Friday, April 11, 2008

Surefire Tips for Getting and Using Customer Testimonials, Part 2

By Jeanne Jennings , January 14, 2008

My last column discussed the value of testimonials and presented my tried-and-true, surefire way to get quality testimonials for e-mail, Web site, and other marketing efforts.

This week, let's move on to discuss effective uses of testimonials, and what to do if the person who gave you a testimonial changes names, positions, or companies.

Use of Testimonials in E-mail

Once you have great testimonials about your company, you want to leverage them in every way possible to benefit your brand. Positive testimonials are an asset to your organization, so don't just collect them and let them sit in a file folder.

You can build entire marketing campaigns around a single testimonial or a group of testimonials. This works equally well for e-mail, direct mail, and other channels. The credibility of the statement is greatly increased since it comes from a peer, rather than your organization's marketing department.

Here's an easy way to do it: use the testimonial as your starting point, lead with it in the piece, then build on its message in the marketing copy. I've seen testimonial-based pieces perform very well. If you're at a loss for what to use as a concept for a new campaign, start looking at, or gathering, testimonials.

Testimonials can also be added to any existing campaign, e-mail or otherwise, as supporting information to strengthen the piece. Have a control that's doing well and looking for a lift? Add a testimonial and see if it helps.

Use of Testimonials on Web sites

Your Web site is another good place to make use of testimonials; it's not uncommon for companies to devote a page to them. But how many page views do those "testimonial" pages really get? It's certainly not as many as the home page and other marketing-oriented parts of the site.

Therefore, you should sprinkle testimonials throughout the Web site so prospective clients see them where they have the most impact -- right next to marketing messages. Look for a prominent location on each page of your site where you can put a testimonial.

If you have just one great testimonial, you can certainly use it in a few places. If you have more than one great testimonial, then mix it up and incorporate each testimonial on the page where it's most relevant.

If your IT group is a bit more advanced, you can actually develop code that rotates your testimonials throughout different pages of your site. That way, each time the visitor visits or refreshes a page, a new testimonial is there for them to see.

A good example of this (and of some good testimonials) can be seen on PRWeb. The testimonials box on the home page is in the left column if you scroll down (not the most prominent placement for something this valuable; other than that a good example).

What if Something Changes?

I ran into this recently with a client. They were gearing up to do a testimonial-based e-mail/direct mail campaign. In a creative review, a member of the marketing team alerted us that the person being quoted had gotten married and taken her husband's last name, and also changed jobs (title and company) since the testimonial had been collected.

A discussion ensued about possible courses of action. Choose another quote? Update this one with the person's new name? What about the title and company? Should that be updated as well?

What came to mind in this discussion was the importance of maintaining the "time/space continuum." In other words, this testimonial was given at a certain time. At that time, the information provided (name, title, company) was accurate.

Trying to update it causes some disconnects, for instance:

* Changing the person's name. This makes it difficult for anyone to verify the quote, since the person wasn't known by this name at the company listed. This could lead to confusion and skepticism about the legitimacy of the quote.

* Changing the person's title. This is a dicey area. It could work if they were still working in the same department, but would totally backfire if they weren't. As a result, I recommend keeping it as it was at the time the quote was acquired.

* Changing the company name. Let's say the speaker's new employer isn't a customer. If so, it would be misleading to attribute the quote to one of their employees. This might also result in legal action if you're representing the new company as a client when they're not.

Try gathering some top quality testimonials, add them to your e-mail marketing efforts, and let me know how it works.

Until next time,


Want more e-mail marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our e-mail columns, organized by topic.

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