The Critical Importance Of Testimonials In B To B Branding

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

Paradoxically, in the B To B market, client testimonials were hardly ever used at all.  

Of course, at that time most of this type of B to B 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 bright, lively and well, CREATIVE!  But more importantly, they were indicative of what we called the “Three Bags Full” mentality. The agency would basically give the clients whatever they wanted, often without asking themselves whether the client was actually asking for the right things.

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

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

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

I’m not sure why this is the case. Because I have always believed that one of the best ways to create an engaging customer experience is to show people what other customers have to say. This makes a lot of logical sense, don’t you think?

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.  For the simple fact, they were seen as favouring one supplier over another.

My response (spoken in a non-snarky tone) is generally, “So what? All that does is force the competition to pull up their socks a bit.” Some of these clients took that message to heart and benefited from it. Others?  Well, you can’t win ’em all, y’know.

You Snooze You Lose

B to B businesses who don’t see the advantages of aggressively marketing their customer’s goodwill 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 always looked for opportunities to leverage positive customer experience in my client’s marketing.  And I haven’t changed my thinking one bit since. 

Because client testimonials is not just a powerful communication tool, it is also excellent for mitigating the scepticism that most people possess today.  Let’s be honest.  Most marketing messages are built around the principle of the company talking about itself to itself.  So of course, the advertiser or marketer is going to say good things about themselves.  And client testimonials cut through all that clutter and get to the heart of what the customer wants to know.

That is why 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 any other way.

The Keys To Getting Good Client 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. When you feel their interviews would not make good sound bytes, find another way.  If they do not wish to be recorded, find an alternative. Give them the option of writing the testimonial themselves using the question guide you provide for them.

3. If possible, interview them in an environment where they feel comfortable. And keep your questions very simple and straightforward.

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

5. Do not take too many liberties in editing what they have to say. They might end up offended by this and ultimately 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. S/he can help put your questionnaire together, organize, conduct and edit the interviews for you.

Client 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 both B to B prospects and consumers are bombarded with marketing messages every day, the level of scepticism increases. Testimonials have always proven to be the closest thing to an antidote to that scepticism.

Interested in learning more?  Give us a call.  We’d be pleased to help you get what you want.