How Do I Get Testimonials for My Business?

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Here’s another guest post from J.W. “Jim” Straw – this one originally appeared in his April 2012 Business Lyceum newsletter.

This month’s issue was prompted by a question I received from a Business Lyceum Attendee …

“Dan Kennedy always emphasizes testimonials.  What if you are new to the business and don’t have any?”

Although Dan is an old friend of mine and one of the finest Mailorder Marketers alive (second only to myself), like all of us ol’pros, he is always right and always wrong!

If there were only one technique, method or application that would work, every marketing program would be identical to all the others.  So, anything an ol’pro in marketing (even me) espouses as a viable marketing method must be taken in the context of your own product or service.

The only way to tell if any marketing technique, method or application is right for your product or service is by Testing, Re-testing and Testing Some More. — Whatever works is right … whatever doesn’t work is wrong.

Anywho, a question I received from another one of my readers over a year ago … for one of my paper and ink publications. — Since that reader is now also a Business Lyceum Attendee, I will use his question and my answer in response to our first question.

Over a year ago, a Business Lyceum Attendee decided to challenge the ol’Mailorder Master (me), by asking …

“All the copy writing gurus and experts stress the vital importance of  testimonials in a winning direct mail sales letter or ad.  How are you going to get a true, uncontrived testimonial when you’re offering a product or service for the first time?  This is especially problematic when your offering a new money-making program or home-study course that takes some time (3-12 months) before a client would actually see significant financial results from using your system.”

Then, he gave me four possible alternatives for consideration:

(1) A personal referral from people who think you, as the author of the program, are a knowledgeable, talented and honest guy.

(2) Results of your own experience in using the system.  In this case, it’s simply your own testimonial.

(3) Engage in a joint venture with someone who is in a related field and has a strong following similar to your target market.  In this case, your sales letter would be mailed to that person’s clients, along with his testimonial letter as to the quality of your system.  Of course, this is not always feasible.

(4) Ignore testimonials completely and pray that your ‘copywriting genius’ will save the day.

Well, to begin with, not all “copy writing gurus and experts stress the vital importance of testimonials.” — I know I don’t.

On page #11 in the mailorder bible (my book; “Own Your Own Mailorder Business”), you will find my experienced observations about the use of testimonials. — Pay close attention to the two schools of thought on the subject.

Note:  “Own Your Own Mailorder Business” … the ‘bible’ of the mailorder industry … is available in the “POWER TOOLS” at the “Business Lyceum.”

When I wrote the book, I had discontinued using testimonials in any of my sales pieces  … I even explained “why” in the book. — Since then, I have added “true” testimonials to some of my sales letters – but – I did it my way … which is different from the way some of my contemporaries use testimonials. — I used them as a ‘qualifier.’

In choosing the “testimonials” for my sales letter, I used testimonials that would appeal to “real” business people … as opposed to “wannabes.” As a matter of fact, I used testimonials that would ‘turn-off’ the majority of “hype” customers because the testimonials were purposely chosen to make those kind of people feel inferior to my readers.

Now … back to question at hand:

Although all four of the alternatives are viable, #2 and #4 are the methods I have used consistently – but – #1 and #3 touch upon some other methods I would use if I absolutely wanted to use “testimonials” in my sales material but didn’t have any.

First.  Instead of “referrals” from people who know and like “me,” or “joint ventures” with other notables in the industry, I would try a …

Celebrity Endorsement Approach
Referrals from your friends may be ego-building, and may even inspire your potential customers – but – your potential customers may too easily see through them.  After all, “friends” have a way of expressing their friendship with more sentiment than rationality.

Joint Ventures, on the other hand, while being a viable “marketing” ploy, could be considered “suspect” by your potential customers because of the obvious profit motive.

So … why not use a “celebrity” endorsement instead.

For many years, our ol’friend, Gary Halbert (another ol’pro in the mailorder industry; may he rest in peace), espoused the use of underpaid, over-exposed, minor TeeVee and Movie Actors as “paid” endorsers for your products or services.  In his material, Gary detailed the methods to use to contact those minor celebrities; told how to approach them; and recommended how much to offer them.

Even though these are “paid” endorsements, they can carry a great deal of weight because your potential customers recognize and, thereby, think they “know” the person making the endorsement. — It’s all the better if you can afford to “hire” Rush Limbaugh, Cher, Charlton Heston, Alex Trebek, or some other super-well-known celebrity to do the endorsement.

