Testimonials can be an excellent and effective tool to use in your marketing if you know how to present them correctly. After all, you can say you have a great product, but if Sam and Linda and Fred and Julie all tell me the same thing, then I might begin to believe it. Testimonials add credibility as they give people the peace of mind that comes from knowing someone else has gone where they are considering going and sent back word that it is OK, essentially a “c’mon in, the water’s fine!”
PURPOSE OF A TESTIMONIAL
To Gain Feedback – the first great thing that a testimonial does is to provide you feedback from your clients and customers. Granted, it may lean towards the positive side, especially if you have asked for it. It is feedback nonetheless, and you can usually get a feel for what people like, sort-of like and, by the absence of what they say, what they may not be too thrilled about.
To Identify Problems – Unsolicited feedback is often where problems first appear. Another area is if you notice a conspicuous lack of comments about something or the references to a product or service are severely lacking when compared to your other products or services. Example: “Their new XYZ widget was OK but I really miss the old days when they had the original line of YZ widgets. Man, those were the best!” Hmmm...maybe you should be asking why…Why, did they like the old one so much more? Why, do they think the new one is just OK?
To Support Marketing – Nothing adds credibility to a marketing piece, online or off, like real, honest testimonials. Add them to your brochure, sprinkle them around your website, put your favorite on the back of your business card, add one to your email signature, etc.
Spontaneous – These are the ones that arrive on your desk in the form of a letter or nowadays in an email. You didn’t ask for it but there it is, and for a moment or two you felt good; somebody appreciates you or your business and took the time to tell you. Wonderful! Immediately reach out to that person and thank them sincerely for their comments. This is also where you ask permission to share their comment or comments with others. Most likely they will say sure; everybody is in a happy moment and the love is everywhere, of course they will say yes. Always good to include in your request for permission a mention of where you would be using it; i.e., “… in our marketing materials”.
Requested – Go back through your correspondence with clients and read their comments. Oftentimes you will find snippets like “…so happy we found your business” “Your crew was great to work with and answered all of our questions; sometimes before we knew what to ask!”
Or, you can just do a blanket request to everybody. In this case I prefer to ask for their opinion rather than a testimonial. It seems a little more neutral and the results seem a bit more open. You can ask their opinion of the work you did now that they have had a chance to live with it. Ask them what they liked or didn’t like. What did they like the most? These are open-ended questions that will help get them talking.
Release – Be sure to ask them for permission, or at least indicate your intent to use their statement in your business evaluations and marketing. Even if they forget to give it to you specifically, you will have at least set forth the intent that you want to use the responses. If they are good opinions you shouldn’t have a problem anyway.
BETTER – BEST
Long vs. Short – The length of the testimonial is often dictated simply by how much room you have for it in your marketing piece or website. I have designed brochures where six to eight words were all I had room for, and I have created web pages that allowed for testimonials that were several paragraphs in length. Personally, I prefer testimonials of one to three sentences long. These give a feel for the true nature of the testimonial and yet are short enough to encourage browsing through more than one or two. Super short ones such as: “….really great, loved it all….” I tend to avoid if possible. They almost seem as though they could have been taken out of context. The rest of the message might have been totally negative and abusive and that snippet was actually meant sarcastically.
Detailed – Short testimonials are easier to fake, while longer ones allow personality to show through and give the statement a level of authenticity you don’t get with short ones. Detail as to what part of your product or service someone really liked and specifically why they were impressed is simply more believable. Imagine you are standing outside a movie theatre and wondering about a show. You ask a fellow who is just coming out of it what he thought. He says “…um, great.” How does that compare to the next person you ask who immediately launches into a minutes-long review of “…how wonderful the movie was and the parts she liked especially well and how she cried at one point and loved the main character and…” Which would you believe?
Real – Don’t fake testimonials. People can tell. And if you ever have a request from a prospect to talk to some references, what are you going to do?
Full Name vs. Initials – If you have permission, and the statement is real, by all means use their full name. If it is a person, you might want to leave out the city or some other identifying pieces as they probably don’t want unsolicited calls from your prospects. If it is a business, you are in a much better position to use their full name and business name. It your business demands a level of privacy, then by all means drop back to using initials for one or both of their names.
In the long run, full disclosure such as first and last name, city, State, business, etc.; all of these add credibility to the testimonial.
Website / Print – These should be everywhere. Have either a Testimonials page or sprinkle them around. Sometimes they can be subtle notes at the bottom of each page; sometimes they should be highlighted in color and hung in plain sight. If you can relate a testimonial to a page that pertains to the topic of the testimonial, this is so much the better. A statement praising the virtues of your new XYZ Widget should have a prominent place on the page about XYZ Widgets.
Provide to PR and Copywriters – Think of everyone who has a chance to influence others about you: copywriters, editors, publicists, media brokers, agents, reviewers, website developer, interviewer, sales manager, department head, etc. Again, it is going to play out better for you if these are real rather than false testimonials.
Chris Bachman© 2013