According to 64% of marketers, word of mouth is the most effective form of advertising. A related survey found that 92% of customers trusted recommendations from friends and family over all other forms of advertising.
Credibility is key to a consumer’s choice, and for most people, credibility is rooted in the opinions of their friends and family members. In fact, most families who choose your camp probably do so because a friend, family member, or other trusted third-party source recommended it.
The problem with word-of-mouth marketing is this: It doesn’t scale.
If you could only get an army of trusted people to recommend your camp to searching families, your marketing troubles could be over. Thanks to the power of the internet, you can do just that!
Consumers – especially parents – crave social proof.
Word-of-mouth marketing is based on the concept of social proof. Psychologists use the term social proof to refer to the normalization of behavior. That is, if consumers believe their friends and neighbors are doing something, going somewhere, or have some experience, they believe it’s normal and want to do it, too.
People look to social proof to determine what behavior is normal or socially accepted in order to mimic it.
Customers trust experts, celebrities, crowds, peers, and previous customers to provide honest, truthful, and helpful reviews. While this might offer disturbing social commentary, it also gives valuable insight into how your camper’s families make decisions about where to send their kids this summer.
An estimated 85% of customers trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations, but that number declines when reviews are too numerous (it looks contrived) or too thin (it looks like they’ve been edited). In other words, testimonials are an important and effective way of building social proof, but not all testimonials are created equal.
What makes a good testimonial?
A good testimonial is authentic, clear, and believable. Its value lies in being unbiased. A paid celebrity endorser can enhance social proof and normalization, but the consumer knows that endorser is paid and scripted, which taints the credibility of the review.
Testimonials, by contrast, are 100% authentic. They may be poorly written, full of misspellings, and awkwardly phrased, but they are genuine. Therein lies their power.
Good testimonials build trust.
The best testimonial isn’t just five stars and an accolade. Instead, it builds trust by explaining why the writer had a five-star experience, how the camp worked for their camper, and what the impact was on them personally.
The more the endorser sounds like a relatable person facing a similar situation to the reader, the more trust develops. Research says we trust the people we perceive to be like us. That’s why you need to select your endorsers from a good cross-section of your camp families and put their pictures next to their endorsements whenever possible.
Good testimonials overcome skepticism.
Testimonials can address the most popular points of skepticism. In a testimonial, an endorser can say, “I was skeptical because… but my experience proved my fears unfounded.” This approach creates a sense of empathy with the reader and enhances credibility.
Good testimonials aren’t “salesy.”
A testimonial stands out precisely because it’s not written in your brand’s voice. It’s distinct. It’s honest. It’s factual.
Sometimes, overly enthusiastic parents want to help a camp so much that they write a sales letter instead of a testimonial. Unfortunately, a parent-written sales letter will not do much good as either a marketing piece or an endorsement. One way to avoid receiving a “sales-y” testimonial is to interview the mom or dad that wants to help out, and use quotes from the conversation to create the testimonial. Ask them to approve it when it’s done. By interviewing your camps’ parents, you can pull the best information and opinions out of them.
The American Camp Association offers an excellent list of sample testimonials on the value of camp cultural exchange programs for review.
How do you request testimonials from people?
Asking people to provide feedback or testimonials can feel awkward, but it doesn’t have to! Most people are used to being asked for feedback or a rating. Plus, it’s an honor to share your opinion of a camp you believe in.
Typically, you get the best results when you ask parents for a testimonial within 30 days of camp’s end. Give them a template that asks them for their opinion, supporting details, and results of their camper’s experience.
Finally, be sure to thank your endorsers for their help.
Scaling word-of-mouth marketing is one of the smartest decisions a camp director can make. To learn more about how to acquire great testimonials and make them work for you, contact us today!