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WEEKLY AD

Using Customer Testimonials

8 keys to success

Using testimonials — quotations from satisfied customers and clients — is one of the simplest and most effective ways of adding punch and power to brochure, ad, and direct mail copy. You may be asking, how do you get testimonials? How do you use them? Here are some tips.

Always use real testimonials instead of made-up ones

Even the most skilled copywriter can rarely make up a testimonial that matches the sincerity and credibility of genuine words of praise from a real customer or client.

If you ask customers to give you a testimonial, and they say, "sure, just write something and I'll sign it," politely reply, "gee, I appreciate that, but would you mind giving me your opinions of our product — in your own words?"

Fabricated or self–authored testimonials (those written by the advertiser or their copywriter) usually sound phony; genuine testimonials invariably have the ring of truth.

Strive for long testimonials instead of short ones

Many advertisers are hooked on using very short testimonials. For instance:

"...fabulous!..." "...truly funny... thought–provoking..." "...excellent ...wonderful..."

When people see these ultra short testimonials, they suspect that a skillful editing job has masked a comment that was not as favorable as the writer makes it appear. Longer testimonials — say, two or three sentences versus a single word or phrase — come across as more believable. For example:

"Frankly, I was nervous about using an outside consultant. But your excellent service has made me a believer! You can be sure that we'll be calling on your firm to organize all our major sales conferences and other meetings for us. Thanks for a job well done!"

Use specific, detailed testimonials

Upon receiving a letter of praise from a customer, our initial reaction is to read the letter and find the single sentence that directly praises our company or our product. We extract the words we think are kindest about us, producing a bland bit of puffery such as: "We are very pleased with your product."

Most testimonials would be stronger if they included more of the specific, detailed comments a client has made about how the product or service helped him. After all, the prospects we are trying to sell to may have problems similar to the one our current customer solved using our product. Let Mr. Customer tell Ms. Prospect how your company came to the rescue.

"We have installed your new ChemiCoat system in each of our bottling lines and have already experienced a 25 percent savings in energy and material costs. Thanks to your system, we have now added an additional production line with no increase in energy costs. This has increased profits 15 percent and already paid back the investment in your product. We are very pleased with your product."

Use full attribution

We've all opened direct mail packages that contained testimonials from "J.B. in Arizona" or "Jim S., Self–Made Millionaire." I suspect that many people laugh at such testimonials and think they are phony.

To increase the believability for your testimonials, attribute each quotation. Include the person's name, city and state, and, if a business customer, a job title, and company name. Such as:

Jim K. Redding, Vice President of Manufacturing, Divmet Corporation, Fairfield, N.J.

Group your testimonials

There are two basic ways to present testimonials: you can group them together in one area of your brochure or ad, or you can scatter them throughout the copy.

I've seen both approaches work well, and the success of the presentation depends, in part, on the skill of the writer and the specific nature of the piece. I prefer the first approach: to group all your testimonials and present them as a single block of copy. This technique can be done in a box, on a separate page, or on a separate sheet. My feeling is that when the prospect reads a half dozen or so testimonials, one right after another, they have more impact and power than when the testimonials are separated and scattered throughout the piece.

Get permission

Make sure you get permission from your customers to reprint their words before including their testimonial in your ad, brochure, direct mail, and other promotional copy. The easiest way to obtain authorization is to send a "release letter" to the client. Include a photocopy of the testimonial letter and highlight the passages you want to reprint. Your release letter can follow this basic format:

Mr. Mike Jones
Advertising Manager
World Enterprises
Anytown, USA
 

 
Dear Mike:
 
Thanks for your letter of 12/12/00 (copy attached). I'm glad you're pleased with our product!
 
I'd like to quote from your letter in the ads, brochures, direct mail, and other promotional pieces we use to market our product — with your permission, of course.
 
If quoting from your letter is OK with you, would you please sign the bottom of this letter and send it back to me in the envelope enclosed?
 
The second copy is for your files.
 
Many thanks, Mike.
 
Regards,
Jane Smith
 
YES, YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO QUOTE FROM THE ATTACHED LETTER IN ADS, BROCHURES, MAIL, AND OTHER PROMOTIONS USED TO MARKET YOUR PRODUCT.
 
Signed____________________ Date________________
 
Enclose a self–addressed, stamped reply envelope plus a second copy of the permission letter for the recipient's files.

Soliciting testimonials

If your customers don't send you letters of praise (and many won't), simply send a note to clients and customers who [you know] are happy with your product or service asking for their comments.

Mr. Alex Samuels
Product Supervisor
XYZ Corporation
Anyplace, USA
 

 
Dear Alex:
 
I have a favor to ask of you.
 
I'm in the process of putting together a booklet of testimonials — a collection of comments about my services, from satisfied clients like you.
 
Would you please take a few minutes to give me your opinion of my consulting services?
 
There's no need to compose a letter — just jot your comments on the back of this letter, sign below, and return to me in the enclosed envelope. (The second copy is for your files).
 
I look forward to learning what you like about my service, but I also welcome any suggestions or criticisms.
 
Many thanks, Alex.
 
Regards,
Bob Bly
 
YOU HAVE MY PERMISSION TO QUOTE FROM MY COMMENTS, AND USE THESE QUOTATIONS IN ADS, BROCHURES, MAIL, AND OTHER PROMOTIONS USED TO MARKET YOUR SERVICES.
 
Signed___________________ Date_________________
 

Handouts

One quick and easy way to use testimonials is to type them up, single–spaced, and reprint them on a standard sheet of paper. The headline reads: "WHAT THEY SAY ABOUT (your company or product)." Don't forget to include your address and phone number at the bottom of the page. Use the testimonial sheet as a handout, as an additional enclosure in direct mail packages, or as a supplement to your sales brochure.

Always give the sheet and a duplicate of your full testimonial file to any ad agency, copywriter, or marketing consultant you hire. It will be tremendously helpful to them when they create ads, brochures, and direct mail packages for you.

About the Author: Robert W. Bly is a freelance copywriter with 20 years experience in business–to–business and direct marketing. He has written direct mail packages for Phillips Publishing, Agora Publishing, KCI Communications, McGraw–Hill, Medical Economics, Reed Reference Publishing, A.F. Lewis, and numerous other publishers. Additionally, Bob is the author of more than 45 books.


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