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Something to Talk About: Testimonials

As a business owner, it’s natural to talk about your own product or service. In fact, people expect you to. But when other people with nothing to gain from your success say good things about your products, it’s even more powerful. Testimonials are nothing more than positive comments you collect from your customers. They’re simple, but effective. They create trust and a sense of credibility between you and your buyers.

Getting started

Don’t be shy about asking your customers and clients for a good testimonial to be used in your small business marketing. Odds are, they’ll be flattered and eager to help you out. Testimonials are versatile and come in many different “flavors” that can be used in a variety of ways. Here are four different ways to present your testimonials:

1.  Success Stories. Use testimonials as a way to showcase how your product or service helped make your customer’s life easier or better. Here’s a real example of a success story testimonial:

I attended your Physical Wellness workshop two months ago. I used to grab breakfast out every morning. It was my New York habit. Since your workshop, I am eating most of my meals at home. You’ve not only helped me learn to be healthier, but you’ve saved me tons of money. And I’ve lost 15 pounds. Thank you!

2.  Testimonials from a specific demographic. People relate well to others with a similar background. If your target audience is of a certain demographic, make sure your testimonials include people in that same demographic. Example:

It is refreshing to see a website that offers new teachers quick and easy access to instant lesson plan ideas. It’s like having your own mentor at home. I just wish something like this would have been available when I was starting out in my own teaching career thirty years ago. –Retired Teacher from California

3. Constructive criticism. Constructive criticism, when used the right way, can rally people around your company and make you look real. Often, these can be your most persuasive testimonials. Example:

When I had trouble downloading the course from the website, all I had to do was call customer support. They handled the problem quickly and it was delivered to my email inbox in seconds. I would certainly recommend your course to anyone interested.

4. Video testimonials. We’re all familiar with television commercials. Until recently, video testimonials were too costly for the average small business owner. We now live in the age of YouTube and easily affordable digital equipment. A simple digital camera can be used to create quality video testimonials. With little to no touching up, you can upload the testimonials to a YouTube page, your web site, or your blog.

Put your testimonials to work

After collecting plenty of intriguing testimonials from your happy customers, be sure to include them in all your marketing materials. When at all possible, use customers’ real names. Include photos alongside the testimonial whenever possible. This gives your testimonial “face” and instantly adds an extra measure of credibility. Place your testimonials in specific spots to back up your sales points.

Once you’ve worked out the specifics, it’s time to display them in all your marketing. Put them in your printed media such as brochures, direct mailings, and print advertisements. Feature them prominently on your web site or blog; having an entire page of testimonials can be one of the strongest parts of your website.

Share testimonials on any and all of your social media outlets. Put them on your facebook or LinkedIn page. “Retweet” positive praises on twitter for an instant testimonial. Social media is the most organic form of testimonials; it’s quick, viral, (which can be good or bad), and offers customers a chance to create dialogue with each other.

Housekeeping issues

To avoid problems down the road, keep records for all of your testimonials. Get full contact information for the person giving the testimonial and include a copy of their written permission to use them. This is especially important for video testimonials or use of customers’ pictures. Keep your collection of testimonials fresh and up to date. Don’t quit asking your customers for new testimonials for future use. Your business will evolve and change over time, and you’ll want your testimonials to reflect the life of your business in its most current form.

A final word of caution

Make sure to only use testimonials that are real and genuine. Fake testimonials are not only unethical, but also illegal. Get caught with a fake or bloated testimonial, and your credibility will be gone in an instant. Resist the urge to substantially rewrite them; you want authenticity, not perfection. Feel free to edit testimonials for punctuation, spelling, and clarity, but be careful not to change the original meaning.

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