Reexplore Using Testimonials in B2B – 8 Facts to Know

Bacon soap advertising tin

Have customers tout your company’s distinct benefits

Hey, you. Person in charge of your company’s marketing. B2B marketer extraordinaire. You’re good at what you do. And I think one reason you stay ahead is you’re always on the lookout for the next best marketing trend. A better way to get more leads, gain more customers, you know, make more sales.

But there’s a marketing tactic you’re not using.

Or not using enough.

Customer testimonials, a form of social proof.

Why use customer testimonials?

They’re versatile and unique to your company.

Doug's Fish Fry restaurant bumper sticker

“Testimonials are sought and selected by you. This means you have full control over which testimonials are used, as well as where and how they are displayed.” Sujan Patel, owner of five SaaS companies

Why you need testimonials

1.) In a 2017 study by Heinz Marketing and partners, they wanted to learn how both B2B buyers and sellers use consumer reviews. Survey results, 92.4% buyers said they are more likely to purchase a product or service if they had read a trusted review about it. G2 Crowd

2.) However, only one out of five B2B companies are currently using testimonials of their company in their marketing strategy. G2 Crowd

Customer testimonials are a positive force to increasing your sales. A customer knows when you recommend a product or service, you have an undeniable bias – you’re in the business of making money.

If another customer sings your praises, buyers pay attention. Because what a customer says about you is true. True in the eyes of the buyer, that is.

What’s the hold up?

So why aren’t marketers in B2B using testimonials more?

Web consultant, Marie Dean, says business leaders are hesitant to capitalize on using testimonials because we prioritize measuring the results from doling out dollars for advertising or other marketing expenses instead.

And maybe the hurdle is inertia to create a system of retrieving testimonials. Perhaps we don’t know what to ask our customers. But let’s focus on why testimonials are worth the investment of time and effort. Reading dozens of articles on the topic, I’ve curated information that may enlighten you.

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The benefits of using customer feedback

3.) Displaying reviews can increase conversion by 270%. The research showed a high-end gift retailer discovered when reviews of a product were shown, sales shot up significantly. Spiegel

4.) The purchase likelihood for a product with five reviews is 270% greater than the purchase likelihood of a product with no reviews. Spiegel

But is five reviews the lucky number?

Well, your audience may need more testimonials to be convinced, especially if the product is higher-priced. A customer lingers longer in the consideration stage when the purchase requires more money. He needs to see the benefits. The classic question he asks is “What’s in it for him?” Just like you want to see the benefits of using testimonials.  

How many testimonials a customer reads may make the difference. In researching how buyers shop for local products and services, BrightLocal has a number.

5.) According to BrightLocal, for the last three years running, they’ve found that the average consumer reads 10 reviews before feeling a business is trustworthy. BrightLocal

I’ve read other statistics stating more or less. So the number of testimonials is not the only factor. Recent testimonials matter. Having 10 recent testimonials is more effective than 20 testimonials given four years ago.

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How recent do the reviews need to be?

Again, BrightLocal has a statistic on local shoppers.

6.) 6% of consumers say they only look at reviews from the past three months, while 73% say customer reviews must be from the last month to influence their choice to use a local business. BrightLocal

Why customers prefer testimonials

You might wonder how customer testimonials stack up against other forms of social proof.

7.) Comparing to case studies, testimonials were:

  • More authentic
  • Trustworthy
  • Balanced

TrustRadius

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Although the following is for B2B software purchases, these advantages apply to B2B businesses too.

8.) In B2B software purchases, user reviews were considered:

  • Easy to consume
  • Personal
  • Reflective of the real-world user experience
  • Effective in multiple stages of the buying process

TrustRadius

What do you think? Are you a little more enthusiastic about testimonials? Now’s the time to revisit them.

Extract customer testimonials out of your B2B marketing bag. Employ this adaptive tool. Express the distinctive benefits of your B2B products and services from a perspective other customers are likely to believe: your customer!

Use This Highly Irresistible Idea to Cut Through Marketing Clutter

Image: Hersheys.com

Convey your message in tempting mini-candy bar style

What’s your snack of choice these days working from home? For me, I love mini-size candy bars. Did you know the tiny confections have been around since the 1930s?

