By Will Kintish, Business Networking Skills And LinkedIn Authority
From your marketing point of view, I believe it's absolutely critical that you start to gather testimonial letters from satisfied, or ecstatic, clients. It doesn't matter how good you say or think you are… no one believes you anyway. But when third parties say it… it must be true!
It should be done automatically at the appropriate moment, which is usually as soon as a compliment has been paid or you have a completed a job you know, without doubt, has been well done. You are old and wise enough to know when a client is happy with your services. Sometimes, they even smile, say "thank you" and pay your invoice by return!
Timing is the key
When these moments occur, capture them immediately. Don't miss the moment. Busy people have short memories, their heads are full of all sorts and, as they're paying for your services, they expect you to do a great job. Try these alternative words. "Susan, I'm so pleased you are happy with the work we've done. How would you feel about writing me a testimonial letter to that effect? It would really help with our promotion and marketing. And if you are happy to do that, would you allow me to show it to others?"
The way you deal with it will depend on your relationship. Here is one idea, see the others below. "That's really kind of you saying that. Would you mind if I jotted those words down and perhaps if I sent them to you would put them on your headed notepaper to use in my marketing?"
Four possible outcomes to an outright request
They'll politely refuse, for whatever reason, saying something like, "It's not the sort of thing we normally do." Fine, so you back off.
They write you the letter. Don't get it in e-mail form. Always get it on their headed notepaper (I scan some of mine onto my website… shows you haven't made anything up!)
They say: "I really am happy with what you've done but I don't know what to say." Discomfort zone stuff now. Suggest to them that you draft something and, if they were happy with it, perhaps they'd type it up on their letterhead. What happens here is that, because of your natural modesty, you will write a letter which won't have too many superlatives and probably won't extol the true value of your work. That's fine because, when you send it to them in draft form, it comes back with all the superlatives and all the great things that you have achieved for them. They just needed pointing in the right direction. What you've done is create the template for them to finish.
Ask them either at a meeting or in a phone call what has made them happy and what specific benefits they have received from the work you have done. Note down what they are saying, then suggest you write up what has been just said and ask if you can send it to them for editing and putting on their notepaper.
Guidelines to testimonials you give to others
When you give testimonials to others or you write someone else a template, it is important you state the benefits the client has received. Some examples:
Just a short note to thank you for the excellent service you have given to us over the past few weeks. You and your staff were always pleasant, punctual and reliable.
NB This first paragraph is a general testimonial about the way you treated your client. The next paragraph is the important bit, stating what benefits they received from your services.
As a result of the work you did for us, we were able to move into our premises bang on time, thus avoiding the need to put lots of articles into storage. This has saved us thousands of pounds.
We have been able to restructure the company without having to pay any extra tax.
Due to your brilliant negotiation skills, you were able to buy the business for many thousands of pounds less than we originally budgeted.
Because you and the team worked weekends and bank holidays, the job was done two weeks earlier than we'd planned. As a result, we saved thousands of pounds on rent and other property costs.
The message here is that it's very nice to hear how pleasant everyone is and how efficient they are, but the testimonial letter needs to incorporate specific benefits.
Other bits on testimonials
Getting permission to use them goes without saying. Should they be dated? I think so, but you then can't use them for ever. Ensure the author's full name is affixed. I don't think an illegible signature or just initials carry much weight. Wherever possible place the person's company and title below their name. The bigger the company, the more senior the person, the more weight the testimonial will carry.
When your level 1 contacts write these they are there for all the LinkedIn network to see: 135m people as I write and growing fast.
20 Tips on what to ask for in a testimonial:
1. Three problems your client faced before you came along.
2. How delighted and happy your client is with your services.
3. How easy and fulfilling it is to work with you.
4. Would they recommend your services to anyone else.
5. How does your client feel by taking up your services?
6. How easy is it to do business with you?
7. Why do they continue to do business with you?
8. Why are they loyal customers?
9. What would they say to someone who has never heard of you before?
10. What is unique about your service.
11. What changes has your client seen in themselves since getting involved with you?
12. Make sure your client puts your testimonial on their letterhead.
13. Ask them not to date it so it doesn't become out of date.
14. Always give your client a deadline for when you need the testimonial back.
15. Ask your client verbally
16. Send them a prepaid envelope to send it back
17. Thank your client with a thank you card
18 Or with something more substantial if it leads to business
19. Don't date testimonials
20. Write testimonials for your clients and educate where you can. Help them to increase their own referrals
Where to use testimonials?
1. Frame them for reception and office
2. Use on packaging
3. Direct mail campaigns
4. In your welcome pack
5. Photocopy on to coloured paper and send to your support network
6. Extract bits for sales letters
7. Use on your web site
8. Place in a folder to show potential clients
9. Add photos to testimonial
10. Use for audio and video to place on audio and website
11. Read them when you are feeling down
The author of this article is Will Kintish, leading UK authority on effective and confident networking both offline and online. If you’d like Will to speak at your conference or training workshops, call him on 0161 773 3727. Visit www.kintish.co.uk and www.kintish.tv and www.linkedintraining.co.uk for further free and valuable information on all aspects of both face-to-face and social networking.