“You can convince anyone of anything if you just push it at them 100% of the time. They may not believe it completely, but they will still use it to form opinions, especially if they have nothing else to draw on.” – Charles Manson

Using testimonials — quotations from satisfied customers and clients — is one of the simplest and easiest ways to add instant credibility to your promotions. Here’s how to do it:

1. Always use real testimonials instead of made-up ones. Even the most skilled copywriter can rarely make up a testimonial that can match the sincerity of genuine words of praise from a real customer or client.

2. Prefer specific, detailed testimonials to general or superlative ones. A marketer’s initial reaction is to read a letter of praise from a customer, find a single sentence about the company or product, and, with a blue pencil, extract a few kind words. This produces a bland bit of puffery, such as “We are very pleased with your product.”

Actually, most testimonials would be stronger if we included more of the specific, detailed comments our letter-writer has made about how our product or service helped him. After all, the prospects we are trying to sell to may have problems similar to one this current customer solved by using our product. If we let Mr. Customer tell Mr. Prospect how our company came to his rescue, he’ll be helping us make the sale.

3. Don’t try to polish the customer’s words — unless they are already “polished.” Your customers know what advertising copy sounds like. When they read a testimonial that sound like advertising, they discount it. When you get a testimonial that’s blunt and ungrammatical, use it that way. When you get one that sounds like the customer is trying to write ad copy, break it up with ellipses (…) or dashes (–) so it has a more authentic feel.

4. Whenever possible, use full attribution. We’ve all opened direct-mail packages that contained testimonials from “J.B. in Arizona” or “Jim S., Self-Made Millionaire.” To increase the believability of your testimonials, include the person’s name, city and state and (if a business customer) job title and company.

5. There are two basic ways to present testimonials: You can group them together in one area of your brochure or ad or you can scatter them throughout the copy. Another alternative is to combine these two techniques by putting many testimonials in a box or on a buck slip and a smattering of other testimonials throughout the rest of your copy.

I’ve seen both approaches work well. The success of the presentation depends, in part, on the skill of the writer and the specific nature of the piece. But all else being equal, I prefer the first approach: to group all your testimonials and present them as a single block of copy. My feeling is that when the prospect reads a half-dozen or so testimonials, one right after another, they have more impact and power than when the testimonials are separated and scattered throughout the piece.

6. Finally, get the customer’s permission to reprint his words before including his testimonial in your marketing campaign. Send a letter quoting the lines you want to reprint. Ask permission to include them in ads, direct mail, brochures, and other materials used to promote your firm. This way, you can use the testimonials again and again.

(Bob Bly is a freelance copywriter and the author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing”. He can be reached at www.bly.com or vi e-mail at rwbly@bly.com.)

Bob Bly

Bob Bly is an independent copywriter and consultant specializing in business-to-business and direct marketing. He has been hired as a consultant by such companies as Sony, Chemical Bank, J. Walter Thompson, Westinghouse, and Prentice-Hall. Bob is also the author of more than 50 books including The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Direct Marketing (Alpha Books), Targeted Public Relations, Selling Your Services, How to Promote Your Own Business, and Keeping Clients Satisfied. A phenomenal public speaker, Bob will share with you how easy it is to start your own business. Whether you’re ready to quit your job or are just looking to make a little money on the side, you’ll want to hear Bob’s advice.

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