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Getting and Using Customer Testimonials, Part 1

  |  December 17, 2007   |  Comments

Good testimonials can be excellent marketing tools, but getting them can be a challenge. Six sure-fire tips for obtaining first-rate testimonials. Part one of a series.

One of my favorite marketing tactics, especially in e-mail campaigns, is the use of customer testimonials. Testimonials are beneficial in a number of ways:

  • They add instant credibility. You're not telling prospects how great your product is, one of their peers is.

  • They leverage your existing client base. It's a subtle way of saying, "These companies use us, why don't you?"

  • It's the original form of user-generated content. What's more Web 2.0 than having your clients evangelize your service to others?

Good testimonials can be excellent marketing tools; but getting them can be a challenge. Even when a client has really good testimonials, I often run into questions on usage. Here's my tried-and-true method for getting not just good but great testimonials. Next time, I'll provide answers to common questions about using testimonials in e-mail and other marketing campaigns.

Acquiring Testimonials

Many companies acquire testimonials by including a place for comments in on- or offline communications with their customers. While this can work, it's not the best way to get high-quality testimonials, which convey your product's or service's benefits. Customers aren't always descriptive in their thoughts; "great product" sounds good but isn't terribly persuasive. To secure benefit-oriented testimonials from customers, set the stage and structure the discussion. Here's my technique:

  1. Determine the key benefits or selling points to focus on. What are your product's unique selling points? Which types of companies are the best candidates for your service? What problems does your product solve for customers? What are the top reasons people buy from you rather than from a competitor? What key objections do you have to overcome, and how do you address them, to make the sale?

    By identifying these benefits and target audiences, you have the basis for the testimonials you need to successfully market your product or service.

  2. Identify clients in these target audiences who recognize these benefits. Obviously you want to talk to customers who like you. But past that, be a little picky. If you're targeting certain industries, identify customers who would be willing to share their experiences. If your message is cost savings, identify a company that tremendously reduced expenditures by using your product.

    For each key benefit or selling point, identify one to three companies as role models. Rather than thinking about who might be willing to give you a testimonial, focus on which clients can provide the testimonials that best match your marketing message.

  3. Set up a time to speak with the client. Some marketers are uncomfortable speaking directly with clients. Get over it. The only way you'll get the testimonial you want is to have a conversation. It's not as hard as it sounds. Have a set list of open-ended questions to ask (most beginning with "how" or "why"; they shouldn't be answerable with a "yes" or "no"); these should be leading questions that help focus the reader on the benefit or key selling point you want them to discuss.

  4. Transcribe the session. Transcription isn't expensive. Just tape your discussion with the client, then have it typed. Your goal is to create great quotes; it's easier to do this if you can see it in writing. Trying to work directly from a tape or from memory or notes is much more difficult.

  5. Massage the conversation into quotes. Sometimes a customer says a phrase that's perfect -- it's effective at summing up the key point you wanted to make. That's great. Other times, fragments of the perfect quote are scattered throughout a conversation. This is where the massaging comes in. Take a look at what was said and figure out the best way to condense it, keeping the intent, into a succinct sound bite that represents a benefit or key point.

  6. Get the approval. Always run the final testimonial past the customer for approval. Be sure to include the person's name, title, and company so you can be sure you have these exactly correct. Your legal department should provide some boilerplate language for the agreement, which gives your organization permission to use the quote as you wish. This legal language must be conversational in tone, so your clients aren't scared to sign it, and should be as short as possible. The legal document should include the quote, attribution, and legal language. You'll want your customers to sign the bottom to signal their approval.

Try it and let me know how it works

Next time, I'll address common questions organizations have about using testimonials. Until then, happy holidays!


Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.

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