Let me back up. I can’t say eating a fun-size candy bar is by choice. A more precise phrase to describe my behavior is giving into a snack of temptation.

So why are these so irresistible? What’s their appeal? And why do I bring up the topic?

Mini-size candy bars by Mars, Inc.
CandyFavorites.com

1) Mini-sized candy bars = bite-sized chunks of information

If you think about it, eating a “junior” candy bar is a complete package. The bite-size sweets still contain the chocolate, the caramel, the peanuts – the value of a regular-size bar — but they’re also encouraging you to want a little bit more.

They’re a ready-made “grab and go” dessert. Tempting to devour. And people do. I do.  

So when you’re trying to convince a prospect to buy your product or service, think about conveying your message in a mini-candy bar style.

Bite sized candy bars

2) Use “bite-sized chunks of information” to slip through the marketing clutter

Your message is competing with other messages. The more you make your info easier to digest, the more likely your message will be noticed. A reader will first scan the screen to determine if the info is useful. Remember readers are viewing websites, emails, video – practically everything – on a small, mobile device.

Tips on making your website and emails feel clean and streamlined:

  • Single-column layouts on webpages and email designs
  • Full-width images in email designs
  • The right amount of content (not too much or too little)
  • Show fewer items in the viewport (framed area on a display screen)

Nielsen Norman Group

Almond Joy mini-size candy bars

3) The buyer wants delicious information

Offer a friend a snack and chances are, she’ll accept it. We are a snack culture. But if the snack is her least favorite, or one she hates, then she’ll refuse. Even if the content is presented in our favorite way to consume it – like video. The trend is, “More and more people are watching videos!” But will your buyer perceive your videos as must-see TV?

To rouse a person’s tastebuds, the candy needs to taste delicious. One person’s favorite candy bar is not guaranteed to be another person’s first choice. Ingredients in the candy should be yummy. For persuasion, no formatting wizardry can take a dull piece of copy and make the words fascinating.

What information are your customers looking for? If you ask, they may tell you.

Survey your clients, especially the ones you would like to clone. Asking about what they view, read, and care about is super important. You want to know if the conversation you’re having with the reader is engaging them or putting them to sleep, don’t you?

4) The buyer chooses what information is relevant

The reader decides if the bite-sized information is pertinent to him. He may think the snack was satisfying or a waste of calories. Your opinion doesn’t count.

“It’s spam to me.” Spam is in the eye of the beholder. In our research, many users disliked information that was not tailored or specific to their interests. Many times, these types of messages were considered spam and this attitude illustrates the increasing importance of personalization in marketing emails and newsletters.” Kim Salazar, Nielsen Norman Group

You can also provide value to your reader by cutting down the fluff. Whittling down to the essential information.

What information does your decision-maker require to make a decision?  

In his book, Essentialism, teacher Greg McKeown shares a story about journalist / screenwriter, Nora Ephron, and how she first learned to determine the lead in the story.

Mounds snack size bard

“I realized that journalism was not just about regurgitating the facts but about figuring out the point. It wasn’t enough to know the who, what, when, and where, you had to understand what it meant. And why it mattered,” Nora Ephron said.

As McKeown writes, “The best journalists do not simply relay information. Their value is in discovering what really matters to people.”

If we discern what our readers truly need to know, then we are helping them. Improving their productivity – they’re getting the answers so they can solve their problems. Taking the right actions – so they move in the direction to achieve their goals.

The mini-candy bars style of information can give your potential buyers a reason to want to hear from you. One small bite of information at a time.

3 Techniques to Persuade Your Reader to Turn the Page

Wall of Mirrors painting by Claire Downey

Image: The Wall of Mirrors by Claire Downey

Lessons from Grover in The Monster at the End of This Book

When my daughters were young, we’d pile into the navy blue Honda Accord (a boxlike-design model year) and go to the public library every week for story hour. We’d check out dozens of books and scoop them up into our totes.

I was doing a weight-lifting regimen back then: hauling book totes and childcare bags, and lifting children in and out of car seats, high chairs, bathtubs, tricycles. I swear I had Michelle Obama biceps and triceps. At least back then.

