The Power of Testimonials

by Jennifer Beever, Marketing Consultant
Copyright New Incite, All Rights Reserved

We meet a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs who have great products and services. They want to market these products and services in the fastest way possible to generate sales and revenues for their business. When we create marketing plans with our clients, we stress the power of testimonials as a marketing tool. Testimonials are third-party, credible evidence that your product or service provides benefits to the buyer. Testimonials are much more likely to be believed than ads, direct mail, and other promotional material. In some industries, such as high technology, the number one reason for buying a product is a peer testimonial.

As a business owner, the first thing you need to understand is that if you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business. The initial marketing of a new product is tough. No one has heard of your product or company, and you have no success stories. You need to focus on the benefits of your product or service and paint a picture of what the customer or client’s life will be like after they buy. Without testimonials, the selling cycle in the initial stages will be longer than normal. To shorten the sell cycle, offer extra incentives to your first customers. Extra service, reduced prices, additional product, trial periods and guarantees can provide the incentive necessary to get those first, critical customers.

Effective testimonials should represent the customer or client that you want to attract and the products or services that you want to sell. Identify your ideal client profile and begin marketing to that profile. If possible, identify who in your target industry might respond first to the product or service you offer. For example, in the high tech industry, a small percentage of buyers are called “early adopters” (Geoffrey Moore, Crossing the Chasm, New York: Harper Business, 1991). These are “techies” or visionaries who love new gadgets and are more likely to buy new and untested products.

Start-up companies, or businesses with a new product line, should choose their first customers carefully. In technology companies where products are often rolled out in alpha and beta test stages, the customers testing must have certain elements to ensure success:

  1. Management support for the use of the product or service in question
  2. Infrastructure to implement the product or service
  3. Agreement to allow their story to be used as a testimonial

Broach the topic of the testimonial early in your conversation with potential customers. Some businesses even make testimonials a contractual issue – if the project goes well a testimonial is expected – and the agreement is put in writing.

In the software industry, companies have experienced delays of months or even years because they did not choose their early customers carefully. The customers were often too dysfunctional to implement the product correctly, requiring that the software company begin the lengthy sales cycle all over again: prospecting, selling, closing, and implementing. Additional sales were delayed because there were no solid testimonials.

Testimonials, especially those in print, require written permission from the customer. Get a signed and dated release, because the last thing you will want to do is rewrite and reprint your marketing collateral if someone changes their mind and files a lawsuit preventing you from using material already printed.

Testimonials should be created or recorded and sent to the customer with the release form for approval and signature. In creating a testimonial, it is easiest if you record your conversation with the customer so that you can take your time in choosing the best statements that the customer made. In some cases, customers may ask you to draft a statement which they then edit, approve and sign.

When you create a testimonial, build it in three parts: the situation, solution, and results. The situation describes the problem encountered, the solution (your company or product) and the results received. The testimonial should tell a story that ends with what benefits or results the customer received by using your product or service.

In summary, the testimonial may be one of the most powerful marketing tools you have. Put at least three testimonials on your web site and in your marketing materials. Carefully choose your testimonial clients or customers, making sure that each one represents the size, industry, and type of work you want. Get written permission for all testimonials, especially for those in print.

Author Jennifer Beever is a marketing consultant and founder of New Incite Marketing Analysis and Design. New Incite is the outsource marketing resource for growing businesses. The company provides marketing planning, implementation, results tracking and organizational development services for its clients. Contact Jennifer at 818-347-4248 or by email.

This article may be reprinted with permission of the author. Please contact Jennifer Beever at 818-347-4248 or by email for permission. Proper acknowledgement of the author, including name, company, and contact information, must be made with use.