The Critical Importance Of Testimonials In B To B Communications

19163463 copy 3Testimonials have always been important in consumer advertising, and they tend to be used in very interesting ways. In my ad agency career, (70s & 80s), working for companies like Procter and Gamble, Hunt Wesson and Mars, we made use of them quite a bit, and achieved very strong results with them.

In the B To B market however, testimonials were hardly ever used at all. Of course, at that time most of this type of advertising was handled by little industrial ad shops located up in the nosebleed territory of the city where no self-respecting creative person would ever want to work. So most of the ads were created by the people managing the accounts and it showed. They were dull and they were factual as opposed to creative.

Making Testimonials Work For Dow Construction Materials.

One of the B to B accounts I worked on for several years was Dow Construction Materials, primarily, the family of Styrofoam-based insulation products. There were several grades of this type of insulation, even one with a cement layer called Roofmate, for flat roofs.

When we started to develop the Styrofoam brand, which was at that time, languishing behind some lower priced competitors, I asked the client why they were not using any testimonials in their advertising? They didn’t really have any sort of answer for that.

So I took the opportunity to create a proposal for a campaign that included interviews with those architects & builders who used and swore by Styrofoam SM (their premium brand) in the construction of the R-2000 homes they specialized in building.

The development of this campaign took us to several cities across Canada, where I interviewed and photographed architects, spec writers, and builders. I had this recorded professionally so we could use them for radio and sales presentation materials as well. These people were only too happy to talk about their belief that to build a true conserving home, you do not settle for anything less than the best insulation.

Needless to say, this campaign, with testimonials at its core, helped Styrofoam re-invent itself as a brand. Over the next two years, sales increased by an average of 40% per year. Retailer acceptance of the brand also improved, which then allowed us to start promoting Styrofoam SM to the DIY market, all based on the same governing principle…If R-2000 home builders use it, then it really must be the best value for you.

Testimonials In B To B Communications…It’s The Closest Thing To Being There.

A lot of companies collect testimonials and stick them into the back pages of their web sites.

They don’t take real advantage of the good things that their clients or customers have to say about them. They hardly ever build campaigns around their testimonials.

I’m not sure why this is the case. Because I have always believed (and it is logical), that one of the best ways to create an engaging customer experience is to show people what other customers have to say.

You see a lot of this kind of testimonial based marketing activity in consumer product sites, where customers can write their own reviews. But you don’t see a lot of it on B to B sites. Some of the clients I have recommended this to have told me that, in many cases, their customers don’t want to be identified, because they would be seen as favouring one supplier over another.

My response is generally, “So what?” (spoken in a non-snarky tone). “All that does is force the competition to pull up their socks a bit.” Some of these clients took that to heart and benefited from it. Others well, you win some and you lose some.

You Snooze You Lose

B to B businesses who don’t see the advantages of aggressively marketing their customer’s good will in the form of case studies and testimonials will find themselves at a real disadvantage to those who do.

After I left the agency business and got into B to B marketing in a much larger way, I have always looked for opportunities to leverage positive customer experience in my client’s marketing.

This is not just a powerful communication tool, but an excellent one for mitigating the skepticism that most people possess today, right across the board, to advertising messages built around the principle of the company talking about themselves. Of course the advertiser or marketer is going to say good things about themselves.

But there is a marked difference in acceptance when it’s your customers that are doing the talking. It’s the perfect combination of relevance and authenticity that is virtually impossible to achieve in any other way.

The Keys To Getting Good Testimonials

1. Give those clients you want to interview an outline of the questions you will be asking to solicit their testimonials, so they have time to think about their answers.

2. If you feel their interviews would not make good sounds bytes, or they do not wish to be recorded, give them the option of writing their testimonial themselves using the question guide you provide for them.

3. If possible, interview them in an environment where they feel comfortable.

4. If possible, record them on vide, so you will have both audio and video to use.

5. Do not take too many liberties in editing what they have to say. They could be offended by this and rescind their permission.

6. During the interview, keep everything very casual and conversational. This will get your subject speaking in their own language and at their own pace.

7. Always obtain approvals in writing before publishing or posting any testimonials.

NOTE: If you are a small business, you may want to do the interviews yourself. If you are a larger company, hire a creative project manager who can help put your questionnaire together, organize, conduct and edit the interviews.

Testimonials are very valuable marketing tools. If you are currently not employing them as part of your communications program, you should think about it. Because as clients and consumers alike continue to be bombarded with marketing messages every day, their skepticism increases. Testimonials have always proven to be the closest thing to an antidote to that skepticism.

Jim Murray is a communications strategist, blogger, writer,
blog editor, art director and producer. He creates and implements
strategically focused branding, advertising & promotion
for companies in the SME & B2B sectors who appreciate solid
creative thinking and value reasonable rates.

Jim Murray Creative Director

Direct Line: 416 463-3475
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