We all know how hard champagne producers fight to protect their appellation. Here we strike the first blow on behalf of ‘reviews’. Why? because consumers need to know the difference between bona-fide reviews and what are commonly known as ‘testimonials’.
It benefits no-one (except, questionably, the individual business) if someone is misled into buying a bottle of cava or spumante (or English sparkling) in the belief that they are buying champagne. In the same way, no-one benefits from being confused by the terms ‘testimonial’ and ‘review’.
So, to kick off the debate, here we will attempt to define (and therefore differentiate) between the two:
Testimonial marketing has been around as long as the written word. We’re sure businesses were using testimonials in Pompeii before the eruption of Vesuvius, and for very good reason: for thousands of years testimonials have been the next best thing to personal recommendation. Let’s look at what defines a testimonial, it:
- is a written reference of (and for) the business in question
- purports* to be written by a genuine customer of that business
- is published by that business: by being physically shown, reproduced in the company’s literature or advertising or posted on the company’s website
- may or may not be written in return for reward (financial or otherwise – discounted products and services)
- is, by definition, the opinion of that individual customer about their own individual experience of the business in question
*’purports’: really high-quality testimonials include both the name and contact details of the person (or corporation) who has given the testimonial. This enables consumers to have maximum confidence in the testimonial in question. Less high-value testimonials commonly fail to identify the author (Mrs P of Wimbledon).
But then: along came the world wide web. At last there emerged a better, more reliable alternative…
- are posted on, or through, a body* independent of the business being reviewed
- may be positive or negative in nature and content
- should be posted by a verified customer of that business
- may be invited by the business, but should allow uninvited (but verifiable) customers of that business to post as well
*if that body has any financial relationship with the business under review it should be made clear to consumers
When did you last see a negative testimonial? Absolutely! The killer benefit of reviews is credibility: the business cannot decide which customer opinions to show. And that’s a massive benefit for the consumer – and it’s also a massive benefit for great businesses, because it becomes a major differentiating factor. Businesses that are ‘brave’ enough to invite and publish reviews (as opposed to testimonials) are, by definition, sure enough of their levels of service to adopt the reviews route.
And, by-the-way, that doesn’t mean those businesses are perfect. As we all know there is no such thing as a perfect business; it simply means that the business in question is high-grade enough to know that positive reviews will hugely outweigh negatives and their customer relations are such that they will respond to the occasional negative in such a way that any reasonable customer will be impressed.
We were pioneers in the online reviews space. In nearly ten years in the business, we have come to really understand the world of reviews and reviewers. We have designed Dialogue to be (as one of our clients described it) the Gold Standard in review management. If you have Dialogue working for you, you can rest assured that you have the very best review management system available today. If you are moving up from testimonial marketing Dialogue is the way ahead for your business.
And if you currently host testimonials on your website? Remember the champagne/cava analogy we began with: please don’t call them reviews until they really are!