Ethical Marketing

Are Your Client Testimonials Misleading or Unethical?

February 2, 2021

Not all social proof is created equal. Many of the testimonials & kind words you see plastered on sales pages are coercive, irrelevant and unethical.

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I am the digital growth expert helping service providers to craft strategic offers and create courageous content that enables them to infinitely grow their online business. 

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Not all social proof is created equal. Many of the testimonials & kind words you see plastered on sales pages are coercive, irrelevant and unethical.

They have really strong swaying power, which isn’t always a good thing. OF course, your business needs to make sales to be a business; but your testimonials need to be as truthful & value-based as the actual content you’re teaching or the service you’re providing.


Ethical Marketing Regulations

What many self-starting online business owners forget is, that there are codes in place that determine what you can and can’t do or say in your marketing.

The Australia Competition & Consumer Commission has clear guidelines on their website around the advertising, selling and promotional techniques that businesses can use.

Despite their being no specific consumer laws in place for social media, there’s still consumer laws – you can’t be making false, misleading OR deceptive claims on any platforms of marketng channels.

You CAN be fined for deceptive conduct – and trying to influence buyers in unethical ways.

The ACCC states that “any review or testimonial should reflect the genuine views and opinions of the person that is represented to have made it. Businesses must not misrepresent consumer opinions to dishonestly promote themselves.”

This includes – which is also my last point – using testimonials on your website or social media that don’t relate to their program, course or service you’re selling.

The ACCC even goes on to say that anything that doesn’t ACTUALLY reflect the genuine opinion of the author is considered a fake review or testimonial.

Moving across the ditch to New Zealand – the ASA, also known as the Advertising Standards Authority, and the NZMA (New Zealand Marketing Assocation) – developed a code in 2009, which may have since been updated, with 5 core principles.

Principle 2, relates to this episode, it is:

“offers will be clear and truthful and not present a product, service, or offer in a way that could mislead the customer.”

The first action on the compliance guide is TESTIMONIALS, any form of advertising must be:

  • Current
  • Typical
  • Geniune

As well as any claims made must be able to be verified. If you have reviews and testimonials on your website right now that are either not genuine or not able to be backed up by the person or company it’s been provided by, go ahead and remove it. It’s in your best interests actually be compliant with the advertising authorities in your country & internationally, if you service clients in multiple countries.


Be Transparent With Your Client Testimonials

And the best way to use testimonials & reviews – is to be two things:

  • Relevant
  • Transparent

This means a few things:

First – the testimonial needs to be related to what you’re marketing or selling. Say if Grace purchased a course from you 18 months ago, and now you’re using her testimonial on your sales page for your 1:1 coaching – that’s not relevant, nor is it transparent.

If you are marketing a new offer, with no testimonials – yet you want to include SOME social proof – make sure that you put a disclaimer on that section of your website or on social media – and share what program or course the review is from.

Second – use names, businesses & website links where possible. Not saying you do this, but many testimonials are not genuine. They’re completely fabricated to sell a solution; which is why, you’ll often find no name attached, no business attached, or a made-up name & business.

Avoid doing this. Please. Sometimes testimonials can’t be shared with a name due to confidentiality – but this doesn’t happen often.

If ALL your testimonials are vague, praising you, but with no name or biz – imagine how that makes your buyer feel. It doesn’t really fool anyone. I think the best thing you can do sometimes is connect your prospects to your current & past clients. Let them have confidential conversations. Let them give honest feedback without your marketing sway.


Good Authority is the podcast that questions authority on social media — and how we as marketers and entrepreneurs use that influence to make money online and build our personal brands. Listen to the full episode via:

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