Every marketing tool seems to have its naysayers: There are plenty who say advertising is dead, while others have wondered if blogging has given way to social media. Social media, all the while, has turned into an advertising platform for boosted, promoted and sponsored posts.
While most feel snail mail is expensive and hard to track, others feel it cuts through the clutter of email and has tangible staying power. “Always be closing” has turned into “always be connecting,” but we still have to ask for the sale. Search engine optimization is a multibillion-dollar industry, yet there are only seven to ten places to be No. 1 for any keyword. Even Yelp and Facebook reviews have its doubters, from investigators to a distrusting public.
Yet nearly all marketing and promotion advocates agree with one marketing tool: word-of-mouth testimonials. Be it in face-to-face, text, video or audio form, testimonials manifest themselves in every situation:
1. Trying to get into college or higher ed? Provide reference letters.
2. Trying to get a job or contract? Have references.
3. Trying to get more clients? Let’s hear your track record.
4. Home service professional or any kind of designer? Show us your before-and-after portfolio.
5. Blockbusters and indies cite, “Critics rave …” Then, we ask our friends about the movie or series.
6. Academia and its marketing scholars rely on case studies.
7. Even nonprofits raise funds and awareness through testimonial stories.
What am I missing? What about your practice or your business? How are you implementing a testimonial marketing strategy?
Michael Porter, famed Harvard professor and best-selling author, has been dubbed “the father of modern business strategy.” He defines strategy as, “Performing different activities from rivals’ or performing similar activities in different ways.” A marketing strategy is a set of different activities that attracts and keeps customers (clients). A testimonial marketing strategy, by definition, compels us to use testimonials in different ways (from our rivals, competitors, peers, the norm).
While every marketing guru and sales trainer champions testimonials, most of their clients hardly use them. Testimonials on websites and other marketing collateral are often nonexistent, dull or stale. Instead of pitching, testimonials speak for themselves. So by just using a variety of testimonials, you’d distinguish your business from the vast majority. However, a testimonial marketing strategy can do more.
Most know that testimonials have the power to open doors, overcome objections and close sales. Done with the right SEO techniques, testimonials can boost search engine results and drown negative reviews. Posting testimonials on social media is the trick to promoting yourself without sounds sleazy or salesy.
Testimonials can even nurture client loyalty and bolster employee morale. This is the most important benefit of a testimonial marketing strategy. Studies have shown that it’s less costly and more profitable to keep and amaze current clients. After all, these raving fans lead to more raving fans. It’s the same for retaining and promoting good employees.
Raving about others is a virtuous cycle: The more we rave about others, the better we feel about ourselves and them. We also feel more loyal to those we rave about. Likewise, clients and employees who rave about your company become happier, more confident, passionate and loyal.
Still, asking others to rave about you can feel awkward. Asking for "neutral" feedback is a common crutch. Raving about them first is a more profound and worthwhile strategy.
To sustain success, strategies require implementation through systems. Personal systems are called habits. Group habits (a.k.a. rituals) are exhibitions of culture. And so, at our company, we are testing our own testimonial marketing systems.
We already know why we should rave about our clients. But simply congratulating them for being our clients seems self-aggrandizing. Rather, at our company, we keep a running spreadsheet of our clients’ leadership accomplishments. We note their leadership roles in professional associations, awards received, presentations given and media recognition. It's an easy way to rave about their accomplishments without revealing anything private. They may find it self-aggrandizing to brag about this stuff, so we do it for them!
It takes time to create a leadership list of your clients and other VIP relationships, but it is worthwhile. (This is something a staffer or intern can create and update for you.) Like sleeping in your gym clothes, this prep step makes it more likely to sustain your testimonial marketing habits. The more you rave about others, the more others will rave about you.
Testimonial marketing is the one tool that everyone agrees with. However, you need to use testimonials in a different and better way. Rave about others and use systems to do so. As other New Year’s resolutions wither away, you’ll turn personal habits into company culture and into a sustainable marketing strategy.