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Testimonials – 7 easy steps to make yours work better


By Anne-Marie Watson

Published August 11, 2009


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Customer testimonials can be a very positive driver to a business or brand’s success. Right? If that’s so, why doesn’t everyone use them?


Well it could be that some people just haven’t discovered this great secret yet but there’s more to the story than that.


Testimonials have become tarnished in recent times due to use of ‘faked’ testimonials, blatant over-claiming by some and the use of skillfully designed ‘spin’ messages that pass as ‘real’ endorsements. This has made testimonials less popular than they were a few years ago. I too have been fed up reading cheesy reviews and carefully crafted ‘customer’ statements.

Then do testimonials really work?


The answer is yes, provided they are done well. Rave reviews can really wow existing customers and help grow your business.


The secrets to effective testimonials are all about credibility and ensuring that the messages delivered are what your potential customers really want to know about. Will the business they are thinking of using really be reliable, give fast-delivery or actually have knowledge in the area they profess to be “experts” in?


There are only a few key things to remember about getting useful testimonials.


1. Make sure that the service or products you are providing are top notch.

This is so your customers won’t feel uncomfortable in providing an honest testimonial. This is not only good business sense but its likely your testimonial will be ‘from the heart’ not because they feel reluctantly obliged to help you. Rave reviews come only from rave service or product excellence.


2. Try and get the testimonial as soon as possible after the service or product is delivered.

This will be easier for all to do when the facts are fresh in their minds, and they are more likely to feel like providing one before too much time passes and the warm feelings die down somewhat.


3. Let the customer write the testimonial in their own words.

Once upon a time I would have advocated that a good approach was to write the testimonial for the customer and just get their agreement. However, this approach only adds to the ‘fake’ image that testimonials can give and detract from their credibility. It’s important the customer feels comfortable with what is said. You can always edit the wording to a slight degree afterwards if you are worried about grammar and ‘punch’ of the words.


4. Make sure the testimonial looks real.

By getting the customer to write the wording you will be halfway to achieving this. A couple of small extra things will also help add credibility. You need to get the customers real name and ideally their picture to use with the testimonial. This brings the testimonial to life. There is nothing more uninspiring than reading a generic testimonial. Sometimes there are situations where you can’t get the testimonial’s details but the comments are just too good not to use. However, understand these carry less weight in your customers’ eyes.


5. Try and gather testimonials that focus on your core benefits.

Testimonials that provide a general ‘thanks for everything’ endorsement are warm and fuzzy but do nothing to convey your real business expertise. When you ask for a testimonial be specific about what feedback you are looking for. This way you can use these to support your brand promise in a positive way. If you have a few different benefits you offer, or products, then try and gather a wider breadth of testimonials to support each of these.


6. Get Permission.

Legally you are required to get permission before reproducing someone’s endorsement on your marketing or communication materials. When you ask the customer first up, this is the time to mention how and when you are planning to use the testimonial. Make sure you get written permission. A letter or email should be sufficient. However, other more complex endorsements will require legal advice.


7. Have a systematic approach for collecting & displaying testimonials.

Like many things in marketing, the better organized you are, the more successful your efforts will be. A good idea is to have a standard request letter or format to use. If you have a website, you can encourage product or service reviews with appropriate links etc. You can also use customer blogs.


Whatever approach you use, it may be worth showing your legal advisor to make sure you are not breaching any legal requirements.


Customer testimonials still remain one of the most cost-effective and useful parts of your promotional toolkit and when done correctly can build promote positive word-of-mouth customer loyalty and build business growth, all critical goals for succeeding in a small businesses.



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