Customer “testimonials” are one of today’s most potent forms of promotion and grassroots marketing for a startup business — a potential marketing goldmine for your venture. Positive, believable comments from real life customers are proof positive to other potential buyers that you are worthy of their business.
From the moment you launch your business, you should aggressively seek feedback from customers. Your goal is to build a beefy file of letters and emails with glowing comments, interesting stories and other tidbits that can be highly useful in touting your business to prospects.
Testimonials are the missing link for prospects considering a commitment to your product or service. Reading what others have to say gives them instant comfort. It helps them connect the dots, put a real face on your business and see the satisfaction others have garnered from working with you.
Testimonials work a special magic, helping prospects overcome fear and natural skepticism. Buyers are bombarded with product and service claims. But tooting your own horn doesn’t really cut it.
Customers want information they can trust, and testimonials fit that bill. Comments from real people with real names who live in real places and provide information you can put into direct quotes are far more believable than any marketing message you can devise on your own.
If your business is mentioned favorably in the press, by all means quote from the story. Seek permission from the magazine or newspaper to post an excerpt on your website or establish a link to the article if it appears somewhere online. If you quote from letters, emails or other comments you’ve received from individuals, ask their permission first. If the comments were worded awkwardly, but had a strong message, ask if you can edit the comments so they read better.
It’s always better to use a real name and possibly a title, affiliation and location if appropriate. But if the person prefers not to be quoted by name, ask if you can at least use their initials and where they are from.
Be vigilant in collecting testimonials
Be on the constant lookout for testimonials you can use. Don’t be afraid to ask for them if you must. Satisfied customers might not go out of their way to provide comments, but are often willing if asked.
Collecting and using testimonials takes a little effort and planning, but it is more than worth the time. Good testimonials are a way to separate yourself from the competition with “proof” that the benefits you offer are for real.
Once you get the comments flowing, you can afford to be picky about which ones you use. Not just any comment will do. For example, something like “your products are great” is overly vague.
The most powerful comments are detailed and specific, although not long. If your service increased someone’s sales, the comment should say by how much and over what time period. The more dramatic, the better, although testimonials should be believable and reflect the real feelings of real people.
Strategies for using testimonials
Here are some other tried and true strategies for using testimonials:
- If you plan to advertise your business, by all means include testimonials in your ads. They are guaranteed to help overcome customer skepticism about your claims. You might be able to include as many as two or three of them, but keep them short and set them off with quote marks, colors or italics.
- Create a special “Customer Comments” page that appears in your marketing materials, website, newsletter, presentations, direct mail pieces or elsewhere. These words can often have a far greater impact than anything you’d pay to have a marketing genius write on your behalf.
- When you ask customers for comments, ask for any special credentials they might have as well. Someone with a special degree, title or accomplishment can add even more weight to the testimonial. And be sure to thank them for their comments. They’ll be more likely to offer more in the future.
Our Bottom Line
Customer comments - or testimonials - are a super way to help promote a new business, and a reliable grassroots marketing tactic. They add great credibility to almost any marketing message, and in most cases they cost you nothing to get, beyond a little effort on your part. Be sure to cast your testimonials collection net as wide as possible. The “catch” you make can help feed your business for years to come.
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