Testimonials make great marketing material
We all know that referrals and testimonials are very important sales and marketing tools. Referrals provide fresh pre qualified leads and testimonials help prospects feel comfortable about choosing your products or services.
Referrals and testimonials are different, yet very similar because of two simple facts. Neither will happen unless your customer has a great deal of confidence in your company. Just as importantly, it provides a critical element of your marketing message -- the proof of your story.
Your story demonstrates what your customers can expect. Usually that includes weaving concrete points into your message -- typical dollars saved, percent revenue increased, or the time advantage you offer.
What could be better than having actual customers share how they benefited in specific ways? It pinpoints your undeniable value and boosts creditability. Testimonials also help your prospect visualize the benefits they will get.
Here’s the rub -- most customers will not volunteer to give you a referral or testimonial on their own. I’m always getting asked how and when requests for referrals and testimonials should be made, without making customers feel pressured. Here’s how to do it.
Timing Is Key. The best time to ask for a referral or testimonial is when you are actively delivering value to your customer. “Actively” means a high level of engagement in some way. That can be almost anytime -- from just before a project is completed to after your product has been successfully placed into service. Your benefits are fresh in their mind during this time, so it’ll be easier for them to include hard numbers to help back up your claims and their testimonial. But only ask once you’re comfortable that a real relationship has been built and you’re sure that the customer is happy with what your company is doing for them.
Don't let an opportunity slip by you. If you have a solid relationship, it will be easy to pick up on a passing comment that’s positive about the work you’re doing -- either in a conversation, an email, or a comment on Twitter. Be prepared to ask for the referral or testimonial right then without missing a beat. “I’m glad that you’re pleased with us, do you know of other companies who would benefit from our service?” or for a testimonial, “Thanks for saying that, it’s greatly appreciated. Would you be willing to write that down and send it to me?” Once your customer says yes but doesn’t come through in a reasonable time frame, follow up with a gentle nudge -- “You mentioned that you’d be willing to give our company a [testimonial or referral] and I know things have been busy for you. I’d appreciate it when you have a few minutes. Thanks!”
Make it easy. Waiting for the right moment to ask is a good approach -- getting your customer to proactively say something nice about your business is even better. How? Simply ask, “how are we doing for you?” to get the conversation going. You can do this face-to-face and in email, but also consider adding comment areas to your website and blog postings. It’s easy with website widgets like Feedbackify and Adobe FormsCentral that let businesses ask specific questions of visitors and receive private responses. Try different approaches too and see what works best, such as sending thank you letters and post cards with a link back to your website for comments. You’ll get plenty of very usable quotes -- now contact each to thank them for the wonderful words and ask permission to use the comment as a testimonial. And while you’re at it, ask if they know other companies who would benefit from your product!
The more you ask, the more you'll get. Make asking for referrals and testimonials part of your routine. The worse thing that will happen is that they’ll say no.
Ron Stein is the founder and President of FastPath Marketing (www.marketing-strategies-guide.com). He has more than 20 years experience in sales, marketing, and business development, working positions ranging from salesman to vice president of sales and marketing to CEO of startups with industry leaders such as Motorola, VideoServer, Paradyne, and SercoNet. Ron is a member of the advisory team at the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, a nationally recognized entrepreneurial and startup accelerator for the state of Florida. He can be reached at 727-398-1855 or Ron@FastPathMarketing.com