November 26, 2015

8 Tips for Composing Testimonials that Sell


You've just had a great experience working with another small business owner. You know how important testimonials are, but writing them is not a comfortable experience for you. So, you procrastinate. Here are some tips to get that off your TO DO list.

#1. Jot down 3-4 descriptive words or phrases that immediately come to mind about the business, the product or service, the consultant, the buying process, and such. When you start writing and are stuck for a word, refer to this list. (Examples: reliable, honest, practical, creative, solid)

#2. Get clear on the benefit. Before you start to write, consider your responses to these questions:
  • What was your problem?
  • What was the solution and how was it unique?
  • What particularly stood out about the buying experience?
#3. Start with feelings. You are really writing the testimonial for potential customers of the business. Think about how you felt and tell them how they will feel. Use comparisons, such as "It made me feel like I was walking on air."

#4. Think about your buying decision. What information caused you to buy? If you include that information in your testimonial, it might flip the switch for others.

#5. Be specific. Don't try to mention everything about your buying experience. Avoid broad generalizations by describing one part of the experience that was outstanding.

#6. Get personal. Write it from you, a person, not from your business.

#7. Make it evergreen. While your experience is recent, will the wording still make sense to someone reading it a year from now?

#8. Up your game by including a punchy phrase that can stand alone. These are gold because they can be used as standalone marketing messages.

Testimonials can be valuable marketing tools. Help another small business owner now by writing one. And think about how good you'll make them feel.

originally published in Work Better, Not Harder, November 26, 2015
photo by electrofervor / Flickr

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November 23, 2015

Leave Out the Parts People Skip

Has anyone really read every word of Gone with the Wind? Be honest now. I've read it twice and I remember skipping whole pages of scene-setting descriptive text.

When I read this quote by Elmore Leonard, whose books I read, it resonated with me.

"I try to leave out the parts people skip."
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This is a great principle for marketing, too. Recall those bags of brochures and business cards you've thrown out after conferences.

What's the practical application? Have a look at your website with a fresh eye from the perspective of your ideal client. Better yet, have one of your ideal clients take a look. Ask them to 'browse' and then find out what they skimmed over, or skipped completely. You can also do this for your brochures and bios, your articles and newsletters. You could even get carried away and do an audit of all your marketing materials.

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November 17, 2015

Learning to Pitch Business Ideas

pitching competition at NSCC

It started with The Dragon's Den, or at least it did for me. Now students are learning it in school. How awesome is that?

That's me in the middle at the judges' table on stage in the photo above. I was delighted to be asked to participate in this Pitch 101 competition by NSCC Entrepreneurship on November 5, 2015.

Being able to pitch a business idea has many benefits for young people, among them:
  • These are sales skills. Young people will need to be able to sell themselves when job hunting, sell their ideas in the business world, and perhaps even sell products and services.
  • Doing a timed pitch in front of an audience requires confidence. It might mean failure the first time, but practice leads to self-confidence.
  • It's like networking on steroids. Pitchers have the chance to make connections with organizers, teachers, judges, students and other pitchers.
  • A chance to test ideas before making an investment of time and money. Judges offer advice about the business idea in addition to advice to improve the pitch.
As a judge, I also required a bit of confidence. I, too, got to network with new contacts and visit with old friends. And having a little to do with who took the prize money and advanced in the competition... well, who wouldn't like that? I'm really glad it wasn't me that was pitching, though!


November 9, 2015

How to Write the Introduction to Your First Newsletter

You want to start strong and the way to do that is to make a personal connection with your readers. While there are many ways to make that connection in each issue, your first issue is where you set up expectations about the value you'll provide. It's often the point at which subscribers choose to stay or go.

Here are some things you might want to include:
  1. Write your introduction to your ideal client.
  2. Acknowledge that this is your first issue and that you appreciate your readers' attention.
  3. Tell readers what they'll be getting and how often. Outline the benefits of staying subscribed.
  4. If you have added your customers and business contacts to your subscriber list without their express permission, acknowledge that you have done so and why you have. (For example, you might say that they have bought something from your store, or you met at a networking event.)
  5. Tell readers that it's easy to unsubscribe via the footer in this and every email.
  6. Ask for feedback and suggestions.
Here are a few examples of first issues:

November 2, 2015

Call to Action: Why Would I Subscribe?


Aside from having a catchy subscription process on your website, you can use calls to action on your social media platforms to attract new readers. While doing a little research recently on Twitter, here are some examples I found - bad examples first.

I have no idea why I would want this newsletter - I'm not even remotely curious to know what those 'important updates' are.

Aside from having no interest in 'the latest' from a stranger, these poor folks don't even have a sign up form. I wonder how many new subscribers they get.

I could show you hundreds of examples like this - or you could go look yourself. Doing this is a total waste of your time.

Now for the good examples:

Authors generally do a pretty good job of creating interest with their calls to action.

This one is short and sweet. You know it's a newsletter and you know what it's about.

This seems like a pretty good reason to sign up. And you can see it got retweeted. Too bad they spelled Christmas wrong.

screen shot at top from shinesty.com