Using Testimonials in Sales & Marketing Materials

Most marketers and sales people know that prospects will always believe a testimonial from a user of the product or service being pitched over the salesperson or advertising media pitching them.  Testimonials are what lend “social proof” - proof from a non-invested 3rd party that your product or services provide the value(s) they claim to.

I was recently asked in a class I was teaching, how many testimonials are too many for a landing page?  I thought this was an excellent question and I don’t think there is one right answer.  Many marketers would yell, “What?  You can NEVER have too many testimonials on a landing page!  People can move past them if they don’t want to read them - the more the better!”  Which does have some validity.  In reality, I think it depends on the landing page and what you are using it for. 

So, instead of answering how many testimonials are too many? I want to focus of how I like to use testimonials in my marketing materials.  Testimonials are the opportunity for you to have a 3rd party answer objections before they are presented, so that by the time someone gets to the close or offer, all of their concerns have been addressed by a “reliable” source, rather than the pitchman.

So, I recommend you consider every objection someone is likely to throw at your offer and then match up the testimonial that resolves it.  I would make sure each testimonials discusses the positive the user experienced using the product or service and one concern they had before they tried it.  Then, I would have them give their positive feedback about the issue that concerned then.  More as, someone may wonder things like:

“Does the product really deliver the results being presented?”

“How long does it take for the results to be experienced?”

“Are there hidden charges or requirements for the product?”

“Is it going to be difficult?”

Using 3rd party testimonials to address each of the different objections while touting the results they experienced gives the product or service credibility by multiple people, while focusing in on each of the potential objections from the prospect.

This is, in my experience, the most powerful way to incorporate testimonials into sales and marketing materials.

Creating Compelling Sales and Marketing Materials

When developing materials to be used for your sales and marketing efforts review your work with the eyes of your prospects.

 

Many of my clients have worked in their businesses for years and think about things from the “provider perspective,” which makes perfect sense.  However, this can trip up their process of creating compelling sales and marketing materials, because they no longer clearly see things from their buyers’ points of view.

 

Recently a Managed Services company I was working with developed a template for their proposals.  They asked me to review it because they had been using it for a while and felt it was not as effective as it could be in conveying their benefits.

 

Upon review of the proposal, the copy was very heavy, provided lots of features they delivered in paragraph form, in a highly technical language that was great for IT industry people, but less so for the average, non-technical business owner.  Putting myself in the shoes of the potential customer, I dreaded having to read through so much information which appeared to be very technical and over my head.  If it was this hard to do business with them in the proposal stage, what would it be like to work with them?  Even more over my head?

 

I reviewed the document with my client and every time they listed the information about the services or products they provided, I asked, “So, what does this mean for me?  Why should I care?  Say this to me like I am a completely new to computers.”  They gave me the benefits that would help their prospects realize why the items outlined in the proposal provided an offering that would make their jobs and lives easier, more efficient and more profitable.

 

I reworked the proposal by changing the paragraphs of information into a bullet format that used non-technical language and listed the feature and then, in bold face, the benefit. I made sure to include what made this company unique and a superior choice among its competition. This process took out pages worth of copy, making the proposal easier to read through and everything written had a benefit tied to it. 

 

Six months later, the proposal came up in discussion. The client mentioned that since they had changed to the shorter, easier to read format outlined above, they regularly received compliments on their proposals from their prospects, stating that theirs was the easiest to understand and get through compared to their competition.  The client also said that since she had incorporated these changes and streamlined a few other parts of their proposal process, they had practically DOUBLED their close rate. 

 

Make it easy for your prospect to do business with you and you will increase both your close rate and speed up the amount of time it takes to close your sale.