Note:  Since I’ve never used “paid” celebrity endorsements … like Gary Halbert … I would be remiss in trying to relate the methods to use in contacting and compensating those celebrities – but – if’n you look around, you might be able to find some of Gary’s writings on mailorder marketing to help you.

Of course, using “paid” celebrity endorsements costs money … even if it is just a few hundred dollars for a very minor TeeVee or Movie Actor – but – there is a cheaper and more effective way.

In many industries … not all; or even most; but many … there are notables (industry celebrities) who are well-known to the people who may want or need your products or services. — Instead of using “testimonials” from people who know you, try to get “quotable comments” (indirect endorsements) from people your customers know.

As an example:  When I finished writing “Own Your Own Mailorder Business,” one of the first things I did was to have a bunch of bound manuscript copies put together.  Then, I mailed those copies … with a personal letter … to all of my old friends and acquaintances in the mailorder industry.  These were people who knew me but, they were also well-known to my customers.

My purpose in sending the advance review copies to those people was to get their input.  I wanted to know if there were things I should have included in the book but didn’t … or things I had included in the book that I shouldn’t have.

Even though my intention was not to gain “quotable comments” from those people, almost every one of them told me I could quote them … if I wanted to. — But …

Had I chosen to “quote” any of those mailorder notables, I would have first written up the “quote” exactly as I would be using it in my sales material.  Then, I would have sent a copy of the “quote” I proposed using to the person who had made the comment to get their approval and permission to use the quote as written. — I really wouldn’t have had to do that because almost all of the letters I had received told me I could quote them but it is something I have always done.  As a matter of fact, that little practice once saved me from a lawsuit.

You can use a similar approach to create your own “celebrity” endorsements.

Just select a list of well-known people … people your potential customers will recognize and respect … in your industry.  Then, send them a “sample” of your product (or service) for their use and comment. — You can do that even if you don’t know them and they don’t know you … as long as your product is something that they should, would or could comment on within the industry.

Hey … don’t be chintzy. — Send them the most valuable sample of the product you have. No matter how much it costs you, it beats the cost of a “paid” endorsement. — The most favorable comments you get can be used … after getting permission … in your sales material.

Note:  Some of the “comments” you get back from the notables in your industry may not be quotable … even uncomplimentary or derogatory. — Use those comments to refine, revise and improve your product. — In other cases, the comments you get … while not necessarily usable as indirect endorsements … may provide key-phrases, buzz-words, motivational buttons, or other marketing ideas you can use to enhance your sales material.

Beyond that, you might want to …

Create a Board of Advisors
Invite well-known people … people your potential customers will recognize and respect … in your industry to serve on your Board of Advisors. — If you have received some favorable “comments” from notables in your industry … comments you might use as “celebrity” endorsements … when you ask their permission to use their quotes, also ask them to serve on your Board of Advisors.  Then, print your Board of Advisors in a side-bar on your company letterhead. — Use that letterhead in all your correspondence to lend credence to company.

This works well even if there aren’t any well-known, recognizable authorities in your industry.

How many times have you received a letter with a “Board of Advisors” or “Advisory Board” (or some other nomenclature) listed on the company’s letterhead? — The names on that board are such people as the company’s Banker(s), Accountant(s), Attorney(s), etc. — Any “professional” who serves the company. — Sometimes they even list the organizations the principals belong to, degrees the principals hold, and awards the company and/or principals have received.

Using a Board of Advisors (Advisory Board; whatever) on your letterhead … even if you don’t have any “testimonials” or “endorsements” … can lend the “credibility” of your “advisors” to your company … enhancing the “image” of your company in your customers’ eyes.

By the way, it is easier than you might think to put together a Board of Advisors.

Some years ago, I helped a young company put together an Advisory Board made up of some of the most recognizable names in the Financial Industry. — All I did was write to each of those people explaining the financial ‘service’ the new company would be offering.  In the letter, I also asked if the company could call upon them; personally, on occasion for advice in their field of expertise.

Once I had a response from those people … most of them graciously agreeing to provide advice … I wrote back and advised them that I was putting together an “Advisory Board” for the company and would like to list their name on that board. — You wouldn’t believe the big, Big, BIG names I finally ended-up with on that board.

Remember, all people like to think of themselves as giving and caring – and – they also like to have their egos massaged … so, being on an “Advisory Board” massages their ego and makes them feel caring and giving.

Then again, even if there aren’t any well-known people your potential customers will recognize and respect in your industry, you might want to …

Use Professional Endorsements
Some years ago, a small company that marketed a patented air purification device was preparing their very first mailorder sales campaign. — They, too, had read all about using “testimonials” in their sales materials but they didn’t have any.

