Six Key Elements for a Testimonial Letter
by Paul Johnson
All testimonial letters are not created equal. The ones full of gushy fluff are a waste of good letterhead. However, a good testimonial letter can offset any risk in the value proposition, increase customer loyalty, and get you more referrals. A good letter provides the reader with a shortcut to the good, sound, safe buying decision that they really want to make. Make sure six key elements are in the letters you harvest from your own customers, and watch your selling success take off.
First, the testimonial letter should thank YOU. Not your company, not your product, not the people at your help desk, but you. This is a letter that is written to thank you for your contribution to your client and their company. Saying "Thank you" is a pretty rare occurrence these days, and putting a thank-you in writing really illustrates the strength of a relationship. While there might be two companies involved in a transaction, remember that companies never buy from companies; it's people that buy from people. The relationship that matters in your letter is between two people.
Second, the letter should rave about your USP, or unique selling proposition. Hopefully your company has taken pains to differentiate your product or service offering from your competition and has pointed that out in your marketing message. This is an opportunity for your customer to validate this key value proposition for you. When enough people (and enough letters) say good things about your key value proposition, it makes it more believable and understandable to your prospective customers. When your USP is mentioned in letters written over a period of time, it shows readers of the letters that there is consistency and longevity behind your company and its promises. People like to buy consistency and stability.
Third, the letter should point out the advantages of three key benefits. When interviewing your customer, ask them "tell me three things that you liked about working with our company." From there, your customer will explain what they liked best about their experience. You may have to probe to get them to expand on why that was an advantage and exactly how it helped them. For instance, if they say that your support people were very helpful, you may want to ask, "Where did that prove to be especially valuable?" Then, the customer will expound on the value delivered. That's the kind of meat you want in your letter.
The fourth key element is quantification of benefits. If things are better for your customer because they did business with you, you want to understand, "How much?" You're looking for metrics like an improvement of X percent, or a savings of Y dollars. Often they'll need help coming up with something measurable, especially if your contact is at the user or manager level. Sometimes they will be reticent to attribute an improvement solely to your offering. They may have made five changes at once that resulted in a 30 percent improvement in sales, and you were one of the five changes. In this case, your best hope is to get them to say something like, "Your offering played a big part in our ability to improve our year-over-year revenue by 30 percent." That sounds pretty good to me. Go for as many numbers as you can, but try very hard to get at least one quantified result.
The fifth element notes a positive affect on your customer's customers. Sure, you may have improved life for your customer, but did it make life better for their customers? Ultimately, your customer's job is to serve their customers, and if you can help them do that, you're doing something really positive. You truly have a powerful offering if it reaches all the way through your customer to serve your customer's customer. That fact won't be lost on people who read your testimonial letter.
Finally, your letter should pledge undying loyalty and future business. You want them to say that you are the best, your company is the best, and they wouldn't think about going anywhere else. There's no reason to shop any of your competitors. They've done all the homework, all the research, lived with you, and wouldn't dream of considering anyone else. As a result of that, they're planning on giving you future business, and are invested in continuing your business relationship into the indefinite future. All this is pretty good stuff to get into the very last paragraph before the closing. Pledges of loyalty and future business will leave the people who read the letter with a powerful, indelible impression. They'll be eager to become your next customer.
Get at least four of these six elements, and you've got a good testimonial letter, one that will make your selling job a whole lot easier. Get all six, and you've got a great letter that's got "success" written all over it!"
©; 2001 Paul A. Johnson Paul Johnson is the Principal of Panache and Systems, a sales and marketing consulting firm that offers Shortcuts to Yes™ to help companies like ADP, Air2Web, and Nortel Networks accelerate their growth. Paul is an expert at using proof sources during the selling experience, and has been developing and using the techniques found in his seminars and workshops since 1984. Contact Paul at 770-271-7719 and firstname.lastname@example.org.