On some occasions, the books they chose as their favorites would be mine too. Such as this one:

The monster at the end of this book book cover
The Monster at the End of This Book
Written by Jon Stone and Illustrated by Mike Smollin

When I needed to find a book for a toddler gift recently, I knew which one to choose. Before I wrapped it, I handed the book over to my teenager. She smiled and said, “Oh, I remember this book.” And we read aloud, “So please don’t turn the page.”

And, of course, we turned the page.

Jon wrote a classic children’s book featuring Grover. It’s not only funny and entertaining, but also steeped in persuasion. You can apply his techniques to update your marketing messages. Here are three principles of persuasion he used:

Continue reading 3 Techniques to Persuade Your Reader to Turn the Page

Welcome Emails Increase Your Open Rates by 82%

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Try an easy technique proven to improve your email engagement (and not everyone does it)

How’s your email marketing going?

I hear you’re focused on growing your email list. Good idea.

Over 200 marketers and 25 leading experts were asked in a recent study, which digital marketing channel generates the most return for your organization?

“About 59% of marketers said email marketing continues to generate the most return-on-investment.” Emma 2018 Email Marketing Industry Report

Email is your gold mine

So you’ve joined your peers in viewing an email list as a big asset.

And you can’t stop once you gain a subscriber. No, you’ve got to win him over to earn his long-term engagement, you know, reading your emails and taking action. Perhaps buying your product or service. Becoming a customer.

Because the value of an email list is the level of engagement, not the size of the list.

Curious to know the technique that will boost your email open rates by 82%?

Continue reading Welcome Emails Increase Your Open Rates by 82%

Optimize Your B2B Content: Use the 5 Stages of Awareness

Heads collage

When I wrote articles for regional business newspapers back in the day (they were called business journals, i.e., Springfield Business Journal and Lincoln Business Journal), one criterion for the assignment was word count. I needed to stick to that number and get to the point before my word limit was up.

Every two months, my article would make the front page, and it needed to fit in the upper right section, starting above the newspaper’s fold.

Today, we don’t have to squeeze our words into printed newspapers’ limited space. The Internet offers freedom! And yet, as business-to-business companies, we’re still obsessed with word count.

In describing the project’s scope, a chief marketing officer often says, “I only want 500 words.” Why only 500 words?

There is disparity about how long content should be. In a blog post, Neil Patel breaks down the word count for each industry’s content. And he concludes no magic number exists.

“Word count is not a standalone ranking factor. Word count only has merit if the content quality is high!” says Neil Patel

So what do we need to pay attention to instead?

Our reader’s level of awareness.

Consider this report about visitors’ behavior when they go online:

“People are not likely to read your content completely or linearly. They just want to pick out the information that is most pertinent to their current needs.” How People Read Online: The Eyetracking Evidence report, 2nd edition

And according to Kate Moran, a User Experience expert for Nielson Norman Group:

“The #1 biggest mistake in writing for the web is not understanding the people who will be reading the content.”

The first question to ask yourself is:

Who is your reader?

And do you know the second question to ask?

Michael Masterson and John Forde, master copywriters, say this question is often unasked by marketers, yet makes the biggest difference in engagement and sales.

What does my prospect already know?

Asking this question at the start will help us avoid the curse of knowledge, a natural psychological tendency that happens when we assume everyone has the same level of knowledge as we do about a product and service.

Too much information confuses and overwhelms our reader. They stop reading and look for another company to help them.

“(We) should be giving you (the reader) just enough information to be useful, then a little more, then a little more,” write Chip and Dan Heath, authors of Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die

And when we do this well, we’ll begin to chip away at the greatest challenge of business-to-business: being customer-focused.

“Gallup research shows that fewer than three in 10 customers (29%) across B2B industries are “fully engaged,” meaning they are emotionally and psychologically attached to the B2B companies they do business with.

The other customers are indifferent (60%), not caring about a company one way or the other, or they are actively disengaged (11%).” Gallup

Gene Schwartz’s 5 Stages of Awareness

In his book, Breakthrough Advertising, the renowned copywriter, Eugene “Gene” Schwartz, explained you need to determine your audience’s awareness level before you begin writing marketing copy.

We need to think about our goal. And our goal helps us decide what to say. It’s the foundation of writing messages readers will read and understand.

