What Are Testimonials and How to Get the Most Out of Them (part 2)

In part 1 of this two-part series on what are testimonials, we covered the things that make a great testimonial and the questions you can ask to get the customer to give you a recommendation worth using. Plus, we talked about the three kinds of testimonials—text, audio and video. In this part, we give you some of the nuts and bolts for how to get and use testimonials effectively.

Practical Tips for Getting and Using Testimonials

We’re going to cover a lot of ground in this article, from customer permission to video software. We will include methods for getting customer testimonials, methods to get better content, ways to use your testimonials for greater exposure and tips on producing completely awesome video testimonials. We even give you some tips on the art of interviewing.

Getting Permission to Use Customer Testimonials

First of all, be sure you get permission to use the testimonial. You can save yourself a great deal of heartache by making the permission part of the testimonial process.

If you send out emails to solicit customer reviews or client feedback, be sure to include a question and an underline that ask for permission—something like, “May we use your reply on our website and in other promotional materials? _______” The underline will help attract their attention to the fact that you want a reply. If they don’t include an answer to this question, you’ll need to reply with a repeat of the question. The last thing you want is for the customer to write angrily that you did not have permission to use their words and their name.

If you have an audio or video testimonial, be sure to ask them for confirmation that you can use their testimony on your website and in promotional materials. The fact that you record their voice giving verbal permission should be good enough for most jurisdictions. And this makes a great backup to the model release form, if you use one.

If you have the customer in your presence, it’s always a good idea to get a model release form for video testimonials. A simple model release form can be downloaded from the internet and should be good for most cases. If in doubt, or if you have concerns, ask your attorney.

Ways to Get Customer Testimonials

When a customer first purchases your product or service, you might let them know that you are able to keep prices down because of word-of-mouth advertising. Let them know that you would appreciate their testimonial, if after their purchase, they found it very beneficial. This prepares them in advance for giving a testimonial so they are more inclined to follow through.

As we mentioned in the first article, video testimonials prove to be the most powerful, because prospective customers can both see and hear the person. This makes the testimonials far more believable.

If you give seminars or have a booth at a trade show, and if existing customers attend, you can ask them to give you feedback on video. You can use a video camera, certainly, but some digital cameras often come with video and audio features. Naturally, most people may be a bit skittish about being in a video, but there are ways to get around their shyness. We’ll talk more about that in a moment.

When a customer receives your service or product, a follow-up call or email 2–3 weeks afterward can be a great opportunity to ask for their feedback. If they’re not local, a video might prove inconvenient to them, but audio might be easy.

One thing you could do is to give them your Skype ID so they can leave you a testimonial message, if you have voicemail. Write your questions in an email as sort of a script. Be sure to include the question about permission so that’s part of the official record. You can always edit out that part in your working copy of the recording file.

Another method would be to have you call them by Skype and to record the message using one of the many Skype-compatible, free or retail voice recording software packages.

Getting Better Testimonial Content

The more you can direct your customer by asking laser-focused and probing questions, the more likely you will have a testimonial you would be thrilled to use.

Perhaps most importantly, you need to get customers to include how they got what they wanted out of your product. This is the juiciest kind of data that a potential customer will find helpful in their own decision-making process.

Testimonials should answer many of these questions:

  • How were things going before you came to us?
  • Why did you come to us?
  • How well did we work with you?
  • What were the results you received from our product or service?
  • What did it mean to you? How did it benefit you?
  • Why would you recommend us?
  • Is there anything else you would like to add?

The overall structure of the testimonial should be like a miniature story or novel. It will have a beginning, a middle and an end—a problem, a reaction and a solution.

  • Ask them to explain what their aggravations were before they came to you.
  • Ask them what it was like using your product or service?
  • Ask them what the primary benefit was, or how your product or service changed their life?

Using Testimonials

There are a number of ways you can use customer testimonials.

  • On your website, under client success stories. Text testimonials can be sprinkled all around your website in strategic decision point locations.
  • Send to prospects who are on the fence about making a decision. This can be particularly potent for video testimonials.
  • Have your customer post their video testimonial on their Facebook account or on their own website.

One key maxim to keep in mind is always to have the customer say it for you. Whatever benefit you want to promote, it becomes far more potent when a customer says it, rather than you.

