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Show-off Your Testimonial Letters

Digital Library > Defining and Serving a Market > Advertising, general “Show-off Your Testimonial Letters”

Word-of-mouth advertising is a great promotional tool for goods, products, or services. Testimonial letters from satisfied customers are a powerful way of leveraging the control of advertising with unsolicited endorsements. Tips on effectively using testimonial letters and getting the permission of the correspondents are contained in this document.

Testimonial letters are powerful sales tools, yet few companies give them the incessant attention they deserve. Too bad, since they’re a big bang for very few bucks and since most purchases entailing significant risk and/or involvement rely heavily on buyer confidence.

Savvy retailers incorporate letters in their media ads and brochures. Service providers mount them on office walls. Salespeople tuck them into show-and-tell binders. Account executives slip crisp copies into presentation folders. And trade show exhibitors develop impressive endorsement walls.

Unless client confidentiality is at issue, testimonials should be strategically and routinely solicited. Your approach should be based on the desired effect. Are impressive client logos important? Then obtain letters from satisfied Fortune 500 firms.

Perhaps your field force needs a letter for each typical sales situation. Prospects tend to ask if your company has served others in their industry, in their circumstances, or in their geographic scope. A testimonial for every product or service category is important, too. Prospects for a full-blown market research project won’t be particularly impressed with a letter commending focus group effectiveness. Also curb the tendency to allow letters to become outdated. Those praising salespeople long gone, or touting yesterday’s products and services, are worse than none. Make sure dates are current. Even though services, such as executive recruiting, aren’t subject to incessant technological change, three-year-old testimonials suggest you’ve slacked off.

So much for letter types and uses. Now for the tough part: soliciting them. Many marketers hesitate to request testimonials, equating silence with modesty. Believe me, truly satisfied customers seek to perpetuate the valued vendor’s existence. The only problems you’ll encounter are writers block and procrastination. If you take control, even these won’t be a issue.

I’ll walk you through an effective approach:

  • "Bill, we’re out to find more solid customers like you, so we’re putting together some targeted literature. You can help greatly by providing a testimonial letter. Would you feel comfortable if our salespeople displayed a letter from you?"
  • "I realize most people hate to write letters, and I know how busy you are. I’ll be happy to write the letter for you, if you’ll provide some letterhead. I’ll ask you a few questions about your experience, then write something that accurately reflects your responses. I’ll submit the letter for your approval, change it as necessary, then get your signature on the final draft."

When your customer agrees, step him through a brief interview questionnaire designed to elicit the desired response. Example questions:

  • "Why did you choose (or switch to) our company?"
  • "What problems have we solved for you?"
  • "What makes our product a good value?"
  • "How has our product performed?"
  • "What do you appreciate most about our service?"
  • "Why would you recommend us to others?"

Armed with the client’s positive responses, you can now draft the letter. However, confine the letter to a few concise paragraphs, and don’t overdo the kudos. Make sure it’s well-written; your customer won’t appreciate misspellings and poor sentence structure publicly displayed over his signature.

Next, keep your promise. Submit the letter for client review, make any needed corrections, reproduce it on his letterhead, and resubmit it for his or her signature with a postpaid return manila envelope.

Finally, send a lightning-fast note of appreciation. Better yet, buy him or her lunch or ship a tin of decadent munchies.

About the Writer: Vicki L. Clift is a Santa Maria, CA-based marketing consultant specializing in small business. She writes a column on small business for Marketing News, a publication of the American Marketing Association and served Entrepreneur magazine as a marketing advisor on its CompuServe forum.

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