Tag Archive for small business owners

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.

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.

In an Industry of Change

One of the most important assets a small business possesses is the ability to quickly change direction when its market changes. Usually, there are not a lot of chefs in the kitchen deciding how to best proceed, nor are there many departments fighting to keep their budget dollars.

Instead, an owner can make a decisive move that changes the company’s focus quickly. Sadly, many small businesses that have success cling to a model of, “If it ain’t broke, don’t’ fix it!” even as they watch their industry move through change, driven by a maturation cycle.

I recently spoke with a small manufacturer that was selling direct to large national retailers in an industry that had been going through consolidation for the past 10-15 years.  Last year, they lost their large retail customers who were going through the process of vendor consolidation in order to reduce what is called “soft costs” in the inventory cycle.   Soft costs savings are real and significant, especially for large companies selling a significant number of SKUs.  These savings drive industries working with commodities to go through consolidation, and it is a typical part of an industry’s maturation cycles.

Understanding this maturation cycle and where the industry is at when you enter can help you anticipate the future, and determine the best way to steer your business as you see signs of change within your industry.  Planning for what is extremely likely to come positions you to treat these changes as an opportunity, instead finding yourself in the reactive position of trying to find new sources of distribution when all the eggs in your basket have matured, and flown from the nest.