
But hold on, Glenn… you’ve just been telling me how effective testimonials can be in convincing someone of a particular course of action? You’re contradicting yourself.
Here’s the deal. I’m going to say something here that might break with copywriting tradition. But if you take on board what I’m saying – your understanding of how copy works will become much, much stronger.
It is not the content of testimonials that people are interested in – they are only interested in the presence of testimonials.
I’ll say that again: it is not their content, it is their presence.
Of course, the content must relate to what you are selling, but aside from that, more often than not, it’s not important what a testimonial actually says – it’s just the fact that someone is saying it.
You’re wrong, Glenn, people do read testimonials and sales letters perform better when they’re included.
Yes. Sales letters often do perform better when testimonials are included. But no, people do not read them. I am right. And I can prove it.
In fact, before we get to the business at looking at how we can use testimonials incredibly effectively in lift copy, let me just explain why it is naïve to think that people are reading all the testimonials you include in a sales letter.
A sales letter written by one of my junior copywriters was not performing as well as I expected it to. To help highlight what was wrong with the promotion, I used a new piece of software one of my techy friends had come across – heat mapping – which recorded how much attention readers gave to each section of the sales letter.
The results were very interesting. I noted that hardly any attention was given to the testimonials. Readers were attentive to the copy preceding them but when they reached the testimonial copy, the reader quickly scrolled past. Their attention was only captured again a little later.
I reduced the space given to the testimonials and saw conversion increase by two per cent. This was an interesting discovery, but there was more testing to be done. I was not ready to declare the testimonial redundant – deep down I knew they were conversion boosters. But at the same time, I knew there was a better way to handle them.
The promotion for a new forex advisory service I had helped create was working well. As the service itself developed, the editor requested testimonials and they came flooding in. I knew they represented an opportunity to add further proof to the current control in the hope of increasing conversion. But at the same time, because of the previous tests I’d done using the heat mapping software, I knew readers were scanning over the testimonial sections of the promotion.
I realised that the way testimonials have been used in promotional material in the past has stunted the power of good testimonials to the point now where it is not the content of testimonials that people are interested in – they are only interested in their presence.
When testimonials are included in a sales letter they have the potential to increase response – because people see that other people are reporting positively about the product – but if you only list them one after the other, people will soon tire and begin to scan over them.
So, when it comes to using customer testimonials in your copy, to make sure you get the most out of them you must incorporate them into your sales argument. You must use the testimonials you have to tell the story.
You see, to reclaim the true value of testimonials you shouldn’t let your sales letter rely on their presence alone (like most do these days).
And don’t just assume the reader will take the time to read through each one to find out what other people think of the product or service – highlight key phrases, repeat them and use them to enhance the narrative of your sales letter.
Do so and your real life testimonials really will come to life.
Thanks for reading – I hope you enjoyed the piece and if you did… please comment below.
P.S. Changing the way you deal with testimonials in a direct response sales letter is just one way of significantly increasing conversion…
To discover another 20 tried, tested and proven methods for making more sales with your copy…