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Get the Best Client Testimonials: Journalism Meets Marketing

Try Googling “how to get client testimonials.” If you do, you’ll most likely get an onslaught of results boasting “best practices” from marketing companies and business thought leaders alike.

Are you familiar with the term “marketing myopia?” Put simply, it is a state in which businesses are near-sighted and lose vision of their customers’ needs. Unfortunately, a lot of these best practices that you come across in your searches are from marketers who suffer from marketing myopia.

This is where my advice and vision differ. In my former life, I was a journalist. My talents lie in the ability to research my topic, conduct a thorough interview and utilize gathered facts in a clear and concise manner. Although I’ve made the switch to marketing, my former experience has helped me to evolve into a hyper-client-focused marketer, here to tell you how to get the best client testimonials you’ve ever had. The tips below come from a hybrid journalist/marketer’s perspective. Let’s call it “Marketalist” for convenience.

It is common knowledge that a good testimonial from a client is one of the most powerful marketing assets. Let’s walk through it now:b

The Prep

Before you ask your client to do you a solid and participate in your client testimonial program, you need to prepare. After all, you DO want to score the interview – that’s the end game here, so don’t mess it up! Things to prep:

The Nuts and Bolts

1. Ensure you’ve agreed upon a good date and time—if the client is in the middle of a big product launch or a tight deadline, find a day/time when they have some downtime.

2. Estimate the length of the interview, prepare the questions you’ll ask and share that information with the client. An effective interview can take “X” minutes.

  • If necessary, provide an example of a previous testimonial or what you’re looking for—nothing speaks more clearly about what you are looking for than an example.
  • After writing up the questions, practice them. Show confidence and professionalism—it helps the client remember that this interview is important to your company and that you took the time to prepare fully.
  • Anticipate follow-up questions.

3. Define the “why”

  • This is your chance to share with the client what he or she is doing for you. What is your company’s goal here? Perhaps you may share with prospects how creating a Revenue Cycle Modeler can tighten up a company’s business process and in turn improve communication between sales and marketing. Make this “why” as tailored as you can. Remind the client of their company’s wins as well as your own. When it comes down to it, just make your clients feel valued and if possible, make them see that their testimonial is for the greater good, in other words, other companies lost in the world of [name your own product] and your own business needs them as a vital resource.

4. Establish Trust* This one can prove tricky. It’s important to consider your relationship with your client. Ask yourself the following:

  • What moments in your work together would you AND your clients consider highlights?
  • Which moments may be sore spots for your client?
  • Which moments are sore spots for your company?

Focus on the questions you have developed that play to the strengths and positives of your work.

Side Note:

  • Set up a comfortable interview environment. In-person interviews are always best. Skype or video chat can be substituted if necessary. Body language can be an essential key in gauging your client’s comfort level with a question, and in turn guide you to edit the questions you intend to ask.
  • If using a recording device, make sure your interviewees understand why (i.e. humbly tell them that you’re a slow note-taker) and confirm that they are comfortable being recorded.
  • Keep things equal. Sit across the table, in a neutral environment. Offices are a poor choice—a conference room would be more ideal. Don’t sit at the head of the table, remember to keep yourself on the same level. No one likes to feel intimidated.
  • Offer the interviewee water or other hospitalities.

The Interview

You may think that the most challenging aspect of getting a client testimonial is getting the client to agree to speak positively about you. Frankly, it IS intimidating and difficult. However, your focus and energy should be on the interview, and here’s why:

1. Tip-toe around emotion

  • Two major things here: read emotional queues and play to the heart.

2. They’re the center of the universe

  • When it comes to experiences and opinions, keep the topic client-focused—“Something we have worked to improve over this past year is ‘X;’ what positives did you experience surrounding this? What do you feel we should continue to improve upon?”

The Follow-up

1. Quoting

  • Be fair and accurate with your quotes and provide appropriate context if necessary.

2. Writing

  • Think of it this way, what would speak to you if you were a prospective client reading a client testimonial? (We all have dreams about important business decisions. Your testimonial should be the star in those dreams.)

3. Thank-you/etiquette

  • Get creative—but don’t ever forget to thank your client in a timely manner

*Establishing trust is a debatable practice for many reasons, but you can always preface the interview by letting your clients know that they can review the transcript if desired. Again, this is about building trust. If that’s not an option, let the interviewee know that you won’t use any quotes they have second thoughts about during the interview process, and that you won’t doctor their language. Feel free to reassure them that they can review the testimonial before you publish it.

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