As a B2B marketer, one of your key objectives is to create content that will help generate demand for your product. You likely already know that customer testimonials can be extremely powerful in this regard—but did you know that the way in which those testimonials are told can make them even more impactful? It’s all thanks to something called “narrative transportation.”
Narrative transportation theory was first proposed by social psychologists in the early 2000s. It posits that when we read stories, we’re actually transported into the world of the storyteller. That is, we adopt their feelings, thoughts, and emotions as our own. In other words, narratives have the power to change our perceptions and understanding of the world—and that’s why they’re such a powerful marketing tool
Think about it: when you read a compelling story, you’re not just passively absorbing information; you’re experiencing the events of the story as if you’re right there alongside the protagonist. And because your brain doesn’t distinguish between real and imaginary experiences, those feelings are just as real to you as if you had experienced them yourself.
By transporting your reader into the story, you make it easier for them to identify with the protagonist and see themselves in their shoes. As a result, they’re more likely to be persuaded by the story—and more likely to take the desired action.
So how can you use this psychological phenomenon to your advantage when creating customer testimonials?
Use Emotionally Charged Language
The key to tapping into narrative transportation is to evoke an emotional response in your reader. After all, it’s the emotion that drives us to take action—not logic. So when crafting your customer testimonials, be sure to use language that will trigger an emotional response in your reader. This could be anything from describing the protagonist’s feelings of frustration before using your product to recounting the elation they felt after seeing the results.
The more emotion you can evoke, the more likely it is that your reader will be transported into the story—and the more powerful your testimonial will be.
For example, let’s say you sell a project management software tool. A customer might say something like, “Before using [your product], I used to waste so much time trying to track down information from my team members. But now, I can easily get the answers I need and get back to work.”
While this statement is certainly true, it’s not particularly emotive. However, if we tweak it slightly, we can increase its emotional impact. For example: “Your software has helped me reclaim hours each week that I used to spend chasing down information from my team members. Now I can actually enjoy my weekends again with my dogs!”
See the difference? The second testimonial evokes an emotional response by speaking to the reader’s pain points—in this case, wasted time and lost weekends—and offering a solution in the form of your product. As a result, it’s much more likely to resonate with readers and motivate them to take action
Make It Visual
Another way to improve the narrative transportive power of your customer testimonials is to make them visual. In other words, paint a picture for your reader so they can fully immerse themselves in the story. For example , if you’re recounting a customer’s journey from problem to solution, use language that will help your reader picture the events as they unfolded.
Rather than simply saying “I was having trouble tracking down information from my team members,” try something like, “I would spend hours each week scouring through emails and chat transcripts, trying to piece together information from my team members.”
The more specific and concrete you can be, the easier it will be for your reader to picture the events taking place—and the more likely they are to be transported into the story.
You can also use vivid visual aids like images and videos to transport your reader into the story. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words—and, in this case, those words can be quite powerful.
Video testimonials, offer more narrative transportation than text testimonials since they provide both audio and visual cues to help the viewer immerse themselves in the story. They’re also generally more personal and relatable since they show a look at the consumer’s real-world experiences and emotions.
Or, if you don’t have access to video testimonials, you could include images along with your written testimonials to help transport your reader into the story. For example, you might include a before-and-after image that shows the results your customer achieved after using your product.
In order for readers to truly identify with the protagonist of your customer testimonial, they need to be able to see themselves in the story. In other words, the protagonist should be relatable — someone with whom the reader can easily empathize.
One way to ensure that your protagonist is relatable is to make them as specific as possible. The more details you can provide about them—their age, gender, occupation, location, use case—the easier it will be for your reader to imagine themselves in their shoes. The more testimonials you have from a wide range of factors the closer the prospect can relate to the story and the greater the chance the narrative transportation will take place.
What interview questions should we ask to increase narrative transportation?
When interviewing customers for testimonials, be sure to ask questions that will elicit emotionally charged responses, particularly around the impact of the pain point and the impact of the solution. Here are some examples:
Can you describe how you felt before using our product?
What specific pain points were you experiencing?
What was the impact of the pain point on your organization, your team, your customers and you personally?
What specific results have you seen since using the product?
How did our product help you solve those problems?
What specific results did you see after using our product?
What was the impact of those results on your organization, your team, your customers and you personally?
Tell us about the moment when you realized our product had helped you solve your problem. Paint us a picture of that moment.
Can you describe how you feel now that you’ve been using our product?
How has our product changed your life/work/routine?
By asking these types of questions, you can encourage your customer to recount a detailed and emotionally impactful story that will resonate with your audience and improve the narrative transportation of your testimonial.
Call to action
If the testimonial is persuasive, don’t forget to include a call to action! The whole point of customer testimonials is to encourage your audience to take action, whether that’s signing up for a free trial, scheduling a demo or making a purchase.
Make it easy for your reader to take action by including a clear and specific call to action at the end of the testimonial to take the next step in their journey.
The bottom line is that customer testimonials are more than just feel-good stories—they’re powerful persuasion tools that can drive conversions and boost your business. And by using narrative transportation in your testimonials, you can make them even more persuasive. So if you’re looking to get the most out of your customer testimonials, keep these tips in mind.