And 7 ideas for using them to overcome skepticism.
Let’s face it, today’s consumers are doubtful. Can you blame them? With all the hype and sales pitches people receive daily, we are all a bit world-weary. However, as salespeople, we must overcome our prospect’s natural skepticism and create a relationship of trust. One of the most powerful tools that can do this is a customer testimonial.
It’s one thing to blow your own horn. People expect you to rave about your products or services. But when other people who have nothing to gain from your success say good things about your products or services, your believability skyrockets. Providing third-party testimonials, which I call implied referrals, do just this and should be a part of your marketing plan.
Testimonials are powerful. They create believability, credibility, and a sense of security for your prospect and customer. They help to break down the natural barrier of distrust that most buyers feel. Watch any infomercial, and you will see that they are loaded with customer testimonials. Why? Because they work!
An extra bonus is that testimonials also will create more loyalty in your customers. Once people have put their name and reputation on the line by publicly endorsing a product or service (or person), they will stand behind that decision.
In addition, when you ask your customer for a testimonial, they will feel as though they are helping you and your business grow, and so will stay loyal.
A testimonial should follow this three-step formula:
- State the problem.
- Present the solution.
- Define the results.
There’s more to obtaining testimonials than just asking your customers for comments and feedback. If you want to have powerful testimonials that catch your prospects’ attention and build a relationship of trust, you should consider using these 10 strategies:
1. Don’t ask for customer testimonials in survey requests. Many businesses make the mistake of sending out customer surveys to get feedback from their customers, in addition to testimonials. Your customer needs to have the freedom to stay anonymous and say negative things in your survey, which is opposite of what you’re looking for.
2. Try to get a testimonial from your customer as soon as possible. This could be the day you complete the sale, or within the first week after. Your customer will be “energized” and most motivated to give you a great testimonial during this time. Don’t wait until the honeymoon period is over.
3. Always ask your customers to include your unique selling proposition (USP) in the testimonial. For instance, if your USP includes exceptional customer service, same-day installation, and a money-back guarantee, then ask your customer to attest to those qualities.
4. Ask your customer to talk about the struggles they were having previous to receiving the benefits of your product or service. Most likely, the reader will have had the same or similar struggles and will empathize. This will only make your prospect more interested in receiving the benefits of your product or service.
5. Have your customers be specific in their testimonials. For instance, if it’s the middle of winter, and there’s snow on the ground, and you delivered your product the same day your customer purchased it, tell your customer to include how they feel about the time that it arrived. If you delivered some kind of outstanding act of customer service, have them talk specifically about what you did and how it helped them.
6. Always get testimonials in person. Never cut corners by just calling a customer on the phone and recording or writing down what they say when answering your questions. With today’s technology, you can get the most out of your testimonials by using video. All you need is a small camcorder such as the Kodak Zi8 (It has an external mic jack.); or use your smart phone. These days they have great resolution and audio capabilities, so you can get testimonials on the spot and download them to your computer for editing. This way you get video, audio, and a picture.
7. Always try to get a picture of the customer using your product or service. As a matter of fact, try to take the picture yourself so that you know you’ll get a good one. Take several and make sure they are showing the benefits of the product or service. Pictures double the effectiveness of your testimonial.
8. Get permission from your customers to use their testimonials in your advertising. Thank them profusely and let them know that it is testimonials like theirs that help your business to grow. Ask them if you cannot only use their name but the town (suburb) they live in. This will increase the believability of the testimonial. It demonstrates that they are real people who live in the same community as your prospects.
9. Make sure you get several types of testimonials, such as one for heating repairs done on time and with great pricing. Do the same for A/C repairs. Get testimonials from installations that include cost savings on utilities and specials, such as no-interest financing or rebates.
My last strategy is a controversial tactic, but it has worked every time for me.
Let’s suppose your customer procrastinates because they are shy about being on camera. Tell them that you know they are shy but that you value them as a customer and their testimonial is important to you.
10. Suggest that to save them time and hassle, you will draft a few testimonial questions for them, and they can make any editing changes they want. You get the perfect testimonial, and they don’t have to do any work. Again, this tactic has worked 100% of the time for me. Just treat it as an interview.
Be sure to thank your customer for their testimonial. It will increase the good will you already enjoy and confirm the customer’s choice for extending their good name and giving you a testimonial. Take a moment to send a personal letter thanking them for their time and effort.
How To Use Customer Testimonials
It’s not enough to just get customer testimonials. Knowing how to use them in your marketing activities is what makes the difference. The following are seven ideas you can use to implement testimonials into your marketing program.
1. Create your own “What People Are Saying…” report by putting copies of your best testimonials together in a booklet and giving them to prospects.
2. Scatter testimonials from customers all over your website. Don’t put them all on one page. Place testimonials wherever you make bold claims. If you have testimonials pertaining to a specific product, place those testimonials under that product. Use video, audio and pictures with short statements from the testimonial.
Another great area to place testimonials on your website is on the right and left borders. They will be a constant reminder of your credibility. If you have a sign-up page of any sort, consider including a testimonial that talks specifically about what you are asking your visitor to sign up to, whether it be your newsletter or access to special information.
3. Always include one or two testimonials in your advertising. You’ll never see an ad for a weight-loss product without a testimonial. Why? Because those advertisers know that people are skeptical of all ads (not just weight-loss ads), and testimonials overcome skepticism more than any other marketing tool.
4. In every direct-mail piece you send, include one or two testimonials. This gives automatic credence to whatever offer you are sending.
5. Include customer testimonials on an audio or video you make for product marketing. It’s one thing to read a testimonial but another to hear a real, live person. You can even include the pictures and bios of those people on the CD in your mailer. I know of one marketer who includes an audio CD with his sales letter. The only thing the CD contains is a recording of customers praising his product. It’s powerful.
6. Do joint-endorsed mailings. (I call this Affiliate-Referral Joint-Venture Marketing.) If you have an associate that has customers who might be good prospects for what you sell, ask if they would like to participate in a jointly endorsed mailing in which your associate would send a letter to his customers endorsing (giving a testimonial) you and your products and services. In return you send a letter to your customers endorsing your associate’s products and services. It’s a win-win.
7. Do an endorsed-referral letter promotion. This tactic is similar to No. 6, but the promotion is done with your customers. Hold a contest of some sort and award prizes (incentives) to those customers who send in the names and addresses of three friends who they know would benefit from your products or services. Then send each of the three friends a letter with the testimonial of the person who referred them. This could give your referral program a jolt.
Chances are, you have not been diligent in asking for customer testimonials. I urge you to make a commitment today to start asking for testimonials from 100% of your customers. You can’t have enough customer testimonials. Plan a “Customer Testimonial Drive” and set a goal to obtain 100 customer testimonials within the next three months. Put a thermometer on the wall if you have to, but start today. Draft your testimonial request letter and send it out this week. Then start following up by phone the next week. This will give your salespeople some leads to work with.
Rich Friedel is the Station Manager at HVACR Live Web TV.com. Rich has over 40 years of experience in the HVAC industry. With 25 years as an HVAC contractor in three states, Rich has frontline experience. With 10 years as a business coach, Rich has trained thousands of small business owners across the United States. Contact Rich by visiting www.hvacrlivewebtv.com or (406) 672-3464.