 

Key Points:

  1. Make it easy for your customer to understand the value you provide by speaking to them in every day language, not your industry’s jargon. 
  2. Keep it simple to read by excluding copy that does not need to be included.  Hint: If there is no benefit tied to the copy, you probably don’t need the copy, or you need to think of a way to say it to the prospect so that they feel like there is a benefit tied to it.
  3. Make sure all the features you mention include the benefit to the prospect. (See point 2 above)
  4. Bullet formats are a great way to convey a lot of information in a concise and easy to read manner.
  5. Have someone outside of your industry read your proposal and see if they can understand what you are offering and what the benefits are of your services. (If they can’t, ask specifically what copy confuses them.  Rewrite it so that they can understand what you are trying to say.)
  6. Make sure to include your unique selling proposition that clearly explains why you are the best choice among your competitors.

They Buy Your Story

I had always appreciated art, but never collected it.  Then I went to Las Vegas with a friend and we stopped into an art gallery to appreciate some art  without any intention of making a purchase.

We were both attracted to a lithograph that had additional gold leafing and work done to the piece by the artist, it was a real beauty.  A sales person came over and asked if we were familiar with the artist.  “No, no”, we replied (uh oh, a sales person is going to try to pressure us!).  So, she stood there and told us his name, his geography and why he was one of her favorite painters.  All of his paintings told a story through the sybolism of various objects in the picture.  She had met with him many times and had heard his story for each of the paintings they sold, first hand.  She gave us a couple examples for the painting we were looking at, which were, well, rather intriguing to my friend and me.

Next, she said, if we would like, she would take the painting into a room where we could see it better and not be interrupted (as had happened a couple times during her story telling), if we would like.  We were on vacation, we thought.  No where to be and we were learning something new.  Sure.  Which room?

We met her in a room that had black walls and was very dark where she placed the painting under a light that brought out all the colors and brilliance, the beautiful art filling the room.  She started at the top and described what each of the symbols meant in the picture and how collectively they told a story that had religious messages, good vs. evil, and current cultural mores conveyed through various objects and techniques.  We were spellbound and related completely to the message the artist was sharing (now that we knew what it was).

She left the room and brought in another of his paintings we had been admiring and told this painting’s story.   Once again, we were connected to the piece.  Initially by the pure beauty and colors, but the bond, the real connection came from knowing that everytime we looked at that piece of art, it would have its aesthetic value and then the deep and profound story we saw.  The sales person left the room.

My friend and I discussed how the different pictures were pieces we would like to look at and be reminded of their story every day in our own homes. One of the pieces had a story that spoke deeply to us both, and we both purchased a copy of it.  I purchased the second painting as well, for the same reason. 

I had no intention of buying anything in that gallery.  I never considered myself an art collector.  And, if I had made a decision to buy (or not to buy) based on the appearance of the painting(s) alone, I would have walked out without a purchase.  But, the sales person sold me the story that the picture would retell me everytime I looked at it.

I have a client that sells apparel.   When I asked them what they sold, they told me bamboo children’s jerseys with sayings on them.  I asked why they  decided to create these jerseys?  They told me:  “We developed our company out of our shared passion to create fashion that would be desirable to wear based on its appearance and comfort, have a positive impact on those that encountered it through inspiring sayings, minimize impact on the environment by using sustainable fabrics, and when possible, is manufactured right here in the USA.  We try to stay true to this mission in everything that we manufacture. That is why our clothes impact both the wearer (through the amazing silky comfort and colorful fashion), as well as the observer with the inspirational and thought –provoking words they convey.  Additionally, our economy is suffering, so we try to keep the manufacturing here instead of overseas, which is why our shirts cost more to make, but make us feel good about helping American workers.” 

Now, would you be more convinced to buy that child’s jersey made out of bamboo knowing this whole story behind it?  They weren’t trying to sell me anything, they just told me their story.  But, in the end, it is their story that I buy.  After all, I like their story, and everytime I look at one of their shirts on a child it reminds me of their story.  I feel good knowing I had supported this story that I connected to, believe in and want to be part of.

Do you have a story for your products and services?  Are you the most green providor in the area?  Are you award winning for creativity or precision?  What was the passion that led you to start your business or create a specific story?  What problem were you solving for yourself or someone else?  Do you share that story?  In the end, people are persuaded to buy based on the whole story related to your product or service, not just your widget or service alone.

