Spokane Regional Networking, Social Media, Professional and Business Development
And with these words, the business owner dismisses another advertising salesperson.
The fact is, personal referrals and recommendations are powerful. We find them especially helpful when considering the purchase of a product or service from a new or unfamiliar source.
Successful online retailers from Amazon to WalMart understand the value of customer ratings and recommendations, which they prominently place on their product pages.
Ebay carved out a new retail channel, where strangers could buy from strangers in confidence, based on the ratings and testimonials of other strangers. Yes, it sounds funny, but it works.
And it all boils down to word-of-mouth.
We prefer buying from people and companies we trust. And trust is developed over time, on the basis of familiarity and experience.
But when we're looking at doing business with someone for the first time, we seek confirmation from friends and colleagues who have already done business with them, relying on their experience and familiarity with the situation.
In other words, we rely on word-of-mouth, too.
For those of us in radio advertising, "word of mouth" has a special significance. It is, after all, how we earn our living. The primary tool of our trade—indeed, mankind's primary means of communication— is human speech.
As a young radio AE in Winona, Minnesota decades ago, I was part of a successful sales team, trained by the legendary Jim Williams. One day we sat down in a sales meeting to craft a flip-chart type presentation (using index cards for portability). We started with three major topics: "Why Advertise?" followed by "Why Radio?" and finally, "Why (Our Station)?" Under each of these categories we wrote out succinct propositions to build our case, one thought at a time.
The final three cards in our presentation were:
"Word of Mouth Advertising Works Best." [Hearty agreement from prospect on this point]
"We Have the Biggest Mouth In Town." [Aren't we cute?]
"Put Us to Work for You!" [Cue the trumpets and chorus of angels]
Upon laying down the last card, we'd pull out the proposals and demo tapes we'd prepared for the client and begin the conversation in earnest. It proved to be an effective tool for opening relationships and closing sales.
Now, all of this serves as a rather lengthy introduction to the real topic under consideration: the power of testimonials in advertising and marketing.
Perhaps you've created commercials built around customer testimonials. Hopefully they worked well for you.
Unfortunately even the most well-meaning customer, reading from a script, can be reduced to ridiculous in seconds. Worse yet is the spot that purports to feature a "satisfied customer," played by a staff announcer or an office assistant coaxed into the production studio to voice the role. (Incidentally, fraudulent testimonials, no matter how innocuous or well-intentioned, violate the Federal Trade Commission's Truth-in-Advertising laws. Google it.)
Roy H. Williams likens testimonials to nitroglycerine. Done well, they'll produce explosive results. Done poorly, they'll blow up in your face.
Producing credible, effective testimonial ads is time-consuming and often tedious work. A single commercial can take hours to produce. For example, here's the first commercial in a campaign I produced for an Idaho ophthalmologist, one of the top-rated eye surgeons in America, whose specialties include bladeless LASIK surgery, cataracts, and multifocal lens implants.
Rod is a real person with a real story, and I think you'll agree that he comes across as authentic and believable. But that 60-second commercial was cobbled together from an interview with Rod that lasted over an hour, a separate interview with Dr. Leach that took 20-30 minutes, and a combination of scripted material and impromptu coaching for his nurse, who also serves as narrator of the spot. Finding, editing, and combining all the sound bites used in the spot involved another two to three hours in the studio. As I said, time-consuming and tedious. But necessary.
Now, I might have saved considerable time by simply writing a script for Rod and asking him to read it. How do you think that would have worked out? Can you hear the spot in your mind's ear?
Let me help. Here's the client's earlier attempt to capture another patient's story. Meet Meredith, in her own words, as recorded and mixed by a busy production person at a local radio station prior to my involvement, just as it was sent to me by the client.
Perhaps the producer was in a hurry; perhaps he just didn't care. Fortunately the client realized that even though Meredith's story is true, the spot sounds more like shilling than storytelling.
Based on my work with Rod, the client asked me to interview Meredith and see if we couldn't tell her story more naturally and credibly. Here's how it turned out:
Radio is a wonderful medium for telling your story. Because word-of-mouth really is powerful. Learn how to harness and control it, and word-of-mouth truly will be your best advertising.
P.S. The irrepressibly insightful Phil Bernstein, formerly a radio AE with Clear Channel/Portland, Oregon, now a TV road warrior for Jim Doyle & Associates, recently shared his observationson "the testimonial that writes itself." Spot-on, as usual with Phil, and well worth reading!