The Art of Interviewing

It’s normal for people to balk at the idea of giving a video interview. Most people are camera shy. They would never associate themselves with television or movie personalities. It’s all too strange and alien to them.

You can set their mind at ease by letting them know that you understand how they feel, but not to worry. Reassure them that it won’t be them talking to the camera, but to you or someone else who will be doing the interview. It will merely be a short conversation between two people and that the camera will merely record it. Also, let them know that many people will find what they say helpful. Ask if that will be okay to them.

The main idea is to make the person feel at ease. Help them overcome the natural tendency to freeze up or become stiff and uptight when the camera is rolling.

Show them the camera so it is no longer a frightening unknown. Also tell them where they’ll be looking during the interview. It is usually best to have the interviewer near the camera so that the person giving the testimonial will have most of their face visible to the camera. Tell them not to look at the camera, but to ignore it.

Also, make sure you get them to sign a release form right after their agreement to do the interview.

A clip-on, lavalier microphone is best for quality sound. But if you only have a cheap video or digital camera with a built-in microphone, make certain it’s not too far from the subject (the person giving the testimonial). Make certain the person is comfortable and that the camera is at eye level so it seems more natural.

The best place in the camera frame for the subject is slightly left or right of centre.

Because many people tend to look away, coach them to stay focused on the interviewer while answering and even after finishing. It’s heartbreaking to get a great testimonial, but then find it ruined because the subject looked to the side. The best way to prepare for this is to ask a few simple questions at the start, just to see how they respond. If they tend to look away, gently remind them of where they need to focus.

Not only that, you need to have them pause a second or so before they respond to a question. The object of a testimonial is to have it be the words of the customer. The questions asked will not be part of the testimonial, and their answer is ruined if they speak while the interviewer is finishing their question.

Even after all of the best preparations, a subject will sometimes become frozen when the camera is turned on. At this point, their fear may be about being imperfect. Simply tell them that only the best shots will be used, so there’s no cause for concern about being flawless throughout the interview.

Have the person tell you their name. Have them tell you if it’s okay to talk to them on camera. Not only is this a great backup for the release form they signed, it also gets them emotionally to commit themselves to the interview.

Tips for Great Video Testimonials

There are too many ways for your subject to ruin the testimonial. To help guide them toward a successful video, you need to give them instructions in advance that will help eliminate the errors before they happen. Of course, maintain a friendly, cordial attitude at all times. They’re nervous enough as it is.

Most people tend to ramble. You need to give them limits. For instance, tell them that they have less than a minute. Also, tell them to be precise and explicit in their descriptions or what they tell you won’t be used at all. They could tell you, “The product helped a lot,” but “The product saved us $30,000 in labour costs” delivers a clearer picture.

Tell them to speak in complete sentences. If you ask them a question, you don’t want one-word answers, because that doesn’t make a very good testimonial, especially if you cut the question from the video. And make certain they include the question in their answer, otherwise a string of answers without the questions makes for a confusing testimonial. For example, “Yes,… red, but sometimes blue,… every other Tuesday,… A lot!” make no sense at all, because we don’t know what is being answered.

Set-up Details for Video Testimonials

  • An external microphone is preferred. If you’re using a mic built into your camera, don’t stand too far from client.
  • Take note of the lighting. If the person is standing in front of a bright light, you likely won’t be able to see them clearly. If it’s a sunlit window, put the window to the side of them.
  • Take note of your environment—the composition of the picture, including its background. Make certain there are no distractions in the background.
  • You want to have your subject consistently focused on one place—either the camera or the interviewer. And interviewer should be near camera, so subject’s face is entirely visible.
  • Use a tripod for your camera to keep it steady. Tripods are cheap so there’s no excuse in not having one. Your viewing audience will appreciate a steady image.

Testimonial Software

If you want software to automate your testimonial gathering process, the following text-based tools may help.

http://propadoo.com/home

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/wp-testimonials/

http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/testimonials-widget/

http://testimonialsplugin.com/

http://www.joomplace.com/testimonials/testimonials.html

Let us know what you think and also tell us of any suggestions you have for getting and utilising customer testimonials.

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