Knowing Your Unique Selling Proposition Will Help You Sleep At Night

Every marketing person you ever work with will ask you, “What separates you from your competition?  What makes you unique?  Why would someone choose to buy from you instead of anyone else that offers a “similar” product?”  What they are asking is: “What is your Unique Selling Proposition (USP), also known as a Core Differentiator.”

Knowing what makes you different is essential to pursuing those members of the market place that are really your prospects and customers and not wasting time and money on those that are not.  It can also help keep you sane. 

I have a client that is a fitness trainer.  She has a program that is specifically for people that want to have fun when they work out.  Work out and not feel like they just spent an hour with a fitness trainer, but instead, went out into the fresh air with some fellow seekers of sunshine, humor and physical movement.   An hour of shared jokes and experiences while they were guided through movements that were interactive and challenging, resulting in reduced fat and inches, more flexibility and better cardio-vascular health.

These are a very specific group of people.  These are not the people that want to go to a “military-style” bootcamp where they will be pushed to their furthest physical limits by someone yelling at them, and motivating them through high pressure.  There are a large group of people who do seek this type of training because it works for them and they enjoy the results (and may or may not enjoy the process).   Having said this, the “military-style” boot camp enthusiasts would probably not be enthusiastic for my client’s program either.  Which is as it should be.

These are two fitness trainers offering similar results (assuming that both trainers are providing activities that will generate the results the participants are seeking, all training is ultimately dependent on the trainee, not the trainer - after all, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink).  They have two completely different processes of delivering the results, so are they competitors?  Some would say, “YES!”  They are certainly in the same industry.  But, at the end of the day, are the trying to appeal to the same client?  Here, I would say, absolutely not. 

My client has a very, very successful “military-style” bootcamp in her “backyard”.  They are aggressively expanding and really doing well.  Her friends call and inform her whenever they see another “win” for this fitness company, concern and anxiety in their voices.  My client shared in that anxiety until I asked her some pointed questions:

1)  Is your model successful for you?  Is there a large enough and accessible local market of people that are qualified prospects for your type of training?   “Yes, I have a core group of clients who have stayed with me for a very long time because they love getting the results of a difficult workout while enjoying the workouts themselves.  I know there is a huge market for my style of program.  I just need to market it more effectively.”

2)  Would you like to change your model and offer a “military-style” bootcamp if you think there is more money to be made there?  “No, I enjoy the program I offer and have so many participants that tell me they love it, too.  They get great physical results because they stick with the program.  This program is enjoyable and motivating to them making them want to come back and participate - it is something they look forward to.  This is the program I believe in, makes me happy to deliver every day and am passionate about delivering.”

3)  Do you think a “military-style” bootcamp would ever be successful in stealing away your customers?  “No, they would not enjoy that program.  Just not what motivates my clients.”

4)  How can this competitor hurt your business?  “They can’t really, as long as MY prospects know that I have a program for them.  That they have a choice.”

5)  Do you need to be anxious about them, then?  “No, not really.”

6)  Is there a chance you could actually help each other out?  Maybe refer people to them that want “military-bootcamp” training and they refer people who find they want to try a different style fitness training program?  “Possibly.  I will explore that.”

After this conversation, my client was able to bring a new perspective to news of the “military-style” bootcamp’s success.  Her anxiety declined and she was able to sleep better knowing that she was invested in her own program which appealed to a whole different market, and instead of focusing on her “competition,” she needed to focus on getting the word out about her own program.  She also became aware of the opportunity to potentially cross refer with this “competitor” helping each of them grow their respective businesses by guiding prospects to the best match for what they were seeking.  Huh, how about that?

Successful Social Media Marketing - Growing Your List

I love the disbelief and surprise you see in someone’s eyes the first time they hear that it takes on average over 5 contacts with a prospect before they will become a buyer. It is difficult in this technology era to tell someone something that they did not pick up some where along their online or professional magazine reading.

