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The "third-person pat on the back": how to use testimonials effectively. (DM Notebook).

It's difficult to imagine a newsletter marketer who would not want to take advantage of testimonials from satisfied customers, the old "third-person pat on the back."

Here are some guidelines on effective use of testimonials.

* Use full identification whenever possible. Name, company and location is much more effective than "PG., New York."

* Specific and detailed is better than general (even if laudatory). "I love your newsletter" is nice but doesn't really say much. Perhaps the best testimonial I ever received was several sentences long detailing how a story in my newsletter about state sales tax regulations had led them to receiving a refund of $2,034 from their state, "enough to pay for our subscription for years to come."

* Celebrity testimonials can be suspect. The reader may think you paid for them (although, naturally, if you are publishing in the computer field, you use anything nice you can get from Bill Gates). In most niche newsletters, the executive vice president of MegaCorp is well known enough to qualify as an "industry celebrity," and testimonials from her would be credible.

* Permission. If you have a comment on paper (white mail), you don't need specific permission to use it as a testimonial, but it's safer to get the permission. Similarly, should someone make such a comment on the phone, simply ask, "Could I have your permission to use that as a testimonial?" and read it back to the speaker.

Usually they agree, the human ego being what it is. The thought of being recognized as an "industry leader" often leads to the person's actually improving and strengthening the testimonial--which is another advantage of writing the testimonial down and sending it to the endorser asking for permission.

* Caution. Be wary of doing this, though, with large organizations. There, you may encounter the tendency for them to shuffle your request off to legal (where it disappears) or even to decide they might be paid for its use.

* Implied testimonials. There is no question that the listing of individuals and/or organizations which are renewed subscribers or past seminar participants can be used in marketing as implied testimonials without any question of permission. It's a simple statement of fact.

* Group testimonials. Some believe that a testimonial from an association can be very effective. It's assumed that their endorsement cannot be bought. The endorsement for Crest toothpaste by the American Dental Association is one of the most famous in marketing history.

* Variety. Have each testimonial speak specifically to different strengths of your product--price, exclusivity, timeliness, money saved, money made--plus a sprinkling of the known personages.

* After you have them in hand. Let's back up a bit. The way to collect testimonials is not at the last minute while you're crafting your DM package. Instead, accumulate them as they arise. Start a file today and add testimonials to it as they come in.

Then, with two or three or a bunch of testimonials, you have several choices for using them effectively in a subscription package. The order form or an editorial premium buckslip are two excellent locations.

A mass of testimonials can present an impressive appearance. Copywriter Rene Gnam suggests using two type fonts--bold for the company names for the skipand-skim reader who just wants to see who these endorsements are from, and italic for the few filberts who actually want to read every word.

* Include in the sales letter? I don't like to include testimonials (or listings of great previously published articles) in body copy because they interrupt the flow of the sales letter. But if the selling copy is about the quarterly statistical reports included with the newsletter and you have strong testimonials about them, it could be box-ruled as a sidebar just at that point in the letter.

Two or three of these also help to alleviate the "foreboding gray mass" of too much copy on the page.

* The one really great testimonial. This could be the headline of the sales letter. One publisher had a testimonial from an industry leader that even I as a layman recognized: "I can't imagine being in the XYZ business without reading every issue of XYZ Insider Report." The publisher used it on the back of the carrier envelope.
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Author:Goss, Fred
Publication:The Newsletter on Newsletters
Date:Jun 15, 2003
Previous Article:Re-think which days to roll out. (E-mail Marketing).
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