I often say, “There is no magic wand” in marketing. Of course there are “rules”, but, like Captain Barbosa says in Pirates of the Caribbean, they’re really more like “guidelines”.
The closest you can get to magic in marketing is the time-honored power of a good testimonial. Whether it’s posted to your LinkedIn profile or hand-written and snail mailed, what people say about you is far stronger than anything you can say about yourself.
So how can you harness the power of testimonials for yourself?
Don’t be shy. Ask. Most people are flattered when they are asked to write a testimonial because it lets them feel that their opinion is important to you and that you place value on your business relationship.
Many happy customers are thrilled to have a way to demonstrate their satisfaction. Don’t forget that the testimonial they give you will always point back to them and many people are eager for that opportunity.
Be intentional. When you ask someone to write a testimonial for you, tell him or her specifically what you are looking for and why. It is certainly okay to guide them in the direction you want their testimonial to take.
“John, you’ve been using our product for 2 years and you have re-ordered multiple times. Could you write a couple of lines about how you went from skeptic to fan? I’d like to have a couple of testimonials to use in our sales materials and you were the first customer I thought of.”
“Susan, we are submitting a proposal next week for a project that is very similar in scope to yours. Would you mind jotting down a few thoughts about how we solved your problems? I’d like to use this on our website, too.”
Focus. Make your testimonials snackable rather than trying to get the whole buffet from one customer. Five short, easy-to-scan testimonials that each focus on one thing well are far better than one testimonial that tries to fit every benefit into a long paragraph. It also lets you show off more contacts.
This is a good place to insert the need to be strategic in the testimonials you solicit. You want your testimonials to represent the scope of your work and to serve as examples of the new business you seek. A glowing testimonial for project that you wouldn’t necessarily want to do again is not strategic.
Edit. Edit. Edit. Use the words like gold. Strip away parts like “I’ve worked with XYZ Company on several projects over the years”. No one needs the back-story. They want the facts: “XYZ Company saves me time and money and their work is accurate every time”.
Remember, no one is ever offended when you make him or her look good, too.
Even LinkedIn gives you an opportunity request edits to a solicited post.
Ask for permission. Whatever form the final testimonial takes, make sure to get final approval that mentions the uses.
“Chris, may I have your permission to use your edited testimonial below in our marketing materials including our website and flyers?”
Get a third party – or act like one. Many business owners who are very involved in their businesses don’t have the time or the patience to ask for testimonials. It’s a great practice to roll this into your sales or customer service process and make it standard operating procedure to follow up with a request after a sale or service.
We often manage testimonials for our clients because a third party can ask questions and edit with relative impunity. Sometimes we handle the process entirely by email and other times we call our client’s customer for a brief conversation. We start with some standard questions and often uncover gold when we dig a little deeper.
Don’t be afraid to ask more questions in this process. The worst that will happen is that you will have had a productive follow up with a customer.