The power of testimonials
Having coffee with a friend recently, we were chatting about developing her business. She’s done a lot of research, perfected her skills and decided how to pitch her pricing. Up until now, she has relied on word of mouth and Facebook to promote her business but her next project is to build a website.
“It’s a little way off yet,” she confessed. “I want to create the website myself but for now I’m working on what to include.”
We chatted about the merits of various WordPress templates and how exciting it is to imagine her website when it is complete. I asked her about the work she has been doing over the summer for her first clients.
“They’ve been so pleased with my work; it has been really encouraging,” she smiled.
“So, have you asked them for written testimonials?” I asked, anticipating that she would quote a few of them for me.
Instead she looked a bit puzzled. “Well, they told me how happy they are!” she said with a quizzical look. “Did I need to ask them to write it down?”
Get it in writing!
It is ingrained in us, as business people, to get everything contractual in writing. Protect yourself from complaints or legal action: ward off the dangers of disappointed and litigious clients! Yet we often forget that it is equally important to collect compliments. It’s sad that we anticipate the brickbats but don’t really make the most of the bouquets, when they arrive. So, although we prepare to do an excellent job and do our utmost to ensure our clients are overjoyed with the finished product, often the praise we receive takes us by surprise.
“Yes!” I said to my friend. “Not only should you gracefully accept their thanks for a job well done, you should be approaching them to let you know how you’ve done.”
Debrief your client – there are many benefits
The importance of including an element of feedback and assessment, in your marketing strategy shouldn’t be underestimated, regardless of whether you’re a sole trader or a large corporation. As part of this process you can provide the client with the opportunity to give you feedback. The benefits of this include valuable insight into the way they view your services.
· You might find that they there is something you can improve on, giving you the chance to put it right or add value, even though the project is complete and paid for.
· They might suggest a way of developing your business – possibly something you hadn’t considered previously.
· By ensuring that your clients are completely satisfied, you increase the chances that they will return to you the next time they need your services, rather than your competitor.
· Asking for feedback also gives you the opportunity to request a testimonial or recommendation that you can use in your future marketing efforts.
Testimonials are powerful tools
Few things are as persuasive as an enthusiastic endorsement from a satisfied customer. The immediate effect is plain – the warm glow that you experience as you read the compliments and maybe share them with your colleagues or family. But this kind of recognition has a much longer shelf life than the instant gratification and ego stroking. It is a powerful marketing tool that you can deploy to your advantage.
- Share an occasional testimonial on social media. Remember the 80:20 ratio of sharing and social content to selling, though: nobody likes a show-off.
- Use some enthusiastic words on your printed materials, to demonstrate to potential customers that yours is an established business, which has been recommended by others.
- Sometimes an existing client will agree to talk to a prospect on your behalf. If you’ve built up a good relationship with them and have a written testimonial already, it’s easier to make this kind of request.
- Finally, your website it the ideal place to display a selection of testimonials, as it will reach prospects that you can’t speak to in person. People like websites because it allows them to find out about your business at a point in the decision-making process when they are not yet ready to engage with you personally. If you want to know about someone, you search for them online and conversely, if you don’t find someone – well, they just don’t exist!
How to handle a compliment
As I write, there’s a major online furore about a female professional who received what her correspondent presumably intended as a compliment rather badly. She saw it as a sexist comment on her appearance and has let it be known that she prefers to be praised for her professional accomplishments and expertise. This is what we’re aiming for too. Select the testimonials that answer the questions your future clients are likely to have about you and your services.
- Are you easy to work with and friendly?
- Do you deliver on your promises?
- Can you add value by bringing your expertise to the party and advising your client effectively?
- Do your clients return to you for repeat business?
What to include when quoting testimonials
When using a testimonial on your website, include information that will add to its authenticity but always check that your client is happy to be quoted. Usually you can achieve this by including a sentence in your feedback form, along the lines of “I would like to use your feedback for promotional purposes. Please let me know if your comments are not for publication”.
By all means be selective about the quotes you use but don’t edit them. This would be misrepresentation and could turn a happy client into a grumpy client quite quickly.
You should include your client’s name, their position and the company they work for. If the work has been carried out through an agency, you might need to disguise or partly-disguise the identity of the client. This is a nuisance but if the testimonial is really worthwhile, it shouldn’t stop you using their remarks.
Always add a date. Yes, you’ve done some great work but your prospects want to know that it was completed recently. If you have made a habit of collecting feedback regularly from your clients, you can ring the changes on your website by replacing older comments on your work with more recent examples.
What if your client can’t write fluently?
This is a problem that can afflict copywriters in particular but anyone might have the experience: you have an enthusiastic client but their writing is awful! You really don’t want to have bad grammar and spelling spoiling a highlight on your website. You can get around this by sending them a carefully constructed feedback form with questions such as, “Did you find that my service exceeded your expectations?” This should result in useful comments. It is acceptable to make minor amendments to spelling and grammar before posting the resulting comments online.
Finally, don’t forget to thank your clients for any positive feedback and constructive criticism you receive. The former can win you new business and so, in due course, will the criticism, provided you act on it. Before you know it, you’ll be snowed under with compliments, just like my friend.
Have we worked together yet? I’d be happy to write a testimonial for anyone who has provided a service in the past.
If you’ve been asked to write a testimonial and aren’t sure how to word it – get in touch and I’ll give you a hand. I have all the words at the tips of my fingers.
I very much enjoyed working with Sue Kelso Ryan while she was writing copy for a new website and I’m delighted with the end result! … I would highly recommend Sue and indeed, I hope to work with her on further projects in the future.Dr Mike Crisp – Jan 2016