There’s no doubt about it, using testimonials to support your product or service is an extremely powerful marketing tool. In some cases, they are the deciding factor as to whether or not a customer will chose to do business with you. How do you go about developing testimonials? What goes into a good testimonial? And, how can you get the most out of them?
In promotion and advertising, a testimonial or endorsement consists of a written or spoken statement, sometimes from a person figure, sometimes from a private citizen, extolling the virtue of some product. The term “testimonial” most commonly applies to the sales-pitchesattributed to ordinary citizens, whereas “endorsement” usually applies to pitches by celebrities.1 Testimonials are a form of Word of Mouth Marketing (WOMM) and can serve as a better and more honest representation about yourself, your product/service or company than you could ever say. They provide a confident reason for customers to believe in you and an assurance that you will deliver on your promise. John Ebersole at marketingguru4u.com states “Whenever you have a customer, peer, industry expert, or other key influencer extol the value and benefits of your products and/or services, you gain a powerful endorsement and a compelling reason to believe in your ability to deliver the promised benefits and values to the client.” “Testimonials are more likely to be believed than advertisements, direct mail, and other marketing materials.” John notes that peer testimonials are the top reason or influence for buying certain types of products, especially those that involve high technology.
Different Kinds of Testimonials
Customers know that candy-coated marketing copy is probably least objective. Therefore, testimonials from customers can fill a void in your compelling integrated marketing message to support response for your products or services. Amazon has built a successful business leveraging the impact of testimonials with customer reviews. Their reviews are free-form testimonials; unedited and non scripted. Naturally if 5, 10, 50+ customers think a product is generally outstanding and/or can put up with inherent flaws, they can’t possibly be wrong (right?)–is the general thought of using this form of testimonial. Shoppers looking for more detailed reasons to why or why not to finish a purchase decision may be swayed by this form of testimonial.
Some businesses use full-blown case studies as testimonials to support their product or service. A case study traditionally includes a third party company calling on one of your clients and getting their vision of the story. Case studies can have tremendous value for those looking for value about the product or service ‘experience’ or process – before, during and after engagement. What needs were met, how that product or service performed, how it was supported, etc. can be information supported in a case study to further address any potential issues, concerns or questions a customer might have, not to mention it can also reduce customer service and sales time and costs.
1. Wikipedia, definition of “testimonial”
Straight up quotes from customers extolling the virtue of some product or service are the most common type of testimonial. These are easy to gather and promote. The best ones usually lift a unique selling advantage, specific product or service attribute and/or a personally associated benefit that one might be looking to achieve with that product or service. Consider the following testimonials for SMART Marketing Solutions:
“SMS helped (client) grow sustain and grow sales with integrated marketing services. Their branding, website development, direct mail and other online/offline marketing support have helped our business tremendously. We highly recommend them.”
Notice that specific marketing and business objectives of sustaining and growing sales are clearly stated. Furthermore, integrated offerings are also included showing full-service capabilities. Here’s another from a satisfied client:
“SMS helped us build and develop valuable customer relationships in the 5+ years we have been working with them. With strategic services from SMS, we have gained and consistently sustain a competitive advantage in our space.”
This testimonial shows SMS’ commitment to clients’ customer relationships (our ability to acquire, retain and grow profitable customer relationships is one of our unique selling propositions). It also points to the long-term relationship with this specific client (of 5+ years) and how we have helped them remain competitively positioned within their marketplace; something that most clients are looking to achieve with an integrated marketing services agency.
How to Develop Successful Testimonials
Developing successful testimonials is not difficult. Here are some tips on how to generate good ones:
1. Ask for testimonials and be sure to get permission to publish. By clearly stating something to the effect of, “We are proud to serve you and would like to publish a testimonial of our work together. Would you mind please providing a brief sentence or two on our product/service/business that we can use in our marketing, we would greatly appreciate it…,” it says, we’re doing this because we value our relationship and are proud of our work for you. This is important to us and will not take long. We plan to use this across our marketing and promotional executions.
2. Consider having a few ‘canned’ testimonials of what you would want the client to say and/or sign their name to. I’ve had several clients say, “I’d be happy to. Can you prepare something for my review and I’ll edit and/or approve.” This is great as you can tailor your testimonials to exactly what you want to say and promote and how that can be used with other testimonials that say or promote something different.
3. Update testimonials regularly. Testimonials traditionally do not have a shelf life but if you use the same one or two in all of your advertising and promotions, they can quickly get stale.
4. Be sure the testimonial is coming from a decision maker and/or well respected individual in your space. The higher the level of decision maker the more credibility it will lend to your testimonial.
The Value of Good Testimonials
It’s obvious that good testimonials serve to provide substantive credibility and legitimacy for your business, product or service. A well crafted testimonial can also clearly lift your unique selling proposition, further assure your competitive positioning, and/or articulate personally associated benefits of your products/service, to name a few, to existing and prospective customers. Testimonials help acquire new customers while providing confidence in loyal, retained ones. Testimonials can showcase cache clients unique to your business. By successfully tracking your sales and marketing “How’d you find out about us?” “Why did you choose our company vs. the competition?” it may become clear that testimonials are having an impact on your sales and marketing objectives.
How to Use Testimonials
Testimonials can be used across various forms of your integrated marketing; on your website, in your collateral, in direct sales initiatives and presentations and in print ads, to name a few. By varying testimonials it shows diversity among the clients you serve as well as the different needs among your target audience that you are meeting. We recently developed several print ads for a luxury premier packaging company, Knoll Printing & Packaging, who designs packages for leading brands like Este Lauder, Coach, Ralph Lauren, etc. Our campaign theme included quotes from internal and external personnel (i.e. CEO, VP of Design, VP of Marketing, and most importantly, a Satisfied Client). This strategy gives each aspect of their business legitimacy and further tells the story of what makes their business unique.
Using testimonials is powerful marketing. Furthermore, they are easy to develop and can further enhance your relationship with your clients, really finding out what they think about you. Use them correctly and across your integrated marketing and they can support your business for years to come.