So many business owners still think that a good enough message or price should convince someone to buy on the spot (regardless of the amount of competition offering similar products and services or the high price of their item). This is not the case. Prospects want to know, like and trust you before they are willing to make a purchase. The bigger or more important the purchase, the more they need to trust you. The less expensive or risky the purchase, the more they have to like you. So, how do you get a client to know, like and trust you?

Gain permission from them to contact them with valuable information and offers in the future. Make sure you collect their name and e-mail address at every opportunity.  Then you can start an inexpensive online campaign of sharing valuable information related to your products or services that will help them come to trust your expertise,  and appreciation of you for sharing it. Additionally, the more someone is exposed to a brand, product or service, the more they feel like they “know” it and get comfortable with it (unless the experiences were not good).

You will want to take those names and e-mail addresses and load them into a software program like iContact or AWeber which will make it easy to organize, track and manage your e-mail (otherwise known as drip marketing) campaign.  Then you can come up with some helpful hints, tips and commentary on issues surrounding the products, services and industry you work with. You can write 10 of these e-mails in advance and load them into the e-mail software program so the messages are sent automatically, on whatever schedule you choose.  Send the prospect an e-mail once every 7-10 days with information that they are likely to appreciate. Every 4 or 5 e-mails, throw a promotional offer or sales message in. Start to build that relationship so that the prospect does indeed get to know, like and trust you. This way, when they are ready to buy your product or service, they will be much more likely to buy from you.

If you would like help with list building and converting clients, contact Rachel Perlmutter at 714/330-1982 or visit Rachel Perlmutter & Associates.

The Importance of Tracking Marketing Efforts

I wanted to share one of many examples of the importance of tracking marketing efforts.  Tracking is a critical way to understand fully what the return on investment is for marketing and advertising dollars spent.  Advertising can be used for share of mind with no intention to drive specific service or product driven sales.  However, if you are advertising to generate prospects for a specific product or service that you hope to convert to customers, tracking the results of your efforts are necessary to make sure your advertising dollars are indeed generating opportunities for your business.

Recently, a client and I decided to test an ad in the local sections of the Friday and Saturday paper and a full run (all zones) in the Sunday main newspaper where advertising costs are very pricey.

In the Strategic Marketing plan I provided, I discussed how critically important it was to track which day and which paper drove in the responses to the ad so we could spend future advertising dollars on the days and papers that generated a meaningful response.  I provided a very simple check off sheet that would pinpoint where the prospect saw the advertisement that attracted him to the business.  I asked the client to give the tracking form to his prospects to fill out with his other required paperwork before being helped.  We agreed to the importance of this plan and that  I would collect the slips after the first 3 weeks in order to tabulate the information.  This way, we could evaluate which of the papers initially seemed effective for sending him leads.

A little over 3 weeks later, I returned to tabulate the tracking sheet and follow up on our efforts, so far.  For whatever reason, the client decided to simply ask the prospects if they heard about his company in the paper when they came in.  If so, he simply assigned it to the newspaper (not which one, or which day).

Now that the initial “test” was over, it was time for us to discuss where he wanted to invest his newspaper advertising dollars.  Because we did not know which day or newspaper was attracting the prospects most effectively, we could not narrow our focus (and marketing dollars) on these days and zones, so we had to continue our broad reach until we could gather this information.

It was only when he realized that he had proven newspaper advertising worked, but not which advertising was generating the best return on his investment, how important ad tracking really was.  He asked me for the form again and said this time he would use it.

Looking Your Best In Pictures

Nowadays, with the popularity of social networking sites such as Myspace and Facebook, it is very likely that any photo you take while out with friends will end up on the Internet, so it is important to try and look your best in any picture taken of you. Of course there will always be that bad “paparazzi shot” that people can blackmail you with, but there are things we can do to eliminate the possibilities of looking like Linda Blair in The Exorcist in the next family portrait.

