Beware of Fake Clients.

Funny mask and derision
When it comes to advertising, are you more likely to believe the glossy, expensive ad in a magazine or your next-door neighbour who can’t stop raving about the great product or customer service she recently received?

Whenever I need to try a new product or hire a contractor or other service provider, I always start by conducting a little online research. I’m more likely to do business with a company if I know of others who have had good experiences, so I also tap into my internal networks to see if they’ve had any first-hand experiences they can share: good or bad.

That’s why I’m a firm believer in client testimonials. I always ask my former clients if they can share a testimonial about their experience with TRIASTRUM. I think word-of-mouth advertising from former happy clients is a great promotional tool. My hope is that other potential clients can learn a little more about me and the services I provide through my clients. It also provides them with references they can follow up on if they’d like to learn more.
But there’s also a darker side to this promotional tool: some companies fib. What? Say it ain’t so! Yes, some companies make up fake personas or clients and post glowing reports about their fabulousness. Sometimes, they’ll even pay strangers or bribe clients with discounts to say nice stuff about them. Not only is this practice unprofessional; it’s unethical. And frankly I don’t get it. If you provide a good service, there’s no reason to make up imaginary clients to say great things about you; real ones are usually more than happy to do that if you treat them well.

So, how can you tell if that online testimonial is real?

  • With all my testimonials, I try to publish the first and last names, their business/affiliation and city or town (provided the client is o.k. with this). That way, if anyone wants to follow up with the company or look up the individuals who provided a testimonial, there are some breadcrumbs to follow.
  • I also don’t edit the testimonials I receive so each remains in that person’s own voice/style.
  • Fake testimonials often lack specific details about the product or service received (e.g., Thanks for quality product and prompt replies.)

Here’s a great article about fake reviews and a well know website. Posted on Bloomberg Business Weeks website in September of this year:
Operation Clean Turf’ and the War on Fake Yelp Reviews

Due to spikes in fake testimonials, many countries are now making the practice illegal and fining companies caught making up “imaginary customers.”

But more importantly, fake testimonials rob businesses of opportunities to grow and learn from their clients. If a company isn’t interested in being honest, do you honestly want to do give them the gift of your business?

What do you think about client testimonials? Are these still valuable? How do you use them to promote your business? And how do you tell if a testimonial is real? Got any stories of fake testimonials you’d like to share?

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