In October, Derek Edmond and Casie Gillette, of KoMarketing Associates, and I issued a survey to our respective networks. We wanted to know what B2B buyers do once they get to a vendor website.
More important, we wanted to know which elements increased a vendor’s credibility in the mind of the buyer, which detracted — and which caused them to leave a website.
We’re happy to say we have lots of exciting and unexpected answers to our questions. The report is currently in production but we thought we’d pique your interest with a few tidbits that we don’t have room for in the report. I’m up this week; KoMarketing next week.
Establishing credibility is key
Credibility. It’s the power of inspiring belief. When B2B buyers come to a vendor website, they look for specific elements. Many of these elements establish a vendor’s credibility.
If a vendor website lacks these elements, the buyer will leave.
Buyers look for third-party testimonials – among other things.
(We’ll reveal the other elements when the report is published in a few weeks. You’ll be just as surprised as we were on what causes a buyer to leave a vendor website.)
Of course, advising you to add testimonials to your website and marketing collateral isn’t anything new, so the fact that 57% of respondents indicated that testimonials add credibility didn’t surprise us.
What did surprise us is that 38% of respondents indicated that “maybe” they do, and 5% said they didn’t.
We’re not sure why people responded this way, but obviously respondents had instances in mind where testimonials detracted from a vendor’s credibility versus adding to it.
Gathering credible testimonials
We know, based on our work with clients, that it can sometimes be difficult to get testimonials. You’ve signed an NDA or you’re an OEM and your customers don’t want others to know they do business with you. We get it.
However, that doesn’t mean you still can’t use testimonials effectively — even without a person’s real name or job title. Some tactics for getting your customers to agree to a testimonial include:
1. Write the testimonial yourself — If you can’t mention specifics due to an NDA or other reason, focus instead on your excellent customer service, on-time delivery or “exacting attention to detail.”
2. Substitute a job title for a name — It’s perfectly acceptable to use a job title versus someone’s name – although using the person’s name is much better. What you want to refrain from is using initials as they scream “fake” and will detract from the testimonial’s credibility.
3. State the type of company / organization — Again, using a real company name is much more credible, but if you can’t, consider “Fortune 500 software company” or “Global Industrial OEM.”
Send the testimonial to your customer with the comment, “I’d like to use this as a testimonial on our website. Is this ok with you? You can make any changes to it.”
Usually the customer will agree, often with zero or minor changes.
One caveat: Never, ever use testimonials without your customers’ permission. Not only does it not go over well, but you could jeopardize a very profitable relationship.
What’s your experience with testimonials? Do you agree they lend credibility to a vendor website — or do you view them in a case-by-case basis? Leave your comments below.
Edited to add: Be sure to see KoMarketing Associates’ post, “Survey Says: Slow Web Page Load Time Hurting B2B Vendors.” They look at another finding from our upcoming 2014 B2B Web Usability Report (due out next month!).