I was interviewed recently about the concept of testimonials. Here are the questions and my responses. I am big believer in the power of testimonials and I am always surprised by how few businesses ever use them.
Q1 – What are the benefits of having testimonials?
The reality of modern consumers is that they are somewhat cynical. We don’t believe everything we are told, especially when it comes to advertising. But we do believe other people. This is the reason why sites such as Trip Advisor have flourished and social media in general has become such a force to be reckoned with. Word of mouth has been replaced by word of mouse.
A testimonial means that the person giving the validation is putting their own reputation on the line. If they give a testimonial and the business doesn’t live up to the recommendation, their personal reputation is damaged. This makes a testimonial a very significant and intimate bond between the business getting the testimonial and the individual giving it – and these relationship needs to be honoured at any cost.
A business that has a good number of testimonials (that are less than a year old), from a diverse group of customers, is much more appealing to potential customers than one that has none.
Q2 – Have you seen business off the back of your testimonials? How successful?
My business has been built on testimonials. Whether it be companies that have engaged me as a presenter at their conference, reader reviews of my books or client testimonials regarding my consulting services, my growing list of happy customers, who are prepared to put their thoughts into writing (or on video), give me enormous credibility.
Q3 – What’s the best way to ask for testimonials?
Many small business owners really struggle with asking for testimonials. There is almost a send of embarrassment around asking someone to say nice things about a business. This is the first hurdle to overcome. You have to believe in the importance of testimonials and always be prepared to ask for them.
An approach that I suggest follows this kind of script “Mary I just wanted to say thank you using my business. I really appreciate it. In fact I am really committed to growing my business and I would love more wonderful customers just like you. So can I ask you to refer your friends and could you possibly write me a short testimonial. Here are a couple of examples, just one or two lines would be great. Are you happy to do that now for me?”
This approach engages the customer and asks for their help. It is very persuasive and from my experience, most people are very happy to give a testimonial on the spot. At the same time you have asked them to refer other people to your business – a double whammy.
Asking people to write reviews on social media sites is a good move to. The best way to do this is to send them an email with a link to the sites, and specific pages, where you want them to comment. It is always good make sure they are happy with your services first though, just in case.
Q4 – What should you ask to ensure it’s not a generic response?
Some people prefer to give their customers a short testimonial brief to make it easier. This is a good idea as many people have no idea what to say when it comes to writing a testimonial, so a simple sheet with some suggestions – like tell us what you like most about dealing with us, what would make you come back again, what did you expect before you used us and how was the experience? Keep testimonials short and sharp. It is OK to have an occasional longer one, but don’t make your testimonials war and peace. Who has the time to write really long testimonials?
A testimonial book, like a visitors book, is not a bad idea either. These are used at tourist attractions and in hotels all the time, well smarter ones, but why not have them in pretty much any business? This is a good way to collect testimonials on a regular basis.
Q5 – Who are the best testimonial candidates?
I find that it is important to collect testimonials from people who really are my target markets. For example, when it comes to my books, I want testimonials from other small business owners who can share their own experiences with my books and the advice that I have given them. This encourages other small business owners to buy my books.
With my keynote presenting and training, I tend to like bigger corporate names because this gives other corporations a sense of security when they consider booking me. For example if I say that my past keynote clients include Telstra, ING, Bendigo Bank, NAB, Hertz, Dymocks and News Limited, and I have positive testimonials from them, I enjoy enormous credibility and I get the job.
Q6 – How often should you review testimonials?
If you are trying to build your business on testimonials that are 10 years old, it’s time to update. Consumers look long and hard at our testimonials to see not just who is giving them but all also when they are giving them. I tend to leave dates out of my testimonials on my own promotional material, which makes them timeless, but this is harder to control when it comes to social media.
Collecting testimonials is also a great form of quality control. I think we should be asking as many of our clients as we can for testimonials. If they don’t want to give us a testimonial, why not? Perhaps they are not happy with our products or services and we need to know this. So if you are asking for testimonials, be certain to have a way of managing the process if a customer says they don’t want to give one.
In short, collect testimonials all the time.
ONE LAST POINT
Getting testimonials is one half of the process. Using them correctly is the other half. We should have our testimonials on our websites, in our printed promotional material, in proposals (I give a list of 10 past clients and their phones numbers with every proposal I do – no one ever rings them, but everyone makes a comment about how impressive this is).
Testimonials are powerful, essential and free marketing tools that have always been important. Today they are vital. We live in a world of incredible choice. Any business that has a legion of raving fans who are prepared to come out and not only share their experience but also recommend that others use this business, has a huge competitive advantage.