Which are you more likely to believe: a sales representative telling you how great his product is, or a recommendation from another person about how it worked for her? If you're like most people, the words from a fellow consumer pull more weight than even the best written ad copy. That's why, no matter what you're selling, you need to use testimonials from satisfied customers in every marketing approach you take.

One of the main reasons people don't buy something is that they're afraid of making the wrong decision. When they see that product being endorsed by someone else—someone in a similar situation as theirs—that fear is minimized. Testimonials are a great way of influencing others to feel comfortable about buying your products.

Unfortunately, few distributors actively seek out testimonials from their customers. Instead, they typically wait for people to give them testimonials. When (and if) they do get them, they often don't know how to use them effectively.

However, getting and using a list of strong testimonials is easier than you may think.

How to Get Them

1. Choose satisfied customers who represent your target demographic. Be specific about who you solicit your testimonials from. Look over your customer files and choose the people who exemplify the best-case scenario for your product. Say, "I'd love for you to share your experience with this product. Would you write a short testimonial?" Most people will cheerfully say yes.

2. Offer to write the testimonial for them. If the person declines your request, it may be because they feel they don't have the writing skills, or that they are simply too busy. In this case, offer to write it for them. Simply say, "I'll be glad to write the testimonial for you. Just tell me what you'd like to say about the product. You can review what I write and we can use it as is or you can change it." Most people will leave the testimonial as is, happy they didn't have to take the time to write it themselves.

3. Look through your past notes and correspondence. Chances are you're sitting on a pile of testimonials and don't even know it. Go back through your past emails and correspondence from customers. Are there a few nice sentences in some of those messages? If so, ask the person if you can use their words in your marketing materials. Typically they will agree.

How to Write Them

1. Show results. Whether you or your customer writes the testimonial, it needs to show specific results the person experienced from the product. A testimonial that simply says what a wonderful company you have or how nice you are does not say anything meaningful for the reader. Here are some examples: "Dr. Slim's diet regimen ended my twenty-year battle with my weight." "Everyone thinks Bling-Bling Betsy's jewelry is real." "BeautySkin cleared up my blemishes and I look ten years younger." The more specific a testimonial is, the stronger it sells for you.

2. Keep it short. Each word of the testimonial should have value. Therefore, if someone writes you a page-long testimonial, edit out any words that don't directly address the end result that person received from your product. This doesn't mean changing the meaning of what they wrote; simply edit out the parts that aren't meaningful. The more unnecessary words you can take out, the stronger the testimonial becomes. Also, it's easier to read and will stand out more.

3. When possible, include a name and title. Rather than attribute your testimonial to "Janet S., Nebraska," use the person's real name, company name, title, and/or location whenever possible, as in "Janet Sanders, head nurse at Bell Tower Hospital," or "Janet Sanders, Omaha, Nebraska." This makes your testimonial more believable. Most people will be happy to include their full name and other information, because one of the strongest human desires is to feel appreciated and recognized. Getting their name in print somewhere fulfills that need and is often perceived as fun.

How to Use Them

1. Include a testimonial or two in every marketing piece. Whether you're doing postcards, flyers, social media, blogs, letters, or even phone calls, be sure to include some testimonials. It's best to have testimonials stand alone from the text rather than try to weave them into the ad copy. Other marketing pieces that should feature your testimonials include your web site, brochures, and newsletters.

2. Create a book of testimonials. Each time you receive a kind letter from a customer, highlight the key parts (the parts that state benefits to the customer), put the letter in a clear plastic sleeve, and compile it in a big binder. Keep this book of testimonials in your car or home (for home parties) for customers to browse through while they're waiting. Or, if your business is online, create a web page where you feature all your testimonials. There's no limit to how many testimonials you can include in your book or on your page.

3. Frame your best testimonials. If you have home parties or a home office, frame some of your best testimonial letters and post them on your walls. Again, highlight the best parts so your customers can easily see the benefits. If you don't get foot traffic (or if you go to your customers), put the best testimonial letters in your "leave behind" kit—the package of information you leave behind for the prospect.

The next time you're writing copy for a marketing piece (and struggling with what information to include), simply go to your past testimonials. It's always better when someone else sings your praises, so let your customer sell for you. The sooner you start using testimonials in every marketing message you create, the sooner you'll realize that testimonials really are the ultimate sales tool.

PAM LONTOS consults with businesses and
experts in the areas of sales, marketing,
and publicity. Pam founded PR/PR Public Relations
and is the author of
I See Your Name Everywhere:
Leverage the Power of the Media to Grow
your Fame, Wealth and Success.