Are They Talking About You?

By MARK RIFFEY for the Flathead Beacon Newspaper

They should be. One of the most powerful tools in marketing is the testimonial. Yet they are used so infrequently.

Put yourself your prospect’s shoes. She can listen to you, try and believe you, hope that you are paying attention and addressing her concerns (I sure hope you are) or she can read what a customer says about you.

What’s more believable?

Sure, the prospect is going to have to listen to you and hope you address their needs regardless of whether you have testimonials, but which would you rather have working for you:

1) Your best salesperson talking to a prospect,

or…

2) Your best salesperson talking to a prospect just after the prospect conveniently had a moment to review a binder of web page full of letters and emails from your clients saying things important to your market.

Obviously, it’s number two.

So why so many businesses fail to collect testimonials at all, much less collect them with systematic regularity?

testimonials
How do we get them from every client?

First, think about your business and strategize. It’s often these simple yet important things that we forget about when we’re neck deep in our businesses trying to get that next sale, find that new customer or deal with the crisis of the moment.

Thats why you have to have systems in place. By “system”, I mean a systematic way of doing things so that no matter who performs a task, the task is always performed the same way, at the same level of quality.

Your systems need to include the act of asking every client for a testimonial. If you can’t get one, you’re likely to lose them because it often means you aren’t taking care of them very well (note: there are exceptions). After all, if they can’t or won’t say something nice about you, what’s that say?

Ideally, your clients should be so thrilled to speak for you (on paper, typically) that they will gladly write one for you. If they aren’t glad to do this, it’s possible your business did something they didn’t care for after they gave you their money.

By the way, don’t take it too personally when I say “you”. I mean “your business” when I say that most of the time. On the other hand, go ahead and take it personal, but FIX IT!

Help them make it happen

You have to have a form, web page or similar…a system. Some people see a blank piece of paper and freeze up because they can’t decide what to say. That’s when you have to step in with a system to help your clients behave as you wish.

Other ways you can help:

1) Write the testimonial as if your customer said it and GET THEIR APPROVAL. It’s OK to have them sign it. It’s best if they can do this on their letterhead but it’s not a requirement. Most clients will gladly let you write a reasonable, honest testimonial if they are allowed to approve it.

2) Give them a form that asks their name, what problem you solved for them, how much money you saved them, but don’t ask them questions that result in answers like “we’d love for you to marry their first born because you’re such a great person”. Consider why it’s important to ask specific questions, rather than have them write “Dave is a great guy, I’d do business with him again.” Testimonials serve a purpose. Ask specific questions because you have specific reasons. I guarantee that you do.

3) Be sure that you ask at a time when they’re happy to comply. In a clothing store, it might be while you’re ringing up their purchase, packaging their clothing etc and the “buzz of the new clothes” is still going on. In a car dealer, it might be months later, when following up to make sure they are absolutely happy with their new vehicle (even if it was pre-owned). The timeframe may differ for you, but it’ll be applicable at some point. It may take some practice to figure out the best time to ask.

One last thing

NEVER write or use a testimonial without getting approval from the client.

Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him at mriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.

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2014-08-20_0819Want to learn more about Mark or ask him to write about a strategic, operations or marketing problem? See Mark’s sitecontact him on Twitter, or email him atmriffey@flatheadbeacon.com.  Check out the Flathead Beacon archive of all of Mark’sblogs.