Do they talk about you? I hope so.

They should be. I’m talking about your clients.

One of the most powerful tools in marketing is the testimonial. Yet they are used by so few…

Put yourself in the shoes (phew!) of the prospect.

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 another business says about you.

Which is 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 minute to flip through a 3 ring binder full of letters from your clients saying that you hung the moon (or whatever is important for your niche).

DUH. It’s obviously number 2, right?

So can anyone explain to me why so many businesses fail to collect testimonials at all, much less collect them with systematic regularity from every single client?
Can anyone add to that why they might collect them and then NEVER USE THEM????

Double DUH with whipped cream on top.

I hear you, I hear you. “OK Mark, so how do we get them from every client?”

Ok, first, you have to think about your business and STRATEGIZE. I know, its a stretch some days. And it seems simple, but often it’s the simple yet important things like this that we forget about when we are neck deep in our businesses and trying to get that next sale, find that new customer, deal with the crisis of the moment (I’ll get to that in another post.)

Thats why you have to have systems in place. When I say systems, I dont necessarily mean “computers that you love to hate”, 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 that you ask EVERY client for a testimonial. If you can’t get one from every client when you do business with them, you’re likely to lose them because you clearly aren’t taking care of them very well. After all, if they cant or wont say something nice about you, arent you being kind of a screwup?

Ideally, your clients should be so thrilled to speak for you (on paper, typically) that they will gladly write one for you.

Remember, if you continue to be successful, they will continue to be able to enjoy your products and services that are oh so much better than that other guy’s. If they arent glad to do this, guess what the problem is? Walk into the restroom. Look into the mirror. Its you. Its not that the customer is a jerk, its that your business did something (or didnt do something) to position them so that they wouldnt care much for you after they gave you their money. Look in the mirror again, just to be safe, ok?

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!

Back to the testimonials…You have to have a form for this. Yeah, its another form, but a form is part of a system. Just humor me, ok?

Some people see a blank piece of paper and freeze up. They just cant think of what to say. That’s when you have to step in with yet another step to train your clients so that they behave as you wish.

The 2 most common approaches to this challenge are:

1) Write the testimonial as if your customer said it and GET THEIR APPROVAL and have them sign it. Its best if they can do this on a piece of their letterhead (surely you have a piece of blank letterhead from them…). Most clients will gladly let you write a reasonable, honest testimonial if they are allowed to approve it and sign 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 daughter cuz you’re such a great guy”, and so on. Think about why it’s important to ask specific questions like this, rather than just have them write “Dave is a great guy, I’d do business with him again.” That’s a pile of dog stuff when it comes to testimonials. 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 are just oh so happy to comply because they are at that moment where they are really happy with the transaction. In a clothing store, it might be while you are ringing them up, packing their clothing etc and the “buzz of the new clothes” is still going on. In a car dealer, it might be months later, when you are following up to make sure they are absolutely happy (don’t tell me you aren’t doing this…) This time will be different for some businesses, but it will STILL be applicable for every business. Don’t even think about starting that “but Mark, my business is different” horse hockey.

ONE BIG GOTCHA TO AVOID:
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER write or use a testimonial without getting approval from the client. If its not obvious why, think about it. There will be a quiz:) Again, thats NEVER (just in case I wasnt clear).