Testimonials: Evidence that persuades

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While perusing Tweetdeck this cloudy Monday morning, I came across a tweet from @Seltzer Design about a post on Seth Godin's blog.  The tweet reports,   "Mr Godin makes a good argument for the social-normative power of testimonials in his post abt evidence-based marketing. http://is.gd/dQWJ09.

Evidence is not always persuasive

As I interpreted it, the gist of the blog is that marketers should be wary of using evidence to persuade buyers to purchase.  Instead, Godin notes that testimonials, lots of them, from people that buyers know of and trust, are often the key.

Testimonials are often more convincing

I agree.  Marketers have long known that testimonials, and case studies, are very persuasive.

Facts are not the be all and end all

There are a number of reasons why this is so.  One is that evidence, often presented as facts, may not apply to one's own situation.

Another is that "facts" can change over time.  As a colleague told me recently, "A  lot of smart people thought Pluto was a planet for a long time.

A third is assumptions, based on assertions from trusted sources, often prevail until sufficient evidence from new sources amass.

Such is often the case in medicine.  For example, few doctors recommend alternative treatments to their patients-until one of their own patients has succeeded with a particular regimen.

"Facts" often require verification

Therefore, it is not surprising that decision makers may believe that all "facts" require independent verification from sources that they know to be reliable.  Much quicker than doing their own research, is often seeking out recommendations from those who they already trust-or believe will understand their unique concerns.

Those who rely on recommendations, aren't necessarily sold on opinions alone

So, while I appreciate Mr. Godin's overall message that facts often aren't as persuasive as personal recommendations-I don't agree with the conclusion of the post.  In explaining why few people still believe that the earth is flat, or why political parties some time change their platforms, he says, ""It wasn't that the majority reviewed the facts and made a shift. It's because people they respected sold them on a new faith, a new opinion."

Testimonials are a form of evidence

For one, this surmise melds decisions about objective information (the shape of the earth) with subjective conclusions (political platforms).  For another, for the reasons stated above, I count testimonials as evidence-and as evidence that often carries equal weight to facts.

Trust but verify

I draw this conclusion because most people don't just blindly accept any old opinion.  Instead, they look to those they trust based on these individuals'  or organizations' track records.

Persistence is persuasive

Moreover, as Mr. Godin points out, the tide rarely turns quickly.  Rather, most people need to receive the same message, persistently, before they change their minds.

Evidence is in the mind of the beholder

What he and I can both agree on are a series of actions that one can successfully use to persuade others:

  • Don't invest in a lot of time in evidence-based marketing without first finding out what evidence it will take to influence prospective buyers
  • Get testimonials from sources buyers know of and trust
  • Repeat your messages clearly and persistently to achieve the desired effect.

Looking for more information on testimonials that sell?  See Ten steps you can take to create compelling testimonials.


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