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Ramp Up Testimonials in 2010
 By John Jantsch, creator, Duct Tape Marketing

Gathering and utilizing authentic customer testimonials is a great way to a) get closer to your customers and b) offer proof that your company delivers. People can be very motivated by the comments of their peers.

I often find that while most business owners understand the power of testimonials, they donít always know the best way to acquire them.

So, hereís an idea that I think works on a number of levels. (I actually got this from a participant in a workshop I did for Apple Specialists attending Macworld.)

Why not create an event around gathering testimonials? Invite your best customers for a networking social happy hour. Promote the event as a chance to network, swap stories, and star in the creation of new marketing materials for your company. Give it a Hollywood theme. (This probably isnít something you would do large scale, this is for those customers that are advocates already.)

Hire a videographer and photographer, and then throughout the course of the evening, let your customers cycle through the video seat to tell their story of success with your firm. Most people enjoy being on camera once they do it and the whole group will be entertained by the event and feed off of each otherís energy. (This is something you should be doing anyway, so why not do it all at one time?)

Yes, this is a bit of a self-serving event on the surface, so I do believe you need to be very selective about invitees, and keep it very light and fun - participation in the testimonial part is completely voluntary. But, I think you will find that your customers think this is great too. (Wine helps.)

Another way to motivate your customers to participate is to allow them to create a quick video overview of their company while at the event, so they can use it in their marketing efforts.

Once you capture the video, audio, and still photos from the event, youíve got a testimonial and success story library that could infuse your marketing materials, broadcast, and print ads for years. And, youíve created a customer loyalty and community building event that just may become next yearís hottest party to crash!

The testimonial writing machine.
Almost every small business marketer knows that they should gather testimonials to use in their marketing materials.

The problem is that getting your clients, the ones who know your greatness, to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and crank out a glowing testimonial can be a bit of a chore. It isnít that they donít want to do it, itís just that there are other priorities calling to them as well.

I accidentally stumbled on to a way to get clients to systematically write testimonials. And, I found that this method actually produced far better, results- oriented, copy than anything I had done in the past.

Hereís the system.
Occasionally, when you are presenting your wares to a prospect, include a page that simply lists four or five references for contact instead of your traditional glowing testimonial page. Urge your prospect to contact each for more information on how you or your product performs. (Iíve even gone as far as writing a list of suggested questions they might ask the reference - it helps them focus on benefits.) In some cases, your prospect may request this anyway.

What I have found is that when your current client is contacted for information (often by email these days) they will generally and immediately feel compelled to put in writing what amounts to a well-written testimonial. The key here is that, when approached by another business, they will write as they are speaking to a prospect. The copy will almost always be over-the-top selling you, and in the perfect voice for you to re-use as a testimonial. (When a client writes a testimonial in the traditional way, they often write it as though they are speaking to you. Many times this doesnít have the same marketing pop to it.)

Now here is where the fun part comes in. What I have also found is that, quite often, your existing clients will copy you on the communication they sent to the prospect. Bingo, instant testimonial, written exactly as you need it for your marketing materials.

Actually, using this strategy can be even stronger than just printing written testimonials, as it involves your current clients in the active process of marketing, and has the tendency to resell them on their decision to do business with you as well.

The only caution is that you spread the love around to as many of your clients as you can, so that no one group of clients becomes burdened in the process..

---Source: John Jantsch is a veteran marketing coach, award winning blogger, and author of Duct Tape Marketing: The World's Most Practical Small Business Marketing Guide

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