Public Relations Made Easy by Entrepreneur PressIn Entrepreneur Magazine’s book, ‘Public Relations Made Easy,’ author Roscoe Barnes III reveals how to collect and use good testimonials…

“Testimonials are an effective method of free promotion, simply because people are interested in the comments and reactions of other people,’ says marketing expert Ted Nicholas. ‘Endorsement’ of a product by one person tends to lower the natural sales resistance of another.’

Nicholas, who has made millions of dollars through his self-promotional campaigns, points out the fact that people are generally more likely to be interested in a a product which other people make favorable comments about.

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Now armed with this knowledge, you can be on the lookout for good testimonials. Where they don’t exist, you can ask for them. Sometimes they will arrive unexpectedly and unsolicited. At times, you may spot them in discussion groups, on Amazon.com, or in articles published in the print media. How or where you find them is not all that important; it’s the habit of using them that will make the difference in your campaign.

What follows is a list of important tips for collecting and using testimonials in your campaigns.

1. Testimonials may be collected from customers, clients, colleagues, experts, and celebrities.

It would be great to receive testimonials from celebrities, but for your local campaign, it might be better to use an endorsement from a local name that’s respected in your community. If you aim to reach people on a regional level, it would help to have names recognized by that region.

While name recognition will certainly help, testimonials from satisfied customers will likely be your best endorsements – and the shining proof of your quality of service. Where possible, try to use the full names in your communications.

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Sometimes you see ads with great testimonials that are signed by, ‘N.H., New Jersey.’ I call this, ‘nameless people.’ Even though initials are better than nothing at all, it is far better to use actual names. When you begin collecting endorsements, it’s OK to be creative and candid. Over the years, I’ve found a number of retailers who distribute ‘Tell us what you think’ cards. They hand these cards to all customers whenever they make purchases. Sometimes they offer a discount or FREE bonus for responding. This is a proven way to collect testimonials.

If you’re in dire need of an expert endorsement, locate one in your field and provide him or her with a complimentary product or service. Then ask for their opinion and if they would recommend what you’re offering.

An excellent resource for reaching celebrities is Jordan McAuley’s Contact Any Celebrity. You may also want to see John Kremer’s article, ‘How to Get High-Profile Testimonials from Celebrities & Other Notable VIPs.’

2. The best testimonials are specific about certain benefits.

If a customer says, ‘I really like your service,’ that’s fine. But it would be better for them to say specifically what they like about your service. If you receive such a comment (and I’m certain you will), it is OK to write them and ask for more details. Example:

‘Mr. Doe, we were delighted to receive your letter and to learn of your satisfaction with our service. Your kind words are always appreciated. However, since we’re constantly updating our equipment and seeking ways to improve our service, I was wondering if you would mind sharing what you like about our business, and why. I have enclosed a self-addressed stamped envelope for your convenience. Again, thank you so much for taking the time to share with us.’

3. Seek permission in writing before publishing.

When a customer or client provides you with a compelling endorsement, always thank them and immediately ask for their permission to use it in your promotional campaign. This will help you avoid embarrassment and potential legal hassles.

Advise them that their words may appear in ads, books, newsletters, on your web site, and in other documents. To save time and encourage good cooperation, simply write up a permission form in advance and ask the customer or client to sign it.

Since you will always be on the lookout for good testimonials, this practice should become an automatic feature of your campaign. I saw an example of this recently when I contacted a well-known author to thank him for his work and the impact he’d had on my writing. I did it via a short e-mail.

Within minutes, he wrote back. After thanking me for my comments, he asked if he could use my words on his web site. I eagerly gave him permission to use my comments in any or all of his promotional documents.

4. They should be used on most promotional documents.

When creating your marketing pieces, always leave space for one or more testimonials. As noted earlier, testimonials can be used in letters, brochures, advertisements, web sites, press releases, postcards, and newsletters.

Use the best ones for headlines. For others, you can highlight them with compelling graphics by placing them in boxes (or borders){, using large or bold type, and using a striking color like red.

When you have collected a large number, consider using a full page (front and back){ with nothing but testimonials. The heading could say, ‘What they say about Jane Doe and her services…’

This page of endorsements can be sent out with direct mail pieces, a press release, your press kit, or posted on your web site. You could also turn it into a brochure.

5. You can benefit by providing testimonials for others.

At times, it really is ‘more blessed to give than to receive.’ As you begin working to collect endorsements from others, don’t hesitate to return the favor. In fact, it would help to be deliberate. Instead of waiting to be asked for your testimonial; take the initiative. Send them out whenever you are pleased with a particular product or service. Doing this will increase your own visibility.

6. You can write it up for your clients or customers.

When I asked a noted author to write a Foreword for one of my books, he said he would be happy to do so. ‘Just write up something and I’ll take a look at it and sign it,’ he said.

So I wrote a draft of the Foreword and mailed it to him for his review. He added a couple of sentences and gave me the go-ahead to publish it.

Since then, I have found this to be quite common. So if your satisfied client would like to endorse your work but feels that he or she cannot write it, you can offer to write it for them.

7. Your list of testimonials should remain current.

From time to time, it is useful to change or replace your testimonials. Fresh names suggest ongoing success. So keep an updated list.

Continue to look for testimonials that have strong sales copy and other compelling features. Use these on the front page of your communications. If you’re using a full page of testimonials, put your best ones at the top. Picture this scenario:

Let’s say you have a list posted on your web site. The endorsements are all good and convincing. But then you learn that the president of a national organization has said some great things about you and your work. Because this president is widely known and well-respected, you rush to get permission to use the comments. The permission is granted.

So you hasten to place that endorsement on the front page of our web site – and at the top of your list of testimonials. This type of experience would be a dream come true. Yet, it illustrates how you can keep your list fresh and vibrant throughout your campaigns.

This sums up what you need to know about testimonials. Just remember to be alert to positive feedback and make it your mission to give, as well as receive, kind words about quality products and services.

‘Testimonials and letters of recommendation are very valuable to your career,’ say Dottie and Lilly Walters in ‘Speak and Grow Rich.’ ‘Some will come to you unsolicited, but most require time, effort, and planning on your part. They are well worth it.”

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