At first, their sales materials focused on “cleaning the air in your home or office.”  So, they had some friends use the devices in their homes and report the results. — Those reports … although not very convincing … became their very first “testimonials.”  But, they did make enough sales of the device to start getting some “real” testimonials from buyers.

One of the “testimonials” they received was from a Doctor who had bought one of the devices for his asthmatic daughter … to clean-up the air in her bedroom. — That “testimonial” made the company refocus their sales message.

Having learned that their device was helpful in the treatment of asthma, the company decided they could sell more units by offering it to asthmatics. But, they only had the one “testimonial” from one Doctor about the device’s effectiveness.  So …

The company sent a letter to a list of Doctors around the country who treated asthma patients. — In the letter, the company offered to provide one FREE air purification device to an asthma patient of the Doctor’s choice IF the Doctor would agree to document any beneficial results to the company. — Of course, they limited the offer to the first 100 Doctors and required the Doctor to complete a survey form about the patient who would received the device  … along with the Doctor’s signed agreement to provide feedback about the applied use and effectiveness of the device.  (They enclosed a copy of the “one” doctor’s testimonial as initial evidence of the effectiveness of the device in the treatment of asthma patients.)

Within 3 months, the company had enough “real” testimonials (endorsements) from “real” Doctors to fill a full-page. — That page of Doctor’s testimonials became the foundation for their mailings to lists of asthma patients across the country. — A year later, the owners of the company were “real” millionaires.

If you are marketing a product (or service) that can be most effectively tested by some profession, why not create a “survey” for members of that profession (doctors, lawyers, accountants, Indian chiefs) and have them “test” the product or service on their clients?  The resulting “testimonials” can give you a ho’bunch of Professional Endorsements to use in your sales material.

Then again, if you can’t find any “celebrities,” don’t know who to put on your Board of Advisors, or don’t have a product or service to get some “professionals” to endorse, try …

Using Article Reprints
Usually, when most business people think about getting a News Release published, they do so with the intent of having the resulting article generate inquiries for; or even sales of, their product.  But, there is an even better use of those published articles.

When I finished writing my book, beyond sending bound manuscript copies to other giants in the mailorder industry, I also sent out a ho’bunch of “Review Copies” to book reviewers. — Along with those review copies, I sent a very brief (two paragraph) description of the book to give the potential book reviewer an idea of what the book was about … with a copy of my bio-sheet; so the reviewer would have some idea of who I am.

Of all the reviews that were written about my book, the very, very best was written by the book reviewer at “Jackpot.” — As a matter of fact, where the reviews in other publications did pull some inquiries about the book, the review in “Jackpot” eventually pulled a total of 17 “paid orders” for the book.  (At $50 per, that ain’t bad fer a Freebie.)

To be quite honest with you, since I had sold over 1,000 copies of my book without any testimonials or endorsements, I really wasn’t looking for anything to enhance my response – but – when I saw the number of paid orders coming-in from that review, I decided to reprint the article and make it part of my sales letter offer. — The results were phenomenal … still are. — That reprint increased my response rate by from 50% to 200% … meaning lists that pulled a 1% response without the reprint pulled from 1.5% to 3% with the reprint.

Having said that, you now have an even bigger reason to get some News Articles printed about yourself, your business, and your products or services. — It isn’t just the inquiries the articles can generate, it’s the potential use of reprints of some of those articles to build your business image.

Now, following up on what I just said, here’s …

How To Get A Good News Release Written
Most Journalists are on the low-end of the pay scale.  For that reason, they are always looking for “freelance” writing assignments.

When you want to get a news article (Release) written about yourself, your business or product, go to your local newspaper office and talk to some of the reporters.  Ask if any of them would be interested in earning a few bucks on a “freelance” writing assignment.

Once you have the reporters’ interest … which will happen almost instantly … tell them you want a dynamite news article written about (whatever)  . — Tell them they don’t have to offer the article to their newspaper for publication … just write it. — Ask them to suggest or recommend ideas, publicity stunts, gimmicks, tricks or anything else you can do to give them a “story” to write. — Offer to pay the reporters from $100 to $500 for each “story” you accept. — Buy the articles that have the most punch to them. — Use those articles as News Releases.

Hey … it works!  I’ve done it myself.

Having spent over 50 years in business; doing business successfully, J.F. (Jim) Straw now shares “Practical Instruction in the Arts & Sciences of Making Money” at the Business Lyceum. —

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