Greg Simpson, founder of Press for Attention PR and Enterprise Nation Champion for Nottingham, talks testimonials.
Did you know, there’s a reason why testimonials are thus called? No, it isn’t because they can be tricky to get signed off, although that can be a reason why so many businesses fail to get them written up and sorted – more on that later.
You see, folk on trial in the days of ancient Rome tended to be men and in the absence of a standard religious tome to swear on they had to find another way to tell the unvarnished truth.
Well, times may change but some things don’t and men tended to fear the loss of some key ‘assets’ rather keenly.
So, when promising to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, they would place their hands…well…you can fill in the blanks here. They were saying that if they should lie, they would make a significant personal sacrifice. It lends trust.
The problem is, when it comes to too many testimonials that I read on websites, in sales brochures, letters or emails, or that are increasingly read out by politicians in Parliament, the lack of detail does exactly the opposite. The vagueness of the reference and lack of specifics make the audience doubt them. They actually end up doing the opposite of what they were intended to do.
Now, ‘M Smith’ may well think your widgets are amazing, as may ‘B Jones’, or to add a little extra detail and perhaps a greater veracity, ‘P Piper of Peterborough’. The problem is, too many people don’t believe them. They are not proper testimonials as there is no ownership. No traceability and ultimately, no proof.
Now, in some situations, this may be unavoidable due to data protection and confidentiality issues. If that is the case, I’d argue you are better leaving them out altogether UNLESS people can ask you for the reference following agreed clearance by you and your client. Sometimes, that can add an extra layer of trust, especially if you work in a very discreet industry.
If you struggle gaining true testimonials, the best tactic is actually very simple. Just ask. You can point people to your Google Reviews or your LinkedIn endorsements for a start. You could even extract them and put them on your website or turn them into a video.
I love this idea as they are easy to watch and digest and it adds an extra layer of trust as the people testifying are able to be seen in greater detail. Thankfully not in the detail required back in the days of Ancient Rome.
You can take this up another level still by actually recording your clients or customers talking about you or your service right after they have bought or experienced your product or service. This is probably the key. Get in early with your requests.
If you strike while the iron’s hot and the experience of working with you or buying from you is still fresh in your customers’ minds, they are far more likely to agree to leaving a review or even doing a video with you.
This kind of honest feedback can also be very valuable when it comes to dealing with the media, which is my bread and butter. Imagine me trying to pitch a new expert on garden maintenance to Radio 4 for their Gardeners’ Question Time slot.
I’d send them a media pack outlining the expertise of my client, their website, perhaps some blogs, articles or even a book they’d written or some other media clips. I’d definitely be including testimonials in there too but ONLY if they were clearly genuine. If they were too flimsy and had no way of being ‘proved’ I would never publish them as it leads to suspicion. If they aren’t true, maybe the rest of what this chap says isn’t true?
Don’t make people ponder, hit them right in the face with your wonderful reviews and leave them in no doubt of your excellence.
If you are looking into this area for your own marketing material, don’t be scared to ask, do make it easy for people to leave reviews and don’t be tempted to ‘fake it ’til you make it’.
Grab this project by the you know whats and do it properly.