Would you like to duplicate your selling success to other ideal prospects in your target market?
One of the strongest ways to persuade prospects to buy your service is the use of testimonials in your marketing materials.
A testimonial — an endorsement from an individual that is similar to the kind of prospects you want to attract as clients — can have a tremendous impact on the effectiveness of all your marketing materials, including:
- sales letters
- telephone sales calls
- sales presentations
- trade show booths
- annual reports
- service upgrade & renewal notices
Good testimonials do two things:
- They directly appeal to a prospect’s “trigger points” (their specific pains or problems they need solved) and demonstrate specifically how your service has benefited (solved the pain or problem) for real people that are just like your prospect.
- Reduces the fears, anxieties and perceived risks the prospect may have before making a purchase decision. The testimonial illustrates that your company helps people just like your prospect to successfully solve a pain or problem the prosepct has.
Two baseline requirements before you start a testimonial program
So having a lot of good testimonials sounds great, doesn’t it?
The reality is that implementing a testimonial program is a challenge. But it can be done successfully if you have these two requirements in place:
First, like all good marketing, it requires you to purposefully focus your attention on your clients, and not your business or yourself. Good testimonials are focused on satisfied clients expressing benefits about your service, not generically praising how great your company is. Recognizing this is key to be able to develop the most effective testimonials.
Second, a testimonial requires a commitment to an ongoing effort and strategy. You must be in contact with your satisfied clients — always keeping in touch and “in the know” on any specific and measurable results they’ve had by using your service. And in that process, you must be willing to ask for testimonials from these clients — and know how to ask the right questions.
So let’s get started on developing your testimonial program…
Two must-have elements of a strong testimonial
Generic accolades about you or your company are not effective. Things like:
“We love your work. Keep it up!”
“I’m so glad I signed up for this. I recommend it to everyone.”
The above testimonials will have very little impact on a prospect’s decision to buy from you.
Instead, strong testimonials should have these two key elements:
- The testimonial must reinforce specific and concrete benefits that the satisfied client received as a result from your service. For a prospect to find the testimonial meaningful, he or she must be able to relate to a specific pain or problem the endorser had, and get understand specifically how the problem was solved by your service.
- The testimonial must be attributed. Blind testimonials are rarely effective. For a testimonial to have credibility to a prospect, they must be able to identify with the type of person who is endorsing the product. A name is the most critical attribute, but here are some other attributes that can have a very positive impact on your testimonials:
- industry / type of business
- awards or honors
- length of experience in industry
- published articles, books, research
- leadership positions
- what media outlets they have been interviewed (and sourced) by
How many testimonials should you have?
There’s no magic number, but ideally you should ask for testimonials from as many clients as possible.
Here are some guidelines:
- Have a least one testimonial that represents each market segment (or type of customer or business) you target.
- Have at least one testimonial for each feature (and its corresponding benefit) of your service.
Obviously the more you have, the better.
Be willing to ask for them. But what do you ask?
Often a satisfied client is willing to give a testimonial, but they might ask for assistance on what to say. This is good. Don’t be afraid to direct them.
In fact, being prepared to “lead” them a bit with certain types of questions will help you capture a stronger testimonial. With some nudging, you will normally find that most clients like to talk about how well things are going.
Here are some guidelines of the types of questions to ask:
(Be sure to download the testimonial worksheet for specific sample questions)
Ask questions that will:
- Urge the client to talk about specific and concrete benefits they received as a result from using your service. Try to get specific metrics, such as “we increased sales by 25% in 3 months” or “we reduced costs our costs by one-half in a year.”
- Encourage a comparison of your service to others they’ve used in the past.
- Help the client describe the “before” and “after” situations related to using your service.
- Capture information for attribution (name, title, industry, etc.)
Remember, the strongest testimonials will get the prospect thinking: “hey, this person is just like me. He or she has the same problem as I do, and it got solved with this service. I want to buy this service, too.”
How do you find testimonials?
- Contact satisfied clients directly — by phone or in person.
Be direct and ask them the results they are getting from your service. Then ask “may I quote you?” If they agree, write down their statement. Then send it to them by mail or email with a note stating that you’d like their permission to use the testimonial in your marketing materials.
- Survey your clients.
A good way to solicit testimonials is to conduct a survey of your clients. While every response may not be useful for a testimonial, you’ll probably get some (and any other comments can probably be used to help you improve your service).
To improve response rates, make the survey easy and quick for your client to complete. Keep it to less than 10 questions (five or six might be even better), and be sure to mix up the style of questions (include both open-ended and closed-ended questions.)
Should you offer clients a gift for their testimonials?
Gifts are optional, but they can add a nice touch to your testimonial program. You just need to be careful how you approach gift-giving so that your testimonials are objective and “pure.”
When contacting customers directly, by phone or in person, if you want to send a thank-you gift, it is often better to do so after the client gives you permission to use a testimonial (that is, not announcing in advance that “I’m giving gifts if you give me a testimonial”). Usually when you make direct contacts, satisfied clients are quite willing to talk and don’t need an incentive to do so.
When surveying clients, however, you can often increase your response to the survey by offering a small gift for completing the survey (note: the gift is an incentive for completing the survey — not for providing positive comments about your service!).
What kind of thank-you gifts can be used? Gifts could be an article or special report that you’ve written that would be helpful to their business, a low-cost item (such as a calendar, notepad, writing pen, etc.), or perhaps a gift certificate to a coffee house or online bookstore.