Word of Mouth Insights & Tips for Advertisers

(This post originally appeared on the Engagious Blog)

There’s no question that word of mouth advertising is powerful.  In fact, a Nielsen study confirmed that 83% of global consumers say they “completely” to “somewhat” trust the recommendations of friends and family.

It stands to reason that customer testimonials in advertising, especially in direct response categories, are most effective when they emulate the essence of a friend or family recommendation.

How can you do that? To start, let’s evaluate what makes friends and family recommendations so persuasive.

First, friends and family genuinely care about you and the problem you’re trying to solve.  They are motivated to help you because they want you to be satisfied and happy.  Rarely would they benefit personally from your product purchase or are they paid to make a recommendation.  As a result, their words are perceived as very objective.

Next, by default, your friends and family tend to be similar to you in many ways – lifestyle, needs, preferences, considerations, and values.   If a product works for them, it’s likely to work for you.  Moreover, the way they think and talk about the benefits of a product are similar to they way you think and talk about benefits.  Their personal experience is the closest comparison to you actually using the product yourself, which lowers the risk of trial.

Finally, their recommendation is a two-way conversation.  You are able to ask about any concerns or questions that you have, while you’re considering the purchase and while you’re using the product.

With those strong points, how can advertising capture the power of word of mouth?  Here are a few key considerations when creating user testimonials:

  • Emphasize that the users aren’t actors, but are real users – not too beautiful, scripted, or polished – that have a legitimate need for the product.
  • Include before/after pictures that show a definitive improvement that can’t be explained by other factors (such as lighting, cosmetics, angles, or Photoshop).
  • Have users tell their story in a conversational style, including a sincere reason why they stand behind the product.
  • Lastly, get feedback from your target customers before airing the commercial. Measure how believable and persuasive your user testimonials are (along with your claims, demonstrations, spokespeople, and visuals) and edit or replace them as needed.  Understand why elements aren’t working and if they have unanswered questions so you can optimize your messages before airing them.

If you’d like to make sure your testimonials are optimized for effectiveness, ask me how our Perceptional Analyzer dial technology in focus groups can work for your ads.