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Profit Building Strategies: Leveraging Testimonials

Jun 21, 2008
You can't put a price tag on a good reputation. At the risk of sounding like a MasterCard(R) commercial, It's priceless.

Folks, we're living in the Recommendation Age. Social networking and community-driven content sites are launching and growing at an incredible rate. With only a few clicks of your mouse, you can get restaurant, movie and book reviews, network with peer groups, broadcast your own radio show, pose questions of political candidates, and submit your own eye-witness news footage to your network of choice. Now, more than ever before, word-of-mouth referrals and endorsements can quickly take on mythical proportions, seemingly overnight.

Employing testimonials as marketing tools is both cost-efficient and smart marketing. Testimonials offer supporting data for feature and benefit details in your sales materials, and, they immediately lend credibility. Not all testimonials are created equally, of course. The good news is that by posing specific questions of your customers, you will likely receive much higher-quality results.

The Solution: Soliciting the Sound Bytes
We've all seen traditional-style sales letters with testimonials from satisfied customers offset throughout the page. It's the web-equivalent of an infomercial. Whether you love them or hate them, there is no disputing the power you can wield when you leverage the praise of your customers.

Pat Me on the Back, Please...
There are a number of ways that you can garner testimonials from your customers. One method is to place a postage-paid return card in all of your outbound shipments. If you choose to use this method, focus on specific metrics that you wish to measure, such as your website's ease-of-use, friendly and helpful customer support staff, timely shipments, and quality of merchandise. You may want to leave space for the customer to add their own comments, in addition to the items that they have checked off on the card.

For those who prefer not to use direct mail, a number of other options still exist. Sites like freeonlinesurvey.com or surveymokey.com allow you to create web-based versions, which can tabulate results in real time. One obvious benefit of this method is that it affords you the ability to immediately respond to feedback. Particularly for those who are involved in technology or service markets, this method is strongly recommended.

Many shopping cart programs, such as OsCommerce and VP-ASP offer the "Tell-a-Friend" option for all shopping cart items - allowing shoppers to attach a short note about the product they are recommending. Other features offered by similar cart programs allow shoppers to submit testimonials and rate specific products directly.

For a 21st century twist on a more traditional testimonial, check out the services offered by AudioGenerator.com. By providing customers with your client-specific phone number, they can phone in and record a voice testimonial at their leisure. With the addition of a short snippet of code, you can immediately add this third-party hosted file to your website. Not only does this increase the weight of the referral by presenting it in the customer's own voice; it also adds interactivity to your web page.

Regardless of the method you employ, make it a point to leverage your rave reviews in your marketing materials and website. It's the next best thing to patting yourself on the back.
About the Author
Traci Hayner Vanover, The Promo Diva(R), is the publisher of Create the Dream magazine, http://www.createthedream.com, and the president of Market Outside the Box Trade Association, http://www.marketoutsidethebox.com. She also works with private clients as a publicist, copywriter and consultant.
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