Think about it. Amidst all the communication on a web page, when you see an obvious quote - set apart in italics or quotation marks - your eye is drawn to this brief yet telling piece of information about the company or person whose page you're on.
A testimonial makes business personal. It validates the credibility of the product, service and company. It entices the reader in with a personal experience that has a better chance of resonating; the challenge or problem they had solved may be the same one the user is having.
A testimonial also adds flavor to business content. Not all companies or offerings are unique or even particularly interesting for the reader. But stories sell. And people like to know that there are other "real" people using this company's products or services.
So how do you get a good business testimonial?
The last thing you want is for one of your clients to give you some bland recommendation about providing "great customer service" or being a "true professional." So what?
But most of your clients don't know how to craft a compelling testimonial - which is why you need to guide them and give them thought-provoking questions that will elicit a more specific, and therefore, engaging response.
I learned this from Peter Bowerman, author of The Well-Fed Writer, a fantastic resource for anyone who's interested in generating good income in the world of business writing. Bowerman suggests this type of prompt for client testimonials:
* Why do you choose to do business with Company XYZ?
* Any examples of service above and beyond with Company XYZ?
* Why do you choose to do business with Company XYZ over the competition?
* Why would recommend people work with Company XYZ?
If possible, get the client on the phone and personally interview them for a few minutes, using these questions as a starting point. A client will often reveal more in conversation than in short, written responses. In the interest of time, however, it's sometimes hard to nail the client down and it's easier for them to respond to a well-crafted email request. The email request should be preceded by a quick phone call and heads-up that the request is coming.
How to make a business testimonial more effective
Now, in order for the responses to these questions to be sufficiently meaty, ask the client to be as specific and detailed as possible in their responses. Ask them to put some thought into it. If you remind them, they generally will and you'll get at least one or two detailed responses from the 3-4 questions you pose.
You can also splice together a response from one question if it works nicely with another. You have creative liberties to do that and you do not need to ask the client for permission.
To help elicit a good business testimonial, you should also let the client know they don't need to worry about wordsmithing. They can just jot down bullet points and phrases and you - or your content writer - can make it sound pretty.
When you ask for the testimonial, of course let them know that their testimonial may be featured on your website and in other marketing collateral materials. Ideally, you want permission to use a full name followed by their position/title and company they work for. This lends greater credibility to your business testimonial.
If someone feels strongly about just using a first name, last initial or vice versa, then you have to honor their request. In business, however, most people are comfortable with being transparent. As long as they are happy clients, they're generally willing to share that fact with the public.
Need help gathering business testimonials? Sometimes it's more effective to have a third-party collecting that information on your behalf. Get in touch with us if you're too busy to round up your own testimonials or you simply prefer someone else to do it.
No Call to Action (CTA). Take it from me, the content writer whose own website sat stagnating for years. Back in the day we built sites that were just online "brochures" for our businesses. Our websites matched our marketing materials and we really did believe that "if you build it they will come." Nowadays, it's just downright lazy to have a website that's not working for you, and by that I mean lead generation. People signing up on your site for something you're giving away for free whether it's a newsletter or a report or a 15-minute consultation.
We're all guilty of building our pretty websites and taking such pride in putting it all out there only to fail to attract any "real" potential business. So here's a simple fix for you. First, figure out what you're going to give away. (Check out Ian Brodie's "5 Simple Marketing Tweaks That Will Get You More Clients" for some ideas.) Then come up with a clear and insanely concise "call to action" or CTA. No wimpy "Read Mores" or "Learn Mores" or "Click Heres." What you want is juicy, specific instructions. My CTA button reads "Get Your FREE Website Content Analysis." That's the main thing I want you to do, is click that button and sign up for my personalized content assessment.
So what's your main thing? And how do you make that enticing for the user?
No Attention. Give your website some love! If you're not paying attention to your site, nobody else is either. Granted, once you're cranking in thousands of unique visitors every month, maybe you don't have to baby your site quite so much. But there's a reason why people visit websites and stick around. They see something interesting. Isn't that what we all do? We skim the words, something catches our eye, we click a link, we scan some more, and then we're gone. That's what they're doing on your site too.
So give people something to participate in whether it's watching a 2-minute video you just uploaded, or reading a blog post -- something that's current and relevant, not just your tired old services and offerings.
