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Use the power of testimonials in your marketing communication
By Kim Harrison,
Consultant, Author and Principal of www.cuttingedgepr.com
The most powerful persuader in the marketplace, apart from a customer’s own experience, is the opinion of someone they trust.
That’s why so much effort goes into viral marketing or ‘word of mouth.’
That’s why social media have suddenly emerged from nowhere in the past couple of years. They give you instant, direct unvarnished dialogue with others.
And that’s also why genuine testimonials are so effective. A testimonial is third-party endorsement at its best. There is much more credibility in the words of other unbiased people than in your own words of self-promotion.
I say ‘genuine’ because anyone can make up supportive words and pass them off as the real thing. But usually such testimonials smell of fakery.
If you provide a good service or product, you should be able to ask people for some kind words. Don’t hesitate to ask their permission to use the words and identify them in the testimonial.
The act of seeking testimonials is a good psychological spur to you to produce your best results all the time because a testimonial to ordinary work is an ordinary testimonial. An unexpected benefit is that a testimonial reminds the other person to think over the product or service they have paid for, which will remind them of all the good aspects they may have forgotten or taken for granted. Also, the act of providing you with a testimonial strengthens the bond between you and the client (or customer).
The key word with testimonials is “ask.” Keep asking and you will get a lot of testimonials. Ask for testimonials at every opportunity, and quote the best ones. In this way you don’t have to promote yourself; you can let the other person promote you. Use testimonials liberally everywhere. Spread the testimonials through brochures, articles, advertisements, ‘advertorials’, video presentations, websites, emails, podcasts (delivered verbally), etc.
You can never use too many testimonials. Marketing consultant, Sean D’Souza, says he put up a page on a website with 800 testimonials and sent customers to that page with no sales pitch. Customers were buying the product on that page “by the droves.” The testimonials alone were causing customers to buy.
Different customers look for different things, so if you collect many testimonials you will get a spread of appreciation covering various key aspects such as quality, reliability, speed or friendliness.
Where appropriate, you can also seek to obtain testimonials from a wider appreciative audience. Stimulate and collect the right testimonials and endorsements from experts and opinion leaders or influencers such as the office-bearers of community organizations, local government mayors and councilors, presidents of professional associations, school principals, talkback radio hosts and journalists such as life-style columnists and celebrities, high-profile socialites etc.
Whether you are acting on your own behalf as a one-person business or on behalf of a large organization, you can use testimonials to persuade potential users towards your product or service.
Not only are testimonials more powerful and credible than advertising, they cost nothing! That’s real value for money! But don’t be vague – ask for a testimonial according to the proven formula outlined here. Too many people don’t know what to ask for and then they get ineffective responses. Know what to ask for and you will get great results.
Key questions for great testimonials
Clients or customers come to you to solve a problem, so ensure your testimonials start by outlining the problem briefly and then commenting on the solution.
Their testimonials will be especially effective if they relate to potential customer objections, thus nipping those objections in the bud. Keep the testimonial in the words of the customer – if they make grammatical mistakes, run the text with those mistakes because it is the genuine thing.
After each person has written the good words, ask them to confirm in writing that they are happy for relevant comments to be quoted from their testimonial including their name, position and organization. In these legalistic days, you need to cover yourself with this step.
Testimonials for PR firms
If you are a PR consultant, it is essential to ask the client’s permission to refer to any of their words that you have used for a testimonial or case study. Apart from ethical and courtesy implications, unauthorized reference may forever destroy the client’s goodwill towards you. Some clients are sensitive about the use of their own names. They will allow reference to their project in general terms, but won’t authorize the use of their personal name, title or organization. Try to talk them out of this if possible; a good word from an anonymous customer is almost worthless.
You can maximize the value of testimonials at the completion of a successful project – ask the client if they would approve the writing of a case study about the project. This may also suit the client because they may like a case study to use for their own promotional activity. You can draft a case study for their approval and suggest that they insert some of their own words of testimony about your good efforts.
When clients do write a testimonial, encourage them to use their own words rather than anticipating that you will draft the words for them. Often they will say nicer things about you than you would say about yourself. Some gentle hints and tactful prodding may be needed as busy clients tend to put this sort of activity well down their priority list in the face of other urgent issues confronting them.
It is much better to act at this stage while the benefits are fresh in the client’s mind. If you procrastinate, time will tend to erode their recall of the highlights of your good work. Remember to ask them the questions in the formula, which will give them a good framework and give you a great result.
About the Author
Kim Harrison is a recognized authority in the public relations field. His website, www.cuttingedgepr.com, provides a wealth of informative articles and resources on public relations techniques and management.
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