Daniel Burstein

Customer Testimonials: 3 ways to leverage your customers to help tell your product’s story

April 28th, 2016

U.S. media ad spending will hit $200 billion in 2016, according to eMarketer. And yet, when we asked 2,021 customers how they discover new products, advertising was the fifth most popular response with offline and online advertising tied for fifth with 27% of responses.

“In-store browsing” was the most popular (59%), and the focus of today’s MarketingSherpa Blog post — “word of mouth from friends, family, colleagues” — was a close second at 57%.

However, when we asked marketers how they actually helped customers learn about products, there was a bit of a disconnect from customer preferences. Online advertising was the most frequently used tactic (60%), while “encouraging word of mouth” was only the fifth most popular tactic (chosen by 45% of marketers).


How can you increase word of mouth for your products and services?

Be awesome.

This will generate organic referrals at the highest rate.

But a deeper question is more applicable to marketers — how can you leverage word of mouth in your marketing to increase conversion?

Here are three ideas for your campaigns.


Idea #1. Help, not hype

“My experience with Summit has just been seamless. I got the opportunity to submit some different proud moments for marketing and my team’s successes. And then having the opportunity to be selected and the opportunity to be with such a prestigious organization was very flattering. Then I was very, very prepared every step of the way. I had a dedicated team that was sending me updates, giving me clear deadlines, supporting me along the way — just made it incredibly professional and certainly best in class.”

That quote is from Cambria Jacobs, Vice President of Marketing and Customer Service, Door to Door Organics, from a video promoting the MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 Call for Speakers.

Now, we didn’t need to have Cambria in the video. I could have told you how amazing it is to be a speaker at MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas. How you’ll have your name up in lights. You will be fawned over by an adoring crowd of marketers. And, most importantly, you may even get the distinct honor and privilege of working directly with me for several months — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you will never forget — as I help you shape your story before we discuss it on stage.

But … c’mon … would you really believe it?

I’ll admit, I have a serious conflict of interest. I’m trying to get you to fill out the call for speakers to speak at MarketingSherpa Summit. So of course I think we do an amazing job with our speakers.

That’s why, when we created the Call for Speakers video, we stick to the facts, and let speakers like Cambria tell you what the experience is like.

This is one way you can use testimonials. Stick to helping customers with your marketing copy. Not hyping your product. Customers won’t believe you when you tell them how wonderful your product is anyway. And they shouldn’t. Just as you shouldn’t believe me when I tell you what the speaker experience is like. I’m hopelessly biased.

Think of it as almost like a traditional-press-release-style of marketing. Use your marketing copy to stick to the facts, and let the customers add the color and the adjectives.

You can see how we did it in the Call for Speakers video below:


In this way, you can think of testimonials as more than just a supporting element. Not just some copy in the right-hand sidebar, but rather use them as a key description of the customer experience that you strategically weave into stories about your product.


Idea #2. Amplify customer conversations

While Cambria provided a speaker testimonial to provide word of mouth for us, she is no stranger to using word-of-mouth marketing for her own brand.

Door to Door Organics sells farm-fresh organic produce along with natural, local groceries. This type of product tends to have a passionate following and reaction.

The ecommerce grocer found that customers were enthusiastically sharing their experience with the brand on social media, naturally creating user-generated content and word-of-mouth marketing.

Cambria’s team discovered that their best brand ambassadors were on Instagram, and used its brand account on the photo-sharing social network to share user-generated content — amplifying its word-of-mouth effect.



This was part of a social media marketing effort that helped the ecommerce grocer grow 25% year-over-year.

Learn more about Door to Door Organics social media marketing efforts by watching the video replay of Cambria Jacobs case study at MarketingSherpa Summit — “How an Online Organic and Natural Food Retailer Grew Its Social Media Fan Base 600% in 18 Months.”


Idea #3. Take good care of customers who provide testimonials

To help amplify word-of-mouth marketing, B2B companies usually form relationships with customers willing to provide testimonials or referrals.

However, because word-of-mouth is so powerful, sometimes these B2B brands can abuse customers and ask them to do too much. After all, these customers are professionals who are plenty busy at their own jobs.

