Make testimonials work for your brand

We’ve all seen cheesy late night testimonials for thigh masters and miracle vitamins. They’re cringeworthy.

But a true, heartfelt testimonial can move mountains for your brand.

Here’s why they’re important. And how you can start building a library of great testimonials for your brand.

marc stoiber brand strategy

Testimonials work because they deliver your brand promise better than you could.

Why testimonials work

A brand is comprised of two things:

  1. A promise you make to the consumer on behalf of your product – This product will blow your socks off!
  2. An expectation that the consumer has of your product – I’m expecting that this product will blow my socks off, so don’t let me down!

Here’s the problem. When you deliver the brand promise, it doesn’t sound terribly credible because you have a vested interest. You’re selling the product…of course you’re going to say it’s great!

Proper testimonials give the brand promise duty to people who are far more credible – happy customers who don’t have a vested interest in your profitability.

Why testimonials suck

Every brand steward wants everything about their brand image to be perfect. Unfortunately, perfect often equates with sanitized.

That’s why the majority of testimonials you see look so damn scripted. They are scripted, not to mention professionally lit, professionally recorded and professionally edited.

Funny thing is, the more professional the testimonial feels, the less credible it is. Even the most well-intentioned customer comes off sounding like a snake oil salesman if you put them in makeup, light them perfectly, and put them in front of a set that reminds you of the Young and The Restless.

Guerilla video testimonials

Mike Maddock, owner of Maddock Douglas and a mentor of mine, had a brilliant methodology for getting great testimonials. He would courier a client a handycam video recorder, ask them to put it on their desk and point it at themselves, and have them answer a few questions he’d sent over.

The angles were often wonky. The sound quality passable, but not professional. But the the candid quality of the recordings made them intriguing. We knew these people were speaking from the heart.

A great testimonial can be captured by simply having your client shoot a selfie video on their smartphone, using a lavalier mic connected to the phone to capture great audio.

You can take this one further. Send your clients a lavalier mic that works with a smartphone (I recommend the Boya – it delivers brilliant results for $25), and have them shoot a selfie video. All they need to do is send the video to you when they’re done. No need for costly couriers.

Another great way to get low cost, effective video testimonials is to record yourself in conversation with your client. Skype, Zoom and Hangouts all have great digital recorders that can capture the video conversation.

If you can shoot pro testimonials, don’t

Isaac Tolpin, the co-founder of ConveYour, a great online education platform, gave me a very good reason to not shoot pro video.

He told me that investing time, money and energy in professional video (in the case of his clients, when it came to shooting online education courses) led to the inability to throw a project in the trash and do it again. The antithesis of optimization.

The same holds true for testimonials. If you book a client into a pro shooting session, pay thousands for a videographer, sound person and editor, then discover you missed a vital bit, you’ll most likely live with the shortcoming. If you had your client shoot a selfie video of themselves, it’s not hard work to ask them to shoot one more little clip.

When to get testimonials?

The short answer is ‘now’.

Most of us don’t gather testimonials on a regular basis. Instead, we wait until there’s a big pitch, then blitz our clients to say something nice. The results are terrible, wooden testimonials.

The right time to capture testimonials is now, and all the time. Don’t wait until you need them to gather them.

Whenever I finish an engagement, I ask the client for a written testimonial on Linkedin. If a customer posts a nice comment about your product on social media, ask them immediately if they’d mind giving you a two-line testimonial that captures what they just said. If you’re in a meeting where a client is praising the way a project turned out, ask them to talk into your smartphone to capture that sentiment.

Making this a habit guarantees you’ll have a treasure trove of testimonials when you’re pitching a new project, putting a new website together, or sending credentials to prospects.

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If you want to chat about how I got hundreds of clients to leave me glowing testimonials, let’s have a chat. Just book a time in my calendar.

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