He described 5 primary stages, or states, of awareness that your visitors or prospects may have:

5 Stages of Awareness

  1. Completely Unaware
  2. Problem Aware / Pain Aware
  3. Solution Aware
  4. Product Aware
  5. Most Aware

My fellow business-to-business copywriter, Joel Klettke, summarizes the framework in his blog post.

“For each stage, you meet the prospect where they’re at and help them move along the stages of awareness before you can close the deal.”


How do the stages of awareness work in real life?

Let’s take an example. Imagine you are the owner of a local bike shop. A person called Mike lives in your town. He isn’t your customer (yet), but you would like him to be. Here are the stages Mike experiences on the journey to becoming your customer.

Stage 1: Completely Unaware. Clueless.

Prospect: “I don’t have a clue.”

The prospect is not aware of his need for your product or service. This is a cold prospect. As Melissa Bolton, copywriter, says:

“They don’t know who you are, what you sell, or even that they have a problem that needs solving.”

Mike hasn’t heard of your shop and doesn’t know he’s missing out on the benefits of bike riding. “What is a bicycle?” Mike asks. So talking about bikes – brand names, prices, or features — is a waste of words.

Stage 2: Problem Aware / Pain Aware. Painful.

Prospect: “I have a problem.”

Here, the prospect is becoming aware of his problems. He’s facing his pain. He recognizes he has a need. He hasn’t yet connected your product with resolving his pain, however. Ted Vrountas, content writer at Instapage wrote:

“Before your prospect can choose a solution, they must first realize they have a problem.”

Mike is pondering, I don’t have a car and I don’t want to ride public transportation. I’d like to be more physically fit, but I don’t want to jog to work. How will I get to work every day?

At this stage, Mike is expressing his needs for alternative transportation and better fitness. Your communication needs to center on his pain and problems.

Stage 3: Solution Aware. A solution exists.

Prospect: “I’m seeking a solution to solve my problem.”

Not only does the prospect know his problem, but he also realizes a solution exists to help him solve his problem. He knows the results he wants but is unaware that you or your product will deliver what he needs.

Mike is thinking to himself, Riding a bike is what I need to do. I can ride a bike to work, and I’ll get more fit doing so. What do I need to know to choose a bike? What do I need to ride a bike?

As this stage unfolds, Mike is seeking answers to his questions. Your goal is to provide resources that address his concerns, worries, and doubts.

Stage 4: Product Aware. A product fulfills my needs.

Prospect: “Which product or service is right for me?”

Gene Schwartz wrote:

“Here, your prospect isn’t completely aware of all your product does, or isn’t convinced of how well it does it, or hasn’t yet been told how much better it does it now.”

At this point, the prospect knows about competitive products, but he’s still gathering information. He’s learning more about the products available and what they deliver.

So Mike is weighing his options. He’s asking, “Which bicycle is right for me?” He’s discovered a hybrid (a mix between a road bike and a mountain bike) is good for commuting. After some research, he forms a wish list:

  • Hybrid bike with flat handlebars
  • Upright rider position
  • Black metallic aluminum frame
  • 21-speed drivetrain
  • Mudguards, a rack and lights

“Most marketers believe prospects need more content to make a decision that they actually do,” according to Tim Riesterer, Chief Strategy and Marketing Officer for Corporate Visions, Inc., in his compilation of 18 CMO.com exclusive insights that every marketer should know:

So be careful. You want to give prospects not only the right amount of information, but also the right message that helps them choose you. He says:

“You want to zero in on those areas where you do something that is important to the customer, and it is unique or advantaged capability – or you deliver it in a better way.

We call this finding your value wedge. In short, resist the instinct to pile on more information than your prospects and customers need.”

Stage 5: Most Aware. Hyperaware.

Prospect: “What’s the offer and when can I get it?”

Oh, hurray! The prospect is fully aware of your product or service. He is ready to buy. So give him the name of the product and the offer. Then, get out of his way, so he can choose you.

Mike knows what he wants. He comes into your store and says, “I’m buying a Giant Escape 3 flat bar hybrid bicycle.” Because you demonstrate excellent customer service, Mike becomes your bike shop’s biggest fan.