“A lot of companies when they have a client who will tell good things about them — we all do this — we burn the daylights out of them until they yell, ‘Uncle! Leave me alone. I don’t want to do another success story. I’m not going to do a video.’ And we don’t take care of those people. We ask for a lot of work from them, but we don’t help them,” said Karen Thomas-Smith, Vice President, Provider Marketing and Reference Management, Optum.

So Karen formed a dedicated team to take care of Optum’s reference clients. Her team created a formalized program, ensuring there is one point-person managing the relationship with that customer, whether it’s asking for a reference visit or to have the customer featured in content like a case study or video (for example, check out Optum One client experience videos).

“They’ll do 40% more, on average, by having that dedicated person look out for them,” Karen said.

Learn more about Optum’s content marketing by watching the video replay of Karen Thomas-Smith’s case study from MarketingSherpa Summit — “Customer-First Marketing: How Optum generated closed contract revenue of $52 for every dollar invested (then reimagined its marketing team for even better results).”


Idea #4. Identify and enable key influencers

Not all word-of-mouth marketing is equally powerful. Some people and organizations are just more influential than others.

Online mattress retailer Leesa offered key bloggers an opportunity to try the product for free, in exchange for an unbiased review.

“We would send them a free Leesa mattress — there were tons of competitors that did the same thing. [The reviewer] would do an objective comparison of us versus competitors,” said Matt Hayes, Head of Marketing and founding member, Leesa.

After this initial success, the team identified more social media influencers to expand the program.

“[The influencer] might only have 40,000 Instagram followers but they get a ton of engagement,” Matt said. “That’s as good as 200,000 with not as much engagement.”

The team also provided some messaging about the product, but made sure to keep a light touch.

“We want them to hit the on the things we want them to say,” Matt said. “But we didn’t want to be overly prescriptive … because this is organic influencer content. If it’s coming out of our mouth, it’s no longer organic. It needs to come from the influencer’s mouth.”

This was all part of an influencer marketing program that has driven 100,000 clicks to the Leesa website and has directly resulted in more than 400 mattress sales.

To learn more about Leesa’s influencer marketing, read the case study — “Inbound Marketing: How influencer marketing attracted 100,000 website clicks to luxury mattress site.”


You can follow Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS Institute, @DanielBurstein.


You might also like

Word-of-Mouth: Email tactics power referral program with 111% ROI [MarketingSherpa Case Study]

Convince Your Boss to Launch a Word-of-Mouth Marketing Campaign: 4 Steps [MarketingSherpa How-To]

MarketingSherpa Summit 2017 Call for Speakers — We’re looking for inspirational stories of customer-first marketing to shine a light on at the Aria Resort in Las Vegas.


Daniel Burstein

About Daniel Burstein

Daniel Burstein, Senior Director of Editorial Content, MECLABS. Daniel oversees all content and marketing coming from the MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa brands while helping to shape the editorial direction for MECLABS – digging for actionable information while serving as an advocate for the audience. Daniel is also a speaker and moderator at live events and on webinars. Previously, he was the main writer powering MarketingExperiments publishing engine – from Web clinics to Research Journals to the blog. Prior to joining the team, Daniel was Vice President of MindPulse Communications – a boutique communications consultancy specializing in IT clients such as IBM, VMware, and BEA Systems. Daniel has 18 years of experience in copywriting, editing, internal communications, sales enablement and field marketing communications.

Categories: Inbound Marketing Tags: , , , ,

  1. Tim S
    May 9th, 2016 at 15:32 | #1

    Would have been nice if the link from “How an Online Organic and Natural Food Retailer Grew Its Social Media Fan Base 600% in 18 Months.” actually went to the video 😉

  2. May 10th, 2016 at 09:50 | #2

    I agree Tim. It would be nice if we could link directly to the video.

    Of course, I’m sure you understand that for us to release videos of all of the case study sessions from MarketingSherpa Summit 2016 for free, in their entirety, requires some sponsorship to underwrite the significant costs of the event.

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