My advice to someone who hates the way they look in pictures is to simply look in the mirror more. Sure it sounds vain and shallow, but that is the best way to figure out what your good angles are and what poses are most flattering to your shape and body type.  Anyone can look good in pictures. Believe me. This is the queen of bad shots talking! My mother used to yell at me for making ugly faces on picture day all through school. I didn’t care much for myself back then and it showed in every photo. Confidence is the sexiest thing a woman (or man) can wear, but knowing what personally works for you and what doesn’t will have you ahead of the game.

Here are a few tips that can help:

*A good way to pose like a celebrity is to bring one leg slightly forward and rest all your weight on the back leg. Keep your abs tight but don’t suck it all in where it makes your shoulders look huge and your neck disappear.  Stay lengthened and relaxed.

*If you are wearing a sleeveless shirt, you want to make sure that your arms are not pressed against the rest of your body as they will spread and translate bigger onto the camera. Keeping a gap between the arm pit and the arm can make the arm look slimmer.

*To avoid a double chin, you want to lengthen the neck and push the face out. It also helps if the camera is positioned slightly above you. A good trick is to clinch your back molars and jut out your chin a little, to help define the jaw line. Another trick is to press your tongue to the roof of your mouth for the same purpose and to help tighten under the chin.

*For a slimming pose, angle your body slightly away from the camera and turn your upper body back towards the camera. Make sure one shoulder is closer to the camera.

*If you have a rounder face, try positioning your face at a slight angle (but not profile), just enough to see your whole face and both eyes while showing some of the jaw line. Usually your “good side” will be the side where you part your hair.

*A big smile goes a long way. Teeth are a great thing to show off, just make sure your eyes aren’t closed or squinting when you do. A photographer friend of mine recently showed me a good trick: try saying “HI!” right before the picture is taken. More than likely you’ll be able to smile without closing your eyes or looking fake.

*Being photogenic has nothing to do with size and EVERYTHING to do with charisma and confidence in your own skin. Never take a picture when you’re in a bad mood. You’ll regret it. If you’re having a “self loathing day”, skip the pictures and go home to a bubble bath instead.

*If you are very small or thin, don’t try to make yourself taller by standing on your toes or stretching your torso, that usually makes bodies look awkward and uncomfortable. Instead lengthen your neck, bring your shoulders back and keep your abs tight. Follow these tips and you are sure to shine even amongst a group of giants.

*Don’t slouch, it creates love handles.

*If you’re going for the “hand on waist” pose, be sure that the hand is right on the waistline and keep your elbows back. Putting your hand on the lower hip translates as a little insecure and draws attention to a thicker waist. If you’re going to pose, pose like you mean it.

*Finally, my best advice is to practice non-stop with a digital camera. Make every face and strike every pose imaginable. See what works for you and what you should avoid. People always tease me for screaming “Wait, this is not my good side!” right before a picture is taken, but hey, I’m the one that will have to live with the end result. Knowing your good side is crucial.

There is no secret to taking a good photo. Like everything else, the more you do something, the better you become at it. They say that practice makes perfect, but I say practice makes permanent. The way your practice something is the way you will execute it. Try it out! Arm yourself with a camera, a full length mirror and a few fashion/celebrity magazines. See what you can come up with. Candid shots are the coolest way of documenting good times with friends or loved ones, so why not look good in them?

Victoria Castillo

Victoria Castillo

Thank you to our guest writer, Victoria Castillo, a favorite professional model  and actress of Rachel Perlmutter & Assoc. who always strikes fabulous poses and takes amazing pictures. To book Victoria, please contact:  Lisa Marie at Brand Models and Talent, 714-850-1158.  You can also follow her on Twitter.com using @_victoria_c.

PETA Makes a Whale of a Mistake

PETA Billboard in Jacksonville FL

PETA Billboard in Jacksonville FL

PETA loves to be controversial and yes, they’ve done it again.  In an attempt to try to convert people to vegetarians (so animals no longer suffer at our hands for our carnivore desires) they have used faulty logic and insulted some of the very people who would normally support them.

