Testimonials and the competitor bias


When presenting prospective customers with a list of testimonials, common sense says to provide as much detail as possible. In other words, prospects will view a testimonial as more credible when they see the name of the person providing the endorsement and actual data on the benefits they realized from using the product. This makes perfect sense for consumer products, since any one customer is likely to be just as good as the next. And if prospects are already familiar with the person providing the testimonial, that’s even better.

But what about business products? Wouldn’t a company tend to distrust an endorsement if it came from a known competitor, and even take steps to avoid using the product as a result? Personally, I’m a little skeptical when I see testimonials for things like trade shows, where a competitor’s overly eager sales guy provides a testimonial talking about all the great leads they got there. It’s just hard to trust an endorsement that comes from your natural enemy, even if the testimonial was provided in good faith.

Since most business products tend to be sold into a relatively small group of industries, some amount of testimonials are going to run into this problem. What’s the solution? I recommend starting with the biggest name customers. Get testimonials from these household names and attach the company name to them. Big companies compete in lots of markets, so I think they’re less likely to be viewed as an arch enemy by smaller firms.

Next, take all the remaining testimonials and present them as a customer survey of sorts. For instance, calculate what percentage of customers are happy with your product and would recommend it to others, how much money they save on the average each year, and other key stats. You could even provide the list of participating customers via a hyperlink. By delivering testimonails in an aggregate form, you remove the risk that prospects will react negatively to seeing a competitor’s name front and center. And between the big name corporate endorsements and the essentially nameless smaller company testimonials, you maximize the chance that prospects will react positively to what they see and ultimately make a purchase.