I love testimonials. And not just because they make me look good.

Testimonials are one of the most effective marketing tools available to CPAs. Each one is like a golden ticket to ride the Practice Growth Express.

Testimonials give your practice an edge over the firms that don't have them. They say to your prospects: "Look - other people use our services, and they're happy about it, too!" Testimonials give potential clients the confidence to take the plunge and engage your services. Even in the face of the most skeptical prospects, testimonials break down barriers of distrust.

I know testimonials work - but not just from the service-provider side of things. They also work on me. After all, I'm a consumer. I read testimonials all the time, particularly online, and they concretely influence my purchasing behavior. And I know I'm not alone.

When I'm booking a family vacation, for example, I take the time to read about experiences other travelers had at whatever resort or hotel I'm considering. What they say weighs on my decision. Or when I'm browsing Amazon for new reading material, I tend to be drawn to the books with more positive reader reviews.

The more testimonials you have, the greater the chance of swaying a prospect who may be on the fence about trusting your expertise.

So why don't more CPAs collect and display testimonials in their marketing materials? Maybe we don't like fishing for compliments. Maybe we feel uneasy asking a paying client to do the extra work of writing something up.

Typically, it doesn't hurt to ask. And even though some clients will never get around to it, some will. Keep asking, and soon you'll start gathering testimonials. And those testimonials are like nuggets of gold in your hands. Use them.

How?

• In print ads;

• In sales letters;

• In brochures;

• On business cards;

• In your weekly e-zine;

• In your newsletters;

• On your LinkedIn profile;

• On your Facebook page;

• On your Web site; and,

• In a testimonial book in your reception area.

 

HEATING THE OATMEAL

Keep in mind, though, that just any testimonial won't do. Some testimonials are more powerful than others. And which would you rather have -- a collection of potent testimonials that brings you business, or a few weak testimonials that sit like blots of cold oatmeal on your Web site?

There's a simple step you can take to ensure that the testimonials you collect are effective ones. When you ask a client for a testimonial, provide them with tips on how to write one. For a lot of people, the task of writing something -- even if it's merely a paragraph -- is utterly intimidating. The mind races, or blanks out completely. What should I say? What if I sound stupid? I don't even know how to begin!

Make it easier for your client to write a testimonial, and it stands to reason that you're more likely to get one. Additionally, by providing smart writing guidance, you're more likely to get back a testimonial that truly works.

I have a single-page "help sheet" that I give a client when I request a testimonial. It expresses my thanks in advance, and offers the following writing tips:

• Begin with a statement about how things were before you engaged my firm's services.

• Discuss how things changed for the better as a result of engaging my firm's services.

• Include up to three significant improvements your business has enjoyed thanks to my firm's services.

• Mention benefits and results.

• Be as specific as possible about how my firm has made a difference.

I also get the writer's name, company name and location. But most important, I get the individual's explicit permission to use their comments in any future marketing materials. It's that simple.

To begin harnessing the power of the testimonial, choose five satisfied clients. Reach out to them via e-mail. Ask politely for a testimonial. Provide the tips specified above. You might say something like, "I appreciate how busy you are. That's why I'm providing the following writing tips, to make the task faster and easier."

Take a chance on testimonials, and more prospects will take a chance on you.

 

Salim Omar is president of CPA marketing Genius and CEO of The Omar Group CPAs. Reach him at salim@omargroupcpa.com.

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