When It Is Best Said By Others
By Curt Clinkinbeard
Executive Director of the FAMEE Foundation
One of the most effective techniques used in marketing communications is the customer testimonial. This is a great strategy, but can be difficult to pull off – unless you take some specific steps. In this short blog entry, we will discuss these actions for making testimonials a stronger part of your marketing approach.
It is important to understand the “why’s” behind this strategy. There are several reasons it seems to work. For one, it is more credible when other people say nice things about you (than when you say nice things about yourself!) Second, people tend to connect with other individuals who may have faced similar challenges and found a solution with your company. And finally, people tend to use “benefits” driven language in testimonials, which tends to be more effective than the “features” based language companies tend to use when describing themselves. It is easy to see why testimonials are valuable.
A first suggestion… get proactive about it. While it is fantastic to think that you will get a large pile of unsolicited letters singing your praises (and its great if you get some), likely you will have to take some steps to initiate the process.
Next, build an inventory. Keep a listing of your testimonials. Add to them over the course of time and have options based around different things about your business. Categorize them. Have short versions. Have long versions, etc.
Another step is when you are conversing with a customer and they are complimenting you, simply ask if they would be willing to say the same things in an email to you or to write you a letter. Even explain how important testimonials are to your business. You can be on the lookout for these kinds of comments. Typically, when asked, people are happy to provide these notes. But don’t forget to follow-up…. usually even people who agree to do this forget. It’s not that they don’t want to help you; they just get distracted with other things. Get in the habit of asking, then following up.
The value of testimonials is that they sound like real people or real companies. To the extent possible reinforce this by listing their real name, city, and company. Obviously, do this AFTER getting people’s permission. In today’s internet world, some people are very sensitive about their identity and don’t be surprised if some people are concerned; just respect their rights. The same can be said for photos; they add personalization, but do get permission.
Another tip is to give people suggestions about what to say. It may sound manufactured, but often people who are very willing to give you a testimonial, just don’t know what to say. They want to give you a great testimonial that can help you; they just may not know what that might look like. Help them out, but then suggest they put it in words most natural for them. Another similar thought is that if you are going to ask for a testimonial, give the person some warning and a little time to think about it. Often I will say something like, “I just want to plant a little seed from you; in a week or so, I might ask you for a testimonial.”
And lastly, in today’s world it is really easy to add both audio and video content to your website, which takes personalization of testimonials to an even higher degree. You can record an audio on the telephone. You can have a small camcorder at a trade show booth. The cool thing is that you don’t have to have ultra-professional footage to do really nice testimonial vignettes, which can be used online. Look for these technology enhancements to make your testimonials even that much more valuable.
Use the power of testimonials, but like most things in marketing, but it doesn’t tend to happen on its own. Get organized around it, get intentional about what you want, and take consistent and persistent actions to move in that direction. It will happen – and the testimonials will help drive business your way!
Curt Clinkinbeard is the Executive Director of The FAMEE Foundation, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to helping entrepreneurs “advance marketing excellence” and build profitable revenue streams. More information on their free small business marketing programs can be found at http://www.famee.org.