Wait a minute…is this guy really telling me to lie to my customers? Are online reviews really so powerful that some brands believe it’s worth crossing ethical boundaries?

Yes, yes. A thousand times yes.

Product reviews and testimonials have been an effective way to build confidence and trust since the dawn of modern advertising.

And today, online reviews work so well that many businesses have resorted to paying someone to create their own phony reviews. It’s been estimated that as much as 15% of online reviews are fake.

OK, but why online reviews?

Reviews have always been a powerful form of marketing content, but they are probably more important now than ever before.

Why? They play a crucial role in today’s digital buyer’s journey.

Expectations for quick-and-convenient transactions are higher than ever for our always-connected, highly informed audiences.

Decisions about whether or not to take action are made quickly, often on mobile devices. That means people look for easily understood shortcuts to help them make decisions like whether to provide personal information or click the Buy Button.

This moment, dubbed by Google as the Zero Moment Of Truth (ZMOT), is the point when consumers actively begin researching products online for the first time. Marketers have found that online reviews and customer testimonials are two of the most effective information sources to gain a prospect’s trust.

These moments are becoming increasingly important as shoppers deal with information overload and more transactions occur online and through mobile devices. Shoppers are busy, and effective reviews can provide powerful prompts to help make a sale:

But should you really be writing your own testimonials?

Isn’t that unscrupulous?

Not at all, as long as you don’t publish them pass them off as written by actual customers.

Writing out the types of testimonials that reflect your ideal brand vision can be a valuable exercise for your entire team. It can help everyone on your team:

  • Clarify your value proposition
  • Understand the what customers like and dislike about your brand
  • Learn the language customers use to talk about your brand
  • Highlight benefits and use cases you want prospects to know
  • Help team members understand and articulate your brand’s value
  • Better align sales, marketing and customer success content
  • Gain business-building insights

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind

In his Seven Habits of Highly Successful People, author and coach Stephen Covey famously taught the habit of beginning with the end in mind. The idea is that you can achieve more powerful results by beginning each project or task by envisioning the ideal end result.

That’s a powerful way to improve perception of your brand.

For example, say that you believe your main competitive advantages are unique products, one-stop shopping and fast delivery. Check out your reviews. Is that what your customers believe? Ideally, these competitive advantages are coming through loud and clear as the reasons prospects should choose you instead of your competitors.

So, to tune up your reviews, start from the end and work  backwards.

  1. Go to Yelp, Amazon, Google Place pages or wherever people leave feedback. Assess your current testimonials and identify how well they capture your brand value.
  2. Note the language and terminology your customers use to describe their challenges and needs. That language should inform the tone of your sales, marketing and customer success content.
  3. What are people are saying about your brand? Ideally, what would you want them to say to reflect your product’s true differentiation, benefits and value?
  4. Identify frequently mentioned customer likes and dislikes. Do current reviews suggest business opportunities or improvements to your products or services?
  5. Write new reviews that reflect the ideal relationship customers could have with your brand. Share them with your team and refer to them often.

Now, instead of simply being backward-looking indicators, your hard-earned reviews help provide a clear vision of your team’s desired vision and destination.

By listening closely and learning lessons from your current customers, you can set the stage for better engagement with future customers.

Writing your own testimonials can be a great exercise to help articulate and share your brand’s true unique value. Identifying and engaging your ideal customers has always been at the heart of marketing. You can’t control what people say about your brand, but you can certainly work on providing the the amazing product and service experiences that happy customers talk about online.

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