When your organization is searching for consultant, where’s the first place you look? For most of us, we turn first to our trusted colleagues and peers for ‘inside’ stories and perspectives of people we may be considering. But what if a potential recruit doesn’t overlap with our professional networks? In addition to reviewing that recruit’s own CV and bio, many of us then turn to testimonials from past clients or employees who may have similar needs to our own.
That’s why testimonials are one of the most powerful tools in an organization or consultant’s promotional toolbox. Knowing this, I’ve gladly written many short endorsements for others over the years. Yet so many of us feel too shy, too busy or just never get around to ensuring we have a steady supply of these first-person endorsements of our own work. And I was one of the worst offenders! Finally, shamed into action when a close colleague recently pointed out that I have no client testimonials on either my website or my blog, I got into gear. Over the course of a couple of weeks, I asked a number of past and current clients if they’d be willing to write a few sentences about their experience of my work. To my astonishment, every single person I asked readily agreed. So, finally, I’ve taken the minimal step of posting those testimonials on a separate page on my blog, and put together a few tips for others to consider:
- Just ask. Ask nicely, of course. Clarify that there’s “no pressure” and that you won’t be offended if they don’t respond, don’t have time or don’t feel comfortable – and be sure you mean it!
- Make it easy. I took the liberty of dashing a few short bullets to each client outlining the work I’ve done for them (I have a number of long term repeat clients, so it can be easy to lose track). Several used those points as a springboard to their own short paragraphs.
- Develop a system. Make it easy for yourself, as well, by ensuring that, once you’ve determined that a client is pleased with the work, you follow your final invoice and/or client evaluation with a request for a short testimonial – while it’s fresh on their minds and yours. Some consultants offer short on-line evaluation surveys, using tools like SurveyMonkey, and include a request for a short endorsement right in the survey.
- Share your testimonials! Make sure you publish and use them well. For now, I’ve simply added a single page with all the testimonials I’ve gathered so far in one place. But the fact is, this is a bare minimum. It’s far more effective to ‘scatter’ your testimonials throughout your site, blog or through other promotional material so that prospective clients, donors or allies have ready access to the good things others have said about your work.
So gather up those testimonials, people! And check this out: I just stumbled across another fantastic and far more thorough article on using testimonials for marketing, by John Sternal. It’s full of tips on how to gather and use testimonials for small businesses, but just as applicable for many not-for-profits and other organizations.