There’s a reason Ron Tuchin devotes an entire page of his firm’s Web site to client testimonials. Among the various marketing tools advisors use to promote their practices and their expertise, he says, testimonials — whether they come from individual clients, groups, the media or professional peers — are among the most powerful and resonant.
“Specifically in the financial arena more than anyplace else, it’s difficult to engage people because there is so much marketing that goes on,” Tuchin says. His company, The Tuchin Group in Pittsburgh, Pa., specializes in strategic marketing to help business professionals, including insurance and financial advisors, find new clients and increase sales. “They get numb to all the messages. A good testimonial can disrupt that complacency and make people say, ‘Wow, these guys must be good.’”
Testimonials are especially effective, according to New York City-based marketing consultant Ned Steele, because they allow an advisor to avoid horn-tooting self-promotion, which can detract from credibility. “It’s much more impactful and credible when somebody who has used your services says you’re great rather than you saying you’re great,” contends Steele, whose firm, Media Impact, devises marketing strategies for professional practices and small businesses. “Third-party validation is the best advertising you can get.”
It’s the kind of advertising that resonates particularly with seniors, he adds. “This is a group that wants reassurance and wants to be spoken to. Seniors in general are very concerned about being marginalized in the marketplace. So it’s powerful for them to see testimonials from people in the same age group who share their concerns.”
How words work for you
The challenge for advisors is how to tap that power. Testimonials are more a finesse marketing tool than a blunt-force instrument. To garner ones that are positive, attention-grabbing, on message and directed at the right audience is as much an art as a science. You have to know how and when to ask for them, and from whom, plus how and where to present them for maximum impact. Let’s look at how advisors who regularly use testimonials approach the process.
WHOM to target: Testimonials are supposed to build an advisor’s credibility. They are most likely to resonate if the audience identifies with, or has an affinity for, the source of the testimonial. “You have to know who the target audience is,” explains Tuchin. “If it’s wealthy seniors, you want testimonials from other wealthy seniors.”
As both a retirement planner and a marketing consultant to other advisors, Grant W. Hicks, CIM, FCSI, principal at Hicks Financial in Parksville, British Columbia, and author of the book “Guerilla Marketing for Financial Advisors” puts a premium on testimonials that come from highly visible sources in the community or whose professional status confers respect. If, for example, the former mayor of your town is a satisfied customer, get a testimonial from that person, Hicks suggests. Testimonials from clients who are retired or practicing accountants, attorneys and the like are powerful because they introduce an extra degree of perceived prestige and expertise.
“Endorsements from those types of people have helped me pick up some really big clients,” Hicks says.
Testimonials from widely known and respected associations and affinity groups also carry weight, Tuchin adds. “If you’re trying to reach business owners, a testimonial from a group like the local chamber of commerce certainly helps.”
Choose testimonial sources wisely, Steele says. Whether the source is a group or an individual, “you have to be mindful that the power [of the testimonial] comes from the credibility of the source.”
HOW to coax a quality testimonial: It’s a happy day for an advisor when a client testimonial rolls in, ready-made and unsolicited, via a letter or e-mail. But more often than not, testimonials come only after coaxing by the advisor. “Be proactive,” urges Steele. “Don’t be shy about asking your satisfied clients to say something nice about you.”
While an ill-timed, poorly worded testimonial request may turn a client off, most clients are happy to comply with a well-couched, tactfully worded request, Hicks says. “I don’t even use the word ‘testimonial.’ Instead I’ll ask people, ‘Would you be kind enough to endorse our services or to say a few words about what it’s like to work with us?’”