Monday Mornings with Madison

THE VALUE OF A THIRD-PARTY ENDORSEMENT, PART 3

PART 3: MAXIMIZING THE USE OF ENDORSEMENTS

Go to any reputable company’s website and you’re likely to see a page of Client Recommendations or Customer Testimonials. These comments are meant to reassure potential customers that the company does good work and has many satisfied clients. That’s a good thing.  Written customer testimonials are among the best sales and marketing tools a company can use.

That said, there are dos and don’ts for how to use endorsements. Let’s start with the most common use: the Testimonials web page. Regardless of what the page is called — Testimonials, Endorsements or Recommendations — grouping all of these positive comments on one page makes it easy for a customer to read and review many at one time. Just remember that every third-party endorsement or testimonial should be real… as in really written by a real person who really did business with the company and was really satisfied. Never add even one fake endorsement. In fact, it is not a good idea to even write the testimonial for the client and then ask the client if it’s okay to add their name to it. While some busy clients may prefer and even ask your company to do that for them, it is a bad idea. First, it will erode the trust factor between your company and that client. After all, if their testimonial is not genuine, they may wonder if any other testimonials or statements are genuine and whether the company is willing to cut corners and misrepresent the truth in other ways as well. They won’t say that, but they will surely think it. Second, no one in your company will be able to write a testimonial that rings ‘as true’ as one written by a real client or referral source. Authenticity is a key element of a testimonial. Fake testimonials are likely to sound fake. That is not just ineffective, it can actually be damaging by making it harder for a potential customer to trust the brand.

If authenticity is a key aspect of an endorsement, it is important for each endorsement to include details and provide the endorser’s full name, company name and location. Which testimonial seems more genuine?

Testimonial A

Your company is great. I referred a client and they were very satisfied. I would recommend you to all my customers.
Suzie

vs.

Testimonial B

Your company is great. I referred my client to Incorporation Express so you could set up his C-Corp documents. The paperwork was completed and filed in record time (less than a day…unbelievable!) and it cost him 20% less than what your competitors charge. I will definitely recommend you to all my clients.
Suzanne Klein, Esq.
Klein & Jones, Attorneys at Law
Chicago, Illinois

In Testimonial A, one wonders if Suzie is a real person. Even if Suzie really referred a client and that person was satisfied, the testimonial rings hollow. A vague recommendation signed without a last name, company name or location dilutes the marketing power of that testimonial. Testimonial B is specific and detailed. It also carries more weight because it comes from a real, trusted professional.

In addition to posting the third-party written endorsements, consider adding a photo of the person next to the endorsement. That helps to further establish authenticity. Don’t use stock photos to represent customers or colleagues in testimonials (even though companies have done this for ages). Besides creating authenticity problems, there have been changes to how most stock photo vendors deal with this issue. Many stock photo services now have specific rules against using people photos in testimonials. (Not all of them had that just a few years ago.) The stock photos look too professional anyway, so that’s another reason to get a less-professional version from the actual client. It looks more real because it is.

Having a Testimonials or Endorsements page on the company website is the first step… albeit a baby step. However, just one webpage of testimonials is quite limiting. Instead, combine specific testimonials with the key selling points of a given product or service. For example, a real estate attorney handling sales-lease backs might put a testimonial from a client that did a sales-lease back attesting to that attorney’s specific expertise and superior service in handling that deal. That testimonial is far more valuable on a page that discusses the sales-lease back service than on the testimonial’s page. One way to incorporate a specific testimonial on a product or service page is to add it as a graphic enhancer, in a side bar or in the white space of a stock photo.

Why stop there? You can also slip a strong testimonial into ads and brochures. Third-party endorsements can also be incorporated into flyers, mailers or sales sheets targeting a specific audience. Use specific testimonials that speak to certain potential customers. For example, potential customers reading materials at a trade show or in direct mailer would appreciate reading a testimonial from someone in the same industry. This is a tactic that colleges often use, providing quotes by students in mailers to potential students. A person wants to read an endorsement from “someone like me.” Testimonials can also be included in e-blasts sent to prospects, as well as in e-newsletters. The sky is the limit! If your company is doing a good job and your customers attest to that, make sure everyone knows it!
Some companies have taken online third-party endorsements a step further by capturing video testimonials. We’ll talk more about how to use video testimonials next week.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK
“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Henry Ford

© 2011 – 2012, Written by Keren Peters-Atkinson, CMO, Madison Commercial Real Estate Services. All rights reserved.

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