Advertising and Marketing ReviewReprinted from the Advertising & Marketing Review, October 2008

Whether you’re a well-known company that’s been around for years or a “new guy/gal on the block,” establishing credibility for your company is vital.

This is what I tell my clients and seminar participants.

First, every potential customer wants to know the benefits of doing business with you (i.e. “what’s in it for me?”). Then, once their interest has been piqued and they’re seriously considering your product or service, they want to know that your company is a viable business, one they can count on.

How do you prove you’re worthy? How do you let others know that your product really does what you say it does or that your company is reputable in its field?

The method I put high on my list is known as the testimonial approach. I strongly believe in the power of praise that comes from your customers and satisfied clients — past and present. As ad man David Ogilvy said: “If you include a testimonial in your copy, you make it more credible. Readers find the endorsements of fellow consumers more persuasive than the puffery of anonymous copywriters.”

Direct response authority Joan Throckmorton agreed that testimonials are “a powerful tool.” She suggested that you, “Give it (the testimonial approach) your serious consideration when you have a product or service that requires the kind of credibility that only customers can provide.”

“For example,” she continued, “Products that claim to improve health or fitness or personal appearance, products that promise to increase income, give the prospect new or improved skills — any products or services with intangible benefits (promises that can’t be proved by product examination or demonstration and therefore create skepticism on the part of your prospects).”

Testimonial guidelines

When it comes to using the words of others, there are some important points to remember. I suggest that you:

1. Get permission from the person you’re quoting before you use their comments in any way, shape or form.

2. Don’t use testimonials without names, if you can at all help it. They lack credibility. You can use a person’s:
a) Full name along with a city and state and/or company name.
b) First initial and full last name with city, state and/or company name.
c) First and last initials with city, state and/or a company name.
d) A person’s title, again with a city, state and/or company name.

3. Use specific testimonials. “In testimonials & specifics out pull puffery,” wrote author, Herschell Gordon Lewis. For instance, a quote that says, “Debra is great!” doesn’t tell my readers much about why they should use my services. However, one that reads, “Debra quickly absorbed all facets of the mail campaign and turned around copy that was 100 percent on target” lends much more credibility to me and my ability as a copywriter.

4. A word about celebrity testimonials. If you can afford to have a well-known celebrity back your product/ service, be sure that it makes sense for him/her to endorse you. For example, Martina Navratilova is a good choice for endorsing tennis rackets or apparel not for motor oil. Let Mario Andretti do that.

David Ogilvy agreed that “Testimonials increase credibility — and sales. But don’t use testimonials by celebrities, unless they’re recognized authorities, like Arnold Palmer on golf clubs.”

“If you have a great product or service, you have an almost inexhaustible source of great copy practically free — written by your own customers,” explained veteran writer Bob Stone. “They will come up with selling phrases straight from the heart that no copywriter, no matter how brilliant, would ever think of. They will write with a depth of conviction that the best copywriters will find hard to equal.”

Gathering testimonials?

Now you may be reading this and thinking, “How do I enhance my credibility when I don’t have any testimonials on file? What do I do now?” Don’t worry. There are a couple of simple ways to approach this and fill your files with praise.

1. Have people approached you and given you unsolicited verbal testimonials? If so, ask for their permission to use what they said.

2. Many times my clients or seminar attendees e-mail me with praise. I immediately respond and ask for their permission to use their comments in the future. I’ve never had any of them say “no” to my request.

3. Ask people for their input. There’s nothing wrong with doing this. Put together a short letter asking your clients for their feedback. If you like, drop me an e-mail, and I’ll send you a copy of the letter I use when I’m requesting testimonials from my clients.

“Setting up a methodical testimonial-soliciting program, you can increase tenfold your effective use of testimonials,” said Stone.

So, when you’re looking for ways to market yourself and wondering just what you’ll do next, turn to your customers. Give them the chance to praise your good graces. And don’t be afraid to ask them for “constructive criticism” as well — it will help you provide better service in the future.

Remember, if you’d like a copy of the testimonial request letter that I use with my clients, complete the form below and I’ll send it your way.

Former President of the Rocky Mountain Direct Marketing Association (RMDMA) and a recipient of their “Creative Person of the Year Award,”Debra Jason specializes in writing dynamic, results-oriented content for Web & direct marketing communications. She may be reached at (303) 443 1942 or visit her online at www.WriteDirection.com.

©Copyright 2003, 2008-2015 Debra Jason dba The Write Direction. All rights reserved.