In the world of selling, you can use testimonials – among other techniques – to take advantage of the principle of “Social Proof.” According to this principle, all of us look to others to help us decide how to act. The more people doing it, the more correct it seems.
I illustrated this idea recently in part 1 of this series, Testimonials and Teenagers Whizzing in the Bushes: The Power of Social Proof.
Few people, however, make an effort to collect testimonials and keep them on file. So let’s look at a simple system I’ve developed to gather testimonials from your customers.
Just remember four letters: S.P.R.F. (pronounced “spurf”). It’s short for Schedule, Phone, Release, and File.
Using The “Spurf” Testimonial System
Testimonials work best when they are believable, specific, and enthusiastic. How do you achieve this ideal? You use real testimonials from real people.
I know that some people believe you should write your own faux testimonials. But that’s a slippery slope. The whole idea of testimonials is that they are objective endorsements of your product or service. So if you write them yourself, you don’t have anything like objectivity. What you have is a lie. And if you’re willing to lie about testimonials today, what will you be willing to lie about tomorrow?
What about writing testimonials and getting real people to sign off on them? I don’t have an ethical problem with that. Often, people don’t express themselves well in writing. Penning your own certainly lets you say what you want to say.
However, using the real words of real customers is the best long-term approach. Your customers will say things you could never dream up on your own. Their comments are often quirky and have a ring of truth that few copywriters can match.
Plus, real testimonials are a source of creative inspiration and a valuable peek into the opinions and motivations of the most important people in the world: your satisfied customers.
Here are the four steps in the Spurf system:
1. SCHEDULE. Make a commitment to bring in testimonials once a month, once a quarter, twice a year, or on whatever schedule you choose. You may even want to set quotas – 2 new testimonials a month or 10 testimonials for each promotion you do. The specifics are less important than your commitment to the routine. Just make sure your schedule is realistic and productive.
2. PHONE. Call a portion of your customer list according to your schedule. If you operate solely online and don’t have phone numbers, contact people by e-mail. You can even use snail mail if you have addresses.
Start by saying something flattering, such as, “The president of our company has personally asked for your opinion. Would you mind telling me what you think about our widget?”
Ask a few easy questions to elicit responses that are either positive or neutral in tone: When did you receive your widget? Did your widget arrive in good condition? Have you used it (tried it, tasted it, read it, worn it) yet?
Then ease into the real questions: What is your opinion of your widget? Why did you buy your widget? What is the one feature you like most? How has your widget saved you time (or money, or trouble, or embarrassment, or whatever)?
Keep it short. Write down (or electronically record) every word, even the bad comments. Get dates, numbers, names, and other facts that make testimonials sparkle with specifics.
3. RELEASE. When you get a good comment, write it up and send it to your customer. Include a message that says something like, “I was so impressed with your comment, I just had to write and say, ‘thank you.’ In fact, your kind words were so valuable, I’d like to quote you in our advertising. Do you mind?”
Ask the customer to sign a formal release (if you have one) or give you written permission to use the testimonial without limitation forever. If you like, you could send a small gift as a token of your appreciation. This assures you will get more “yes” replies to your request.
4. FILE. Organize and store your testimonials in a central location. You can print them and put them in a file folder or store them on your computer. The latter idea is best. Once you get a lot of testimonials, you’ll be able to do key word searches when you’re looking for a particular comment or subject. You can quickly cut and paste testimonials when it comes time to write copy.
Of course, no matter how aggressive you are in getting testimonials, you should also provide a way for people to share their thoughts with you at other times as well. And you should be prepared to record and file any unsolicited testimonials whenever they come in.
On your website or blog, provide an interactive form or e-mail link for feedback. Often the only unsolicited comments you’ll get are complaints, so don’t be shy about asking for testimonials outright.
Once you have a system in place, you’ll find that getting testimonials is easier than you thought. You may even come to enjoy it. But the real payoff comes when it’s time to create a promotion and you have a pile of powerful testimonials ready to go.
Still to Come…
In the next installment in this series, you’ll discover how to use testimonials once you have them and how to go beyond the standard testimonial to put the principle of Social Proof to work in many other ways.
About the Author: Dean Rieck is a leading direct marketing copywriter. For more copywriting and selling tips, sign up for Dean’s FREE direct response newsletter or subscribe to the Direct Creative Blog.