conformity bias

Rethinking the testimonial: ask for a success STORY!

Persuasion and influence come more naturally when you can have others vouch for you—the proof is in the social pudding! When we find ourselves in a situation, unsure of how to behave, we look to others to influence our actions. Even if it means going against our own beliefs and values.

Fans at a Depeche Mode concert, Oakland Arena, 10/10/2017

This tendency is known as a conformity bias. I’m sure you’ve experienced this “herd mentality” while you’re shopping around on Amazon’s mobile app late at night. If you're on the fence about a product, where do you look for help? The customer review section!

An image depicting stars from customer reviews.

Reviews work because when it comes to spending our hard-earned money, the opinions of others DO MATTER.

User reviews, case studies, endorsements, and testimonials are incredible ways to increase social proof with your online offerings. And while likes and positive comments do to help, when someone is ready to decide on your brand, a testimonial in the form of a customer story can help balance the scale in your favor. A story adds that emotional element required to resonate with and drive your audience to act.

A testimonial versus a story

For example, which of the following statements feels more impactful to you?

Option A

“I highly recommend Bethany’s coaching services. She is warm and knowledgeable. You would be lucky to have her as your life coach.”

Option B

“When I first contacted Bethany, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life. I felt frustrated by my lack of clarity, vision, and goals. Despite all her incredible reviews, I felt reluctant to hire Bethany because I didn't understand the coaching process. However, I gave it a go, and as I thought through each of her guiding questions, my mind started to see the patterns and make the connections. Almost overnight, I felt a shift from a fixed to a growth mindset, and I ended the program with a whole new perspective on how to live my life and be happy. Through the tools and methods I acquired by learning alongside Bethany, my confidence is back. I know what I want, and I feel proactive in my quest to make it happen!”

Option B, right? Even if you’re not the target audience, you get a better sense of the transformation experienced by this person through the story versus a review. Perhaps you even feel inspired to take action, “I want Bethany as my life coach!”

Good customer stories need to be:

  • Authentic
  • Clear
  • Emotional

To get started, you could ask your client to follow a proven storytelling structure, such as the Pixar storytelling framework (which inspired Option B, above.) Or, here's a list of guiding questions I constructed that you could ask to help your user hone in on their experience and effectively tell their story.

  • What was the problem you experienced before using our service/product?
  • Why did you hesitate to work with us?
  • Why did you choose to work with us?
  • How did you feel before our work together?
  • How did you feel after our work together?
  • How has our work together changed you for the better?
  • At what point did you think, "aha! I made the right choice!"

Then, using the answers, construct a narrative in a conversational tone— avoid any jargon or business speak. Keep it human.  

(Note: if you do write the story for your client, you must send it over to them for approval And do give them an option to edit as they see fit. Then send over a link to the final product—who doesn’t enjoy seeing their story on the Internet? 😉)

And finally, get visual. We are drawn to faces, especially the eyes. Ask for a photo of them interacting with your product in its typical environment. Or visual evidence of them demonstrating the transformation they experienced after using your service (think before and after picture) to connect a potential client to your brand. But a simple portrait of their smiling face will do because the presence of people will increase a sense of trust.

Your mission

Before you begin, ask yourself, “what does customer success look like to me and how can I better integrate evidence of this within my potential customers' online experience?"

Your customer’s story should outline how your product/service helped them experience a transformation. Humanize their words with a visual of your storyteller.

Can you think of some other ways that you can increase social endorsement throughout your online experience?


Save time and money by creating a compelling brand optimization content strategy in alignment with your business goals and your user's needs. The Evokery is here to help you get your story out of your head and into their hearts. Curious? Then let's chat!