With their latest billboard ad, the real question is:  Are they trying to win support or lose all credibility? Some say all PR is good PR.  I think they have proven this saying to be inaccurate.  PETA’s logic is that if you are vegetarian, you will become thin and healthy.  Like any diet, this may or may not be true, depending on the quantity you consume and what you eat (raw veggies and plant based proteins may get you there, french fries and fried zucchini probably won’t).   Offensive advertising with faulty logic just highlights the message that someone does not know what the hell they’re talking about.  This can result in people ignoring relevant and truthful information because they no longer see the source as credible and look past ALL of its future commentary.

Social Media Marketing Salvation?

As a marketing consultant working with a lot of small and micro-businesses, I come across many small biz owners that want to drive sales to their company the cheapest and fastest way possible, even if that means taking a few short cuts here and there.

OK, I get it, times are tough and no one wants to waste a penny and everyone I talk to needs more customers.  Many folks hear that Social Media Marketing is “Free” or nearly free and therefore, they want in now, quickly and with immediate results (meaning sales).  Hey, don’t we all if this option is at all possible? I mean, sheesh, there’s at least a 3 offers a day for a seminar that is going to teach me “the secrets to using social media for FREE and FAST incremental business”.  If they offer a class in it, it must be “real”, right?  To which I answer, yeah, sort of.

Assuming you:

  1. Have a grasp of marketing fundamentals.  Otherwise some of these classes can make you really good at spamming and actually driving people away.  If you want to be a good Social Media Marketer, you still need to be a good marketer in general.  People that say the “old ways” of marketing are extinct are wrong.  Marketing fundamentals still apply - even in this brave new world.
  2. Have a significant amount of disposable time on your hands (which most of the business owners I talk to do not).  I am not saying that if you have a limited amount of time, you can’t do social media marketing, but, you must have enough time to develop a strategy and implement this marketing just like any other marketing.  If you don’t have time to plan a marketing campaign “off line”, you won’t have time to plan one online either.  If you don’t have time to spend on advertising, you probably don’t have time to build relationships through social networking either.
  3. Have a realistic expectation that social media is more like farming (you plant the seed, nurture it with sun and water, and reap what you sow) vs. expecting instant high volume results with minimal effort.  Can you get some instant traction with social media marketing?  Yes.  Will it be high-volume and instantly convert to sales?  In most cases, especially if you are a professional services company or brick and mortar company, probably not.  But, you can definitely increase the leads you generate and the loyalty of your customer base.

Is Social Media Marketing the salvation for cash strapped business owners looking to drive in more business?  Maybe, depending on whether your prospects hang out online, how much time you have to invest, how well you build your relationships with them, and whether you engage them and market to them or spam them.

How Did I Get Here?

Ahhhh, the joys of Social Networking!  Finding long lost school and work friends!  Meeting new people!  Access to experts in every field imaginable (and some I bet you never imagined)!  The great portal to finding answers and building connections!

Only, if unmanaged, this exciting new frontier will be the only frontier you have time to explore on a day-to-day basis (eh, who needs to go to work, spend time with the family or tend to our basic daily responsibilities really?).  One day, if you are not careful, you will look up bleary eyed from your computer screen at 2 AM and ask yourself… how the heck did I end up here (looking at the average rainfall in December in Swaziland)?

So, my most sage advice is:  Determine why you are interested in using Social Media.  Once decided, give yourself a time budget that you can actually afford to allocate (without detrimentally affecting your other interests and responsibilities) to this exciting new territory.  Determine which 2-4 sites are most likely to give you the most bang for your time and develop your relationships there.  All sites can offer you new friends, colleagues and access to more information that you can likely humanly keep up with.  Some do it in a professional environment and some more casually, but in the end, they can all get you “there” (connecting, learning, educating, working, playing, etc.)  But, none of them can if you can’t focus your efforts to grow and nurture your accounts, friends, colleagues, and purpose for being there in the first place.

Like a kid in the candy store, we want to taste everything, but, in reality, we can only physically handle so much without going on “overload”.  So, like your Mom said, pick a few favorites and enjoy!