No Intention. Piggy backing on the call to action point, you want to guide the user to the next thing. If you have a lot of good content on your site, make sure you're linking to other pages within your site to keep your audience with you as long as possible. Get a handle on your website analytics to understand what people are looking for when they get to your website, what pages they're coming in on and which pages they're leaving from. It's often not our main page that makes the first impression so don't neglect your other pages. Put your call to action anywhere it seems appropriate and relevant.
Same goes for links within your site to other pages. Once the user is gone, they're gone. If you didn't grab their name and email address by offering them a goodie in return, then your website didn't do you any favors. Again, get clear about what you want your website to do and guide the user to fulfill on that.
For more on making your website more "sticky" and other tools of the content writing trade, follow @killertaglines on Twitter.
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A tagline should do its job efficiently. After that a tagline loses power, gets diluted. When it's brief, there's greater impact, presuming the words are wisely chosen and land like "That's it!" for the listener or reader. While there are no hard and fast rules about tagline length - sometimes a longer tag may work - there is something about a shorter tag that brings crispness and clarity to the message. Keep in mind you don't need a tagline to be a complete sentence so you can sometimes edit out certain words to convey the same meaning.
But the funny shouldn't be too "punny." If it makes people groan because it's so cheesy, you can probably do better. Clever is good. Clever makes people think a little while they're appreciating the humor. Of course if you have a business that's a little more serious, the last thing you want is a goofy tagline. You know like "Break a leg!" for a personal injury lawyer or something. Certain industries in general, such as financial and legal services, should not use humor in the business name, tagline or web content.
A good tagline helps the business name and logo along. Some business names are vague or unclear to the uninitiated so a tagline can act almost like a subhead, giving the business name greater meaning and helping the reader understand more precisely what the company does. Take my own company name "Eclectic Content" for example. You might know what eclectic means and what content means but you might not get it immediately that we provide marketing and business communications services. Our tagline - written long ago by the best intern ever - "Where words speak louder" says a lot more and alludes pretty clearly to the fact that writing is involved. So make your tagline do some heavy lifting for your business name.
Your tagline can also rescue your business from being boring. Maybe your business name is a bit bland or you're in an industry that's ho-hum (I dunno, selling air filters or something). You can liven up your brand with a compelling and unforgettable tagline. In fact you owe it to yourself to not be bored with your own business. Make your tagline make you happy!
A good tagline is catchy. Sometimes people only have to see it or hear it once for it to catch on and they've memorized it. You know it's caught on when you say your business name and people fill in the blanks with your tagline. Try it at a networking meeting that you regularly attend. When you tell people your business name add the tagline so people hear it repeatedly and make the association. They might not need your services but they'll remember you.
For more on taglines and tools of the writing trade, follow @killertaglines on Twitter.
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Let's say you know how to write, and let's say you also know how SEO works. But let's say you're in a completely different business that doesn't require you, personally, to be an SEO content writer. You're getting paid to do something other than write content. Or you're a fledgling business that requires you to hit the pavement and drum up new clients. As my husband always says, "How much is your time worth?" If you charge $100/hour for your services, then think about how many hours you would have to spend writing your own SEO content. Two hours? Three? Four? Or maybe 10 hours a month? Then ask yourself, if I were paying myself $100/hour - and I was consuming those hours doing something myself that could be outsourced to someone else - does it still make sense to do it? For most business owners, time is one of your most valuable resources. If you can hire an SEO content writer and pay for their time instead--do it.
When you hire a good SEO content writer, you're paying for that person's knowledge and experience with SEO keyword placement in page titles and subheads and paragraph content. A good content writer also knows how to massage the content towards the keywords without making your content sound awkward or spammy. To find a good content writer, look for someone who has experience with blog writing, online article writing, social media marketing or web content writing. Take a look at some of their online writing samples to get an idea of their work and ask them to explain how they've specifically helped businesses like yours develop search-engine friendly pages.
As a business owner, you want your web content, blog, social media, and online articles to be working for you all the time. You want your online world to match up with your offline efforts, so even when you go to bed at night, your web content is still out there working for you. And let's face it, you've got enough to manage without being consumed by all these "things to do" online. Leverage your time and your focus by hiring a good SEO content writer to manage your online marketing and reputation. Finding a good writer can free you up and give you peace of mind that your business is being communicated professionally with an eye on best user experience and search engine ranking potential.
For more on SEO content writing and tools of the writing trade, follow @killertaglines on Twitter.
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Kennerly Clay loves language in any form. She's been a writer through years of technological change and appreciates the ways that intention and meaning can now be expressed through so many forms of media, more efficiently than ever.