It’s a competitive market out there. If you are a small business or an entrepreneur with a new product to offer, you’ll find consumers have many objections before they purchase. Prospects are going to carefully scrutinize your product against others before they spend their money. There are direct and indirect substitutes competing for their attention and disposable income.
To complicate things, consumers have been disappointed countless times by products that have not lived up to their promise. Yours may be the best thing to come around in years but many consumers will likely take a jaded and skeptical approach to their purchasing decision.
All of these factors make the job of marketing your new product that much more challenging…it is on your shoulders to provide proof that you can deliver on all of the benefits you promise. The good news is that there are a finite number of strategies at your disposal to provide the proof. One of the most effective strategies is the Testimonial.
Asking For It
To get a testimonial you have to ask for it. You’ll find that some customers like to write the testimonial themselves while others may prefer to be given a draft to review and edit as they see fit.
I’ve found that presenting these two choices to the customer is the best approach. More often than not they will take me up on my offer to write a draft for them to review, edit and approve. This method makes it convenient for them as they may find starting from scratch more difficult than editing a previously written paragraph.
I prefer using email to exchange drafts and edits back and forth with the customer. In my experience, there are usually only one or two volleys back and forth before the final version of the testimonial is complete. This process generates a record of the testimonial and the “sign off” you’ll need to use the testimonial.
I’d like to spend a minute on who should ask for the testimonial. It has been my impression that most folks are comfortable with a neutral, third party making the request. This is more likely to be an appropriate approach in the service sector than it is when the testimonial is being given to a product. There can sometimes be an awkward feeling between the two parties if the one asking for the testimonial is the one who actually performed the service. It may put the customer in an awkward position to refuse the request. I have a client who builds and installs highly customized products and the approach we have found to be very effective is for someone other than the project manager (who has all the customer contact) to request the testimonial.
Now that you have earned a testimonial from your customer, what do you do with it? There are numerous venues that will allow you to leverage it: Web site, newsletter, Linked In, Facebook.
Linked In has a Recommendations feature which you may want to consider to increase visibility of a testimonial. According to Linked In, “Users with recommendations are three times as likely to get inquiries through LinkedIn searches. Ask your colleagues to speak up for you — get endorsed.”
A good Content Management System (CMS) makes it easy and convenient to upload testimonials to your web site. A good question is “how many testimonials should I publish on my site?” I visited one web site in my client’s industry that invited visitors to sort through its testimonials using search criteria such as product type and industry. This is an example of taking the use of testimonials too far. If you have to provide a search tool to sort through them all, you are publishing too many. My advice to clients is moderation, use them sparingly as too many of them may back fire.
The testimonial also has its place in targeted business development as it can be utilized during several stages of the buying cycle. You can place a few testimonials in your Power Point Presentation to prospective new accounts. This can be a good spring board into offering references.
Asking for a testimonial may be a daunting task for some entrepreneurs. However, follow the above guidelines and you’re well on your way to providing the evidence needed to support your benefit promise. Make it easy for prospects to choose your product over the competitor’s. The process of asking for a testimonial may even open the door to referral business. A highly responsive customer that is very satisfied with your product may be receptive to introducing you to other interested parties.
I hope this review of several methods for getting testimonials inspires you! While you’re at it, why not offer to give a testimonial to a supplier or a colleague? It helps strengthen relationships.