Ray Braun Design
Graphic Design for Business and Non-Profits

A Testimonial is Worth a Thousand Words

There comes a moment of truth in every sale. The prospect has read about your product or service, what a great company you are, and everything else you had to say about yourself.

The sale hangs in the balance while she weighs your offer. What will get her to say yes and become a customer? Perhaps what you didn’t say about yourself. Rather, what your customers said about you in the form of testimonials.

Testimonials can be the nudge she needs to take you up on your offer. After all, she is taking a risk that your product or service will deliver what you promise. Quotes from satisfied customers carry enormous weight and can provide “the proof in the pudding.”

Okay, but how do you get testimonials? There are two ways. Like referrals, some will come to you unsolicited. For example, you may occasionally receive a thank-you note from a satisfied customer. These are gold and can boost the effectiveness of your sales literature. (Be sure to get permission before you use them. More on this later.)

However, you can’t control the frequency or amount of unsolicited praise, which brings
us to the second way of obtaining testimonials: asking for them. The only way to maximize and control the flow of testimonials is to actively solicit them.

How often should you solicit testimonials? That depends on what’s practical for your product, service and company. I suggest at least once a year. Asking customers for their opinions at regular intervals gives you valuable feedback that can help your business — even if you don’t use them as testimonials.
The next step is what to do with what you get. Here are some guidelines for using testimonials.

Beware of testimonials that make you feel good.

“You did a terrific job.”
“We couldn’t be happier with your product.”
“Thanks for everything.”

While these kinds of comments may make you swell up with pride, they don’t say anything specific to Ms. Prospect who has yet to decide whether you’ll get the chance to impress her.

How did you do a terrific job? Why couldn’t they be happier with your product? Thanks for everything? What’s everything?

Testimonials of this variety are not totally worthless, but ones that describe a specific aspect of your product or service, or describe how, specifically, you solved a problem or satisfied a customer stand a better chance of giving Ms. Prospect a warm, fuzzy feeling about what you’re selling.

Here’s an example:

“ We installed your new widget in our system and have experienced a 30% savings in operating costs. Using your widget has enabled us to add another production line with no increase in costs. The result is a 15% increase in profits. We couldn’t be happier with your product.”

Avoid editing or manufacturing testimonials.

If you want testimonials to ring true, leave them alone. And, by all means, don’t make up your own.

Edited testimonials will sound or look edited. Made-up testimonials run the risk of sounding too good and appearing phony, even when written by a skilled writer. Neither edited nor made-up testimonials have the authenticity of a customer’s own words. On the contrary, both can increase skepticism instead of close the deal.

Group testimonials.

There are two basic ways to present testimonials in your copy: You can group them together or scatter them throughout the piece.

I favor grouping them together for maximum impact. Whether it’s an ad, brochure or other sales literature, several testimonials read one after another can make a strong impression. When read separately they don’t have the same punch.

Plus, grouping your testimonials helps them to stand out more, increasing the odds that they’ll be read.

Attribute testimonials to real people.

Testimonials that omit or give partial names, places, titles and companies can arouse suspicion. The reader may sense there is something to hide and choose to ignore what is otherwise a terrific endorsement.

That’s why full disclosure is always a good idea. Include the person’s name, city and state. If it’s a business customer, also include their job title and company. If you have to settle for something less than full disclosure, maybe it’s not a good idea to use the testimonial.

Get permission.

Whatever you do, be sure to get permission before you use someone’s words to sell your products or services. The safest avenue is to get permission in writing, sending a letter that outlines what you would like to use and how you intend to use it.

Neil Sagebiel is a freelance copywriter who has written promotional copy for dozens of national clients. Neil's specialty is B2B, including print and online advertising, marketing collateral, Web, email marketing, direct mail and PR materials. He can be contacted at 540-745-5472 or www.neilsagebiel.com.