Do people like your business?
When your customer service team gets off the phone, are they beaming from the gushing praise of someone whose life is SOOO much easier after working with you?
Fantastic. Let’s use it to make some money.
This article will dive straight into the science and psychology behind case studies and customer testimonials, giving you an introduction into why they work and then actionable tips on how to create them, what to look for, and how to avoid the most common (and frustrating) mistakes.
“I love this article! I followed exactly what James said and my conversion rates have gone up 55% in only three weeks!”
- You, after reading this article (probably).
Introduction to the Case Study
Do you remember Jared Fogle, of Subway fame? Jared was (and still is) the greatest, most successful, most influential case study the world has ever seen.
Jared filmed his first commercial for Subway in 1999 (he’s filmed more than 300 since). During his tenure with Subway, the company increased sales from 3 billion to 11.5 billion (in 2011). Subway’s CMO credited Jared with around half the credit for that revenue increase.
In short, Jared Fogle’s case study is worth somewhere around 4 billion dollars.
But Why did the Case Study Work?
Case studies are the proof behind your business’ claim. A man who lost more than 225 pounds eating Subway sandwiches gives complete credence to their “Eat Fresh” slogan and every one of their marketing promotions.
But more than simply proving a business’ claims, case studies are about the people behind the cases. Jared Fogle is an everyman – a normal guy from a town like yours who did this amazing thing. He’s not a model on a runway or an affiliate marketer, paid to promote.
That’s the best, and also most subconsciously influential, part of case studies: that they represent the success you could find because the success is found by people like you.
Creating Case Studies
As soon as you hear (through a social media message, customer service call, online review system or simply by looking through your business’ analytics) about a client who’s found success using your tools or loves one of your products, you should follow up with that person as soon as possible.
Send a simple email, asking if they’d be interested in asking a couple questions that will help other people like them find the same kind of success (appeal to their altruistic side).
If you’re asking that they do more than fill out a short questionnaire (such as film a video) it might be worth offering a 10% discount on their next month’s subscription to your tool or a “buy one get one 50% off” deal on a product on your website.
Here’s an example email very similar to the one we send out to our most successful customers. Feel free to use it as a template:
There are six primary elements that make up the ideal case study:
Challenge: What was the goal of your client when they signed up with you?
Solution : How was your tool or product utilized to help them meet that goal?
Outcome : What was the result of the client using your tool?
Description : A short (paragraph-long) description of how your product influenced this company’s success.
Quote : A short paragraph in the words of the customer (with picture and name) describing, specifically, why working with you was so awesome.
Image : A visually appealing image of the client themselves, an image of their campaign or a screenshot of their campaign/account’s analytics.
Here’s how I recommend you format your case study:
Why Customer Testimonials
Customer testimonials, like case studies, give credence to the claims you make, but (as they are far more concise) can be placed and integrated throughout your website.
We’ve found (as have many businesses) success with customer testimonials on landing pages. Essentially, customer testimonials are the equivalent of having someone trustworthy and relatable stand in front of your business saying to possible customers, “Seriously, believe what these people are saying. You can trust them.”
Here’s an example from HubSpot:
Creating Customer Testimonials
The primary thing to test when creating your testimonials is whether the everyman figure resonates best with your target market or the authority figure testimonial. Hubspot has cheated a bit above by covering all their bases (definitely an option if you have the ability). For the rest of us, you need to decide if your landing page conversion rates will increase if you use a recognizable or impressive name/job title or, instead, someone people can relate to.
To be honest, I can’t tell you which will work better for your business and your target market. I’ve seen many businesses who swore by well-known brand logos on their landing pages and just as many who found success with the more relatable client testimonials.
Three main customer testimonial mistakes to avoid:
Mistake #1: Being too generic: What about your product is amazing, specifically? Does your customer testimonial reflect that? Or, as I see pretty often, does it look a bit more like this?
How to fix it:
Don’t hesitate to prompt your customers with specific questions. Find out exactly what impressed them most, the numbers they got, or the specific moment they knew they were finding success.
Mistake #2: Going nameless or faceless:
Jared Fogle would have been far less appealing or successful had nobody ever known his name or seen his face. If you think it’s different on the micro-scale of the customer testimonial on your company’s landing page, you’re wrong.
Pictures of people, almost always, have a positive impact on the conversion rates of your landing pages or product pages – and it’s the same for your customer testimonials.
Without a picture and a name (and a job title, and company name), your customer testimonials aren’t trustworthy. For all your visitor knows, you could have made it up completely.
How to fix it:
Include the face and name of your customer. Be sure the picture you get is a professional one – the last thing you want is a fuzzy, low res phone picture taken in a client’s basement. Don’t be afraid to send it back and ask for another one (nicely).
Mistake #3: Being unbelievable:
Often the unbelievable customer testimonial doesn’t happen because you ask for it or actually do write it yourself, but because your customers are trying to be nice.
They embellish just a bit, adding a couple percentage points to their actual ROI or using language they think reflects how impressed they were (but actually makes your business sound too good to be true).
Something like this:
How to fix it:
Ensure your customers are completely honest. In fact, I recommend prompting them to talk about their initial concerns. Something like this:
Legitimate concerns make your customer’s testimonials believable, and the success they found all the more impressive. Don’t be afraid to include the normal trepidation experienced by your new customers, as it’s likely the visitors to your landing pages are experiencing something similar. Reading that someone like them thought the same things and then was pleasantly surprised by how awesome your business was will seriously increase the chance of them engaging with you.
Hopefully that’s given you a better idea of how and why case studies and customer testimonials can be used to convert your site traffic and get a sale.
Remember that a solid case study can also be email-gated to generate leads for your business. Simply create a PDF of your case study, choose an eye-catching title like “AcmeSaaS increases conversions by 120% with a simple change to their sales funnel” and create a landing page that email-gates access to the description and data.
Landing Page Customer Reviews: The How the What and the Wherefore