Why Testimonials Don’t Work any More

Why Testimonials Don’t Work Any More

It’s official.   

Testimonials are dead. 

Cut them from your promotions immediately. 

Your prospect may not believe them anyway. 

By dropping them you could see a 20% boost in response as I have. 
Hard to believe? You Bet! But not when you see these test results.  There you’ll see with your own eyes how your testimonials could be depressing the response of your email and direct mail promotions.  

I Only Know What the Numbers Tell Me 

If you’ve been reading the A-list for some time, then you know I’m a scientific marketer.   To be sure, I’ve been known to have great gut instincts, but as my clients have heard me say way too often, “What do I know? 

The market knows everything.”  My recent testing reveals that the market may not believe testimonials any more–even if they’re 100% documented and true.  

Let me explain… Recently,  I ran a continuing series of email tests on one of my promotions.  I had always wanted to do a testimonial-style promotion, and this was the opportunity to do try it. So here’s what I did. 

  • For Test A, you could see four testimonials in the preview pane with four testimonial sidebars included in the e-letter.
  • For Test B, the preview pane testimonials were replaced with fascinations (bullets, if you will), and the sidebars were replaced with stock forecasts. 

All other factors were the same.

In other words, pats on the back were substituted with real, actionable and valuable information. 

The winner, of course, was Test B, the that featured the forecasts over the testimonials.  And it won not by a nose and not just in email, either.  It was the clear winner in direct mail as well.  The non-testimonial piece was the winner by an incredible 20%!

By the way, these weren’t small tests, but a series of eight 20,000 test groups tested numerous times.  

So Have Testimonials Really Had It? 

Of course not.

But my testing has proven that they don’t have nearly the pulling power they once had, when patent medicine advertisers started using them in the late 1800s. 

The reason they’ve lost their pulling power is two fold: 

(1)  We are living in the age of skepticism, and

(2) Americans have been burned by so many products that don’t work, they’re more cautious and jaded than ever. 

Intuitively, we all  know that most endorsements are paid for.  Even when a testimonial has been given freely and the copy indicates that, the public may be even more skeptical. 

Frankly, there’s only one Mother Teresa that I know of.  Everybody else wants something.  And if you’re anybody’s affiliate, then you know what I say is true!

As a result, your testimonials could actually take something away from your promotional piece–simply because they could wake up your prospect’s inner cynic. 

In my case, the public most likely didn’t believe how much money my client made for his readers.  While all numbers were 100% documented and true, my testimonials might have fallen into the too-good-to-be-true category. 

So instead of prospects thinking, “Wow, I could make that much money,” they might instead think, “I can’t believe anyone could make that much money.” 

Any attorney who has ever lost a court case would tell you the same thing about testimonials.  That’s because the jury (and in your case, the prospect) simply didn’t believe his client’s or witness’ testimony.  

That, my friend, is what your prospects do with your copy.  They cross-examine in their own minds your sales letter and testimonials and make their own decisions:  “Can I really believe this guy?  Is this guy really telling the truth?”  

Quick story…

Years ago, I was working on a Boardroom project and had the opportunity to work directly with Marty Edelston, Boardroom’s founder and a DMA Hall of Fame member.  I’ll never forget what he told me when he was critiquing my off-target copy:  “What we are looking for here, Doug, is the truth.”

His words still echo in my head as I work on every direct mail package and promotional email.   

If your testimonials don’t ring true, then they could easily undermine your promotion’s message.   

The Big Lesson Here 
The big lesson here is twofold: 

  1.  Actionable information you give your readers in exchange for the time they spend reading your promotion is more valuable than your testimonials.
  2. By downplaying your testimonials or, better yet, giving them the proper weight in your piece, you can avoid waking up a prospect’s inner skeptic. 

Remember:  Nobody buys unless they believe you first.  Skeptics never buy. 
 All good wishes,  

All good wishes

Doug D’Anna

 PS  As I’ve been writing the A-list over the past few years, I’ve found that my readers generally fall into three categories:  

  1. Copywriters who develop their own products
  2. Copywriters who work at in-house agencies
  3. Freelancers who work for other companies 

That’s why in each issue I try to provide a nugget or two on improving your writing as well as a nugget or two on building your business.
For those who are building a freelance business, please be sure to take a close look at the testimonials you place on your website and in your emails. 

Many testimonials I see on copywriter websites are from other copywriters.  While I think the respect of your peers is great, more important are the profits you make for other people.

If your goal is to rise up the A-list, remember:  Topflight marketers are skilled in test results.  They simply won’t believe grandiose testimonial claims. 

So it’s best to make sure that what your clients say about you isn’t over the top, but credible and professional. 

Million-Dollar Copywriting Formula 
Copywriting Coaching Program

As I mentioned before, my goal is to create a legacy of copywriting knowledge that proves that anyone can use my time-proven formula to create twice as many million-dollar marketing campaigns in half the time–and more effectively than any other copywriting method on the planet. 

But I can only do so so much through these short articles. 

To give you more,  I was thinking of doing a webinar, but those only apply to the masses in a general way. In order to help you be more effective in your approach, the best way for me to do that is one-on-one.  

That’s how I learned.  

In fact, I did not step into the big leagues until the legendary publisher Richard Stanton-Jones at Phillips Publishing (now InvestorPlace) hired me to work on a project for the Retirement Letter in 1991. 

I would fax him my copy, and then he would take me by the hand by editing my work and coaching me over the phone. This back-and-forth went on for six months.  

The result was The Great Retirement Betrayal,which not only beat one of the country’s top copywriter’s controls by 100%, but also earned me over $250,000 in royalties.

This is the promotion that launched my career, and I am forever grateful to Richard and the entire marketing team at Phillips for my success. 

The second project, and my second big control, “Tap the Hidden Wealth Inside Your Paycheck,” that launched the Smart Money with the Dolans publication, took just three weeks to write.

Not only did it beat another well-known A-list copywriter in a split run A/B test, but also put another $100,000 in my pocket. Not bad for three weeks’ work! 

The checks have kept coming every 90 days for the past 30 years. 

To this day, I can’t tell you how blessed I feel to have worked with Richard for more than a decade. To learn these secrets the old-fashioned way–one-on-one. 

That’s something you simply can’t get from an e-book or seminar. 

That’s why the best way to impart my knowledge to you is directly with you. 

Not in group classes… or by having to read or fill out workbooks, where you are always wondering, “How is this going to help me get better?”

You will learn, as I did, the old-school way: by listening, taking notes, talking things out, and writing and rewriting, until you get it right. 

In other words, I will take you by the hand and walk you down the Yellow Brick Road of the copywriting business so that you can grab your own pot of gold. 

If you have been reading my articles, I hope you’ve gotten a feel for how much I love this business that has been so good to me and why I would like to share its blessings with others.    

If you are at all considering a career in copywriting, I do hope you choose a career as a financial copywriter. You’ll never again have to sit in some office cubby writing meaningless brochures or flyers for people who don’t appreciate your talent. 

If the idea of making it BIG as a financial copywriter appeals to you and you want to make sure you are on my coaching launch list, I hope you will consider my coaching. 

You can learn more about it by going here. 

Doug D'Anna

As a seasoned direct response copywriter, Doug D'Anna has created more than 100 widely-mailed control packages for the world's largest specialized information publishers—generating over $100 million in direct sales.