Reference story: one of the most effective marketing tactics?

A while ago we posted a blog post to contradict that there is one magical marketing trick that is going to change your entire business. We explained that success in marketing is all about having the right mix of activities, distributed at the right time to the right people… We still believe that… but if we had to choose only one marketing tactic, we would choose the one that has been identified as the most valuable one, as that one tactic that consumers trust above all others and that is most likely to drive sales, …. and that would definitely be customer testimonials or also known as reference stories.


Why Reference stories? Let’s look at the facts

According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising. Whereas less than half of the consumers say they trust paid advertising, a number in decline year after year. Another study from WOMMA shows 64% of marketing executives believe word of mouth is the most effective form of marketing. These are some numbers we cannot ignore.

WOMM (Word of Mouth Marketing) has many forms such as comments or recommendations on social media, influencer marketing but the easiest, as well as the most effective way is getting reference stories or customer testimonials.

This could be as simple as having short quotes on your websitesharing the full reference story or having customers talk about their experiences in working with you in a video interview.

All these forms work as social proof for your expertise, quality of service, customer-friendliness etc…


How to get a reference story?

As complicated as this might seem, it all starts with asking for it! Start with your happiest customers. Some of them may have offered it already. It’s amazing to see how many might really want to brag about your offering! Or take advantage of that ‘thank you’ email message you just received or that positive Facebook message someone just posted! And voila, that’s how you get your reference stories.


How to write a good reference story?

Well, the story needs to be to the point and able to be scanned (nobody reads anymore!) or viewed in +/- 2 minutes. And the most important characteristic, reference stories have to be authentic. A few tips:

  • If you write a longer story or build a video testimonial: start with a strong statement, a powerful quote or maybe a number that confirms your impact (for instance ROI).
  • Use keywords, titles or bold text so your story can be scanned and understood easily. Not a lot of people take the time to really read all the details.
  • An introduction can be key! Build the reference story so that people can already get the meaning from just reading the introduction.
  • Make it authentic: if your customer is willing to do a video shoot for you, let them speak their own language, let them show their own personality even if they are a bit blunt, direct or mention they had (initial) doubts about the project. If a sceptic IT Manager is willing to testify for you, it only makes your case stronger. Spontaneity is key here.
  • Add the person’s name, title, company, company logo and picture to the reference story. Pictures of smiling customers are super powerful! A/B testing has showed that including the face of a happy customer increases conversion rates by 102,5%.


All great you think, but I don’t have the time to do this…

Well, that’s where we come in! We already helped lots of clients with writing or shooting their reference stories. All you have to do is introduce us to your client and approve the story at the end of the process… we do the rest! Here are some reference stories we created for our clients: Let’s take a look!

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Hé, pssshtt!

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