Fame Foundry - A Charlotte Website Design and Marketing Firm

Thursday, 2nd May, 2013 | By Jeremy Girard | Category: Website Design and Development

Insider Secrets to Killer Website Content: Goodbye Testimonials. Hello Success Stories.

success-story-article

On the Web, content is king. Visitors don’t come to your site to marvel at its visual design; they come for its content. And the burden therefore is on that content to compel them to take action, whether that’s making a purchase, completing a registration form or even just picking up the phone to contact you for more information.

These actions are the “win” for your site – conversion points that transform visitors from statistical blips in your website’s analytics into real live prospects that can become customers and clients. It all starts with powerful content.

Why content must come first

A website redesign is an exciting project, but all too often the primary focus is on the visual aspects of the redesign while content is addressed only as an afterthought. The visual aesthetics are undoubtedly very important, and your new site certainly needs to feature an attractive design and provide an exceptional user experience.

However, the most important function of any website design is supporting content, making it easy to scan and pleasurable to read. So why then, when we redesign a website, do we often just dump old, stale content into a shiny new design? We may make some edits to ensure the content is accurate, but accurate content is not the same as effective content.

Accurate content is factually correct, but effective content is that which your audience is actively seeking and can use to make an informed decision to take the next step in their engagement with your brand.

To be truly successful, a website redesign process must address not only the visual look of the site, but also the quality of the content.

In this series of articles – Insider Secrets to Killer Website Content – we will take a look at types of content that are common to many websites and explore ways that they can be redesigned and improved, beginning with a staple of most business websites – the testimonials page.

The harsh truth about testimonials

Almost every client wants to include a testimonials page on their website, but if you look at the analytics, these pages are by far one of the least often visited.

The reason these pages are relatively unpopular with visitors is one that companies are hesitant to acknowledge: many online testimonials are bogus, and as a result, people have become very skeptical of their validity.

While it’s certainly true that some unscrupulous companies fabricate the testimonials on their sites, other well-meaning companies will post legitimate comments that for one reason or another (usually privacy concerns), can’t be publicly attributed to the person or company who said them.

Unfortunately, these anonymous testimonials hold as little weight with prospects as fictitious ones. If you can’t put a name and a company with a positive review, visitors will naturally regard the validity of these words as suspect, and the very presence of these faceless testimonials on your site will ultimately do more harm than good in the process of building trust with potential clients.

Are your testimonials crippled by lack of context?

Another issue with the typical client testimonial is that these comments are often presented without any context. Glowing words of praise are nice, but they tend to fall flat in the absence of any information about the engagement that warranted them.

What prospects really want to see is reinforcement that other clients who have like business needs have had a good experience working with you on projects that are similar in nature to their own. Therefore, without some insight into the project itself, the resulting testimonial doesn’t carry the same weight or value that it could.

Was this a quick, one‐off project or part of a long‐term engagement?

What challenges did the project present, and how were they met?

What tangible business results did the company gain from working with you?

These are just a few of the questions that, when answered, can provide the critical context needed to add real value to those positive comments.

Goodbye testimonials. Hello success stories.

To develop more effective customer testimonials, we need to rethink our approach in order to address these problem areas. How can we provide context and also eliminate potential doubts as to whether or not the comments are genuine? The answer: success stories.

A success story is a short description of a project, engagement or interaction that elicited the customer’s testimonial. It does not need to be an in‐depth case study that examines every aspect of the project; it just needs to provide that aforementioned context.

When preparing to write a customer success story, start by answering these questions:

  • Who is the client (name, industry, basic background information)?
  • What were we initially hired to do?
  • What were the client’s objectives? What problems were they facing that they needed our help to solve?
  • Did we do anything innovative or go above and beyond in a tangible way to meet the needs of this client?
  • What measurable business benefits did the client realize from this project?
  • What’s next for this client and this engagement?
  • Was there anything else noteworthy about this particular project?

Not every one of these questions will apply to every engagement, but the answers can help you put together a short narrative about the project. It will also give you a great reason to reach out to the client to approve the success story and ask for a testimonial to accompany the piece.

Testimonials + success stories: an unbeatable team

Testimonials that come directly from clients do have value, so when you can add one alongside one of these success stories, their comments go from being anonymous praise that, right or wrong, is often perceived as fake, to very valuable content that prospective buyers can use to evaluate your products or services.

A good success story accompanied by a strong client testimonial takes a negative perception of testimonials and flips it on its head because now there is both context and attribution. The testimonial reinforces the success story, and the impact it makes on your visitors is stronger because of it.

This process can work in reverse as well. If a customer sends you an unsolicited email or letter praising your company and the experience they had with you, they are a perfect candidate for a success story. Reach out to them and ask if you can use their comments and their overall experience as part of a success story on your website. If they took the time to extend their kind words in the first place, then they are very likely to be willing to participate in this process as well.

Once the success story goes live, send them a link and thank them again for their help and their business. They will likely pass this link along to their friends and connections via social media or even just through word of mouth, thereby raising greater awareness of your company and driving business to your site.

Hard work pays off.

When I speak with businesses about the value of rethinking their client testimonials and moving to a success story model, a common reaction is that it “sounds like hard work.” That is absolutely correct. It is hard work.

It is far easier to create a laundry list of comments that you have received over the years than it is to author success stories to accompany those comments, but the fact that this is hard work is to your advantage. If this process was easy, everyone would be doing it, but since it’s not, your site and your business can stand out if you take the time and effort to augment typical testimonials by transforming them into informative success stories.

Don’t stop there!

Finding ways to improve client testimonials is just one example of how rethinking content can make your website a more powerful conversion engine. Subsequent entries in this series will explore other common elements of website content that can be improved to bring more value to your visitors and greater returns for your business.

Jeremy Girard
Jeremy Girard has been designing for the web since 1999. He is currently employed at the Providence, Rhode Island-based firm Envision Technology Advisors and also teaches website design and front-end development at the University of Rhode Island. In addition, Jeremy contributes regularly to a number of websites and magazines focused on business and the Web, including his personal site at Pumpkin-King.com.