Concentrate on what your reader knows

Define your reader and focus on his state of awareness. Write the words you need to write to guide him along the 5 stages of awareness from being a clueless prospect to a happy customer. And remember…

“People don’t want to waste time or effort online. As long as we’re designing content that acknowledges that reality and helps to direct people to only the information they want, we’ll be on the right track.” Nielson Norman Group

What is a good example of content that fits your level of knowledge when you were seeking information online?

Image: Heads, a collage by Claire Downey

Why You’re Not Grabbing Your Reader’s Attention

The nuance of selecting the right word

By Shannan Seely

“See, the best interpreters are part linguists, part diplomats. They have to know the politics behind each word,” Danny Hajek, National Public Radio reporter.

Try to put yourself in the shoes of a prospective customer.

How do you want him to feel when he visits and reads the copy on your website? Like you’re speaking directly to him? So he feels like you understand him, can relate to his concerns and have the knowledge to solve his problems?

Do you want him to think, “These people get me!”

Many writers inadvertently fail to foster these feelings online with a prospective customer. Let me explain the three reasons why and how you can fix it. Continue reading Why You’re Not Grabbing Your Reader’s Attention

Search 10x Faster in Google

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I watched a movie recently about Saroo Brierley, a boy from India who fell asleep and rode on a train 1,000 miles from his home. When Saroo got off the train, he was lost. Only five years old, Saroo found himself in another part of India where a different language is spoken. He also did not know the correct name of his hometown, and encumbered with language barriers, could not return home.

It’s an astonishing tale and one I can’t keep thinking about.

Saroo wrote about his journey from India to an orphanage, then to adoption in Tasmania and eventually his quest, 25 years later, to seek his family in India. The book, A Long Way Home, inspired the movie, Lion, and earned six Oscar nominations.

Here’s a Google Earth: Saroo’s Search video describing his fascinating journey. (Spoiler alert: Stop the video at the 1:30 minute mark if you don’t want to know the ending and prefer to watch the movie or read his book first.)

Saroo’s story also inspired me to share some tips on how to get the information you want faster in Google Search. Let’s be more savvy in our searching, shall we?

1. Simple works best

In Google search, one or two word search terms will usually give you the broadest results. Start with short search terms, then refine your results by adding more words.

Example: sunflowers Continue reading Search 10x Faster in Google

Creating a Picture in Your Reader’s Mind = More Memorable Content

Paint and paint brushesWhen I rewrite my drafts, sometimes I get impatient. I cross out filler words and clichés and still, the content is blah. The words I use are so boring that I’m easily distracted by our family cat, Coco, or the contractors pounding on the roof shingles of my neighbor’s house across the street. (Do they need to pound at 8 o’clock in the morning?)

As writers, what can we do to engage our readers, even if the readers are ourselves? Here’s one easy trick to make your content and my content more memorable. You already know this powerful editing tip, but do you use it regularly? Continue reading Creating a Picture in Your Reader’s Mind = More Memorable Content

The Three Actions You Need to Take to be an Effective Content Marketing Team of One

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I admit it. Business-to-business and healthcare companies who only have one or two people responsible for content marketing is a boon for me. It’s true. Small teams need, hire and value freelance copywriters. But it’s also true that I hate seeing clients run themselves ragged trying to keep up “feeding the content marketing machine.”

So consider doing these actions if you or you and one other person are responsible for creating content in your organization. Continue reading The Three Actions You Need to Take to be an Effective Content Marketing Team of One

How to Blog Consistently: Create a Blogging Habit

How’s your blog doing?

Remember in high school when the cheerleaders would spell the letters out loud for the word CONFIDENCE to the crowd? They’d yell “C-O-N … F-I-D … C-O-N-F-I-D-E-N-C-Eeeeeeee!” The cheerleaders wanted people in the stands to join in the chant and encourage their team to victory.

For blogging, I think the word we need to pay attention to is C-O-N-S-I-S-T-E-N-C-Y.

If your company has a blog, and you’re not publishing consistently, then you’re probably:

  • Losing followers.
  • Missing new leads.
  • Losing online authority.
  • And your website may be penalized by search engines, including Google, for the lack of fresh content.

Maybe you’re feeling a little regret. A year is almost done and your company has missed the lead generation gusto a regularly published blog can bring.

Do you want a different result next year? Continue reading How to Blog Consistently: Create a Blogging Habit