The how and why of testimonials


It doesn’t matter what kind of not for profit organisation or social enterprise you are involved in, your marketing will be enhanced with testimonials. Properly written and targeted, testimonials can provide information and insight to your services and approach, as well as inject positive comments onto your website or marketing collateral.

Sometimes you may receive unsolicited testimonials such as a thank you letter from a client or positive comments on social media. They can provide a great boost for your staff, but can often be hard to utilise effectively in marketing. If you are keen to use testimonials in your marketing, it’s always best to ask for them.

The first thing to realise is asking for a testimonial is a different process than asking for feedback… because their basic purpose is completely different. Asking for feedback stems from a genuine desire to get better at what you do. By finding out what worked and what didn’t, you identify and quantify possible improvements.

On the other hand, testimonials are used for marketing – pure and simple.

Gathering feedback should come first and, if properly done, will identify contenders to ask for a testimonial.

So how do you ask for a testimonial?

My recommendation is that you first consider what to call them. Not everyone automatically knows what a testimonial is. It can sound quite formal and legal. You may like to use ‘endorsement’ or ‘recommendation’ or even ‘supporting comment’.

Then be honest – tell them it is for use in marketing. And be specific about how you are likely to use it (website, brochures, annual report, social media etc). You will need to have a conversation about using their name or not. Use of names and photos may well vary depending on the sensitivity of your service, but it is absolutely their choice. It is always best to get written approval to use testimonials… name or no name.

So once someone has agreed to provide one, the most effective method is to provide specific questions. Firstly it makes it easier to do, so will increase your chances of actually receiving something. And secondly it is more likely to provide comments you can use.

It’s all about getting the right kind of information that reflects your messaging and benefits your marketing.

Generally I would say get testimonials in writing as it provides the most flexibility in how you use them.  But as that won’t work for everyone you may like to consider video and audio.

I’m not going to give you a list of exact questions to use, as they will vary widely depending on your service and your clients. You may even have different questions for different client groups. However I will provide a five-step process to use to develop your own questions. Be careful to not overwhelm anyone with too many questions.

STEP 1 – All about them

Start with gathering information about the person giving the testimonial. This provides context and authenticity to their comments. Depending on your needs that can include their situation, their location, their age etc. If you are going to use several quotes in one publication, try and standardise this information.

STEP 2 – Then

To find out why they contacted you (or were referred to you) in the first place, ask some questions about what was the issue, challenge, problem they were facing BEFORE they came to you. Did they have any expectations or goals. And importantly – how did they feel before you.

STEP 4 – Now

To give you the ‘before and after’ information ask them how they feel now. What has improved and what outcomes have they experienced.

STEP 3 – The best

To get some comments about your services and approach, I recommend you ask what are the best 3 things about your organisation and why. Using such an open-ended question may provide some surprising answers. If that is not going to work for you, try some specific questions on your services, process or attitude.

STEP 5 – The unexpected

It will depend on the service you offer, but asking clients if they experienced any unexpected benefits can highlight your approach and values. A good example of this is empowerment. While not the actual service you offer, many clients may feel empowered by what you do and how you do it.

You don’t need to use each and every word provided in testimonials. In fact it is rare to use them in their entirety. Pull out the gems. The comments that fit with your messaging. The comments that illustrate your purpose… or your values… or your approach.

Essentially you are looking for comments that shine a light on what you do and why you do it – in your clients’ voice.


Infographics work

Sometimes I have a bit of a battle with clients to get them to include infographics in their Annual Reports. I hear a lot of scepticism about how they work and whether they are just the “latest trend”.

I recently read a great article that gives a lot of reasons why infographics work  – 13 reasons in fact. It is worth a read from a factual perspective, but the infographics on the article are (not surprisingly) excellent, and totally prove the point.

As well as Annual Reports, infographics work in tenders, expression of interest submissions and a whole lot of other documents. The link to the article is here.


Authentic storytelling

I’ve just read a very interesting article by Naomi Simpson from RedBalloon, that is aimed at those concerned about how Artificial Intelligence will affect marketing and marketing roles.

The standout comment for me is from Or Shani, founder and CEO of an AI marketing platform called Albert. “In the past five to 10 years digital marketing has become too much about pushing buttons. That is not marketing. We’ve lost what it means to be a marketer – the brand, the creative, the strategy, the storytelling. Almost counter-intuitively, AI can help us rediscover the true human element of marketing,”

These comments really resonated with me. Everyday I speak to people obsessed with metrics, analytics and statistics. Of course we have to be able to track what marketing activities and strategies are working and why, and metrics help us do that.  But for me, the heart of marketing is communicating your story clearly and authentically.  Being able to understand another person’s story allows us to truely connect.

And in this world where fake news seems rife, authentic storytelling seems even more important.




Facebook Strategy

I just read a great blog by the fabulous Ming Johanson from OTOTGo about 5 things you can do to improve your Facebook strategy. I am 5-facebook-strategy-tipsconstantly encouraging my clients to think about their social media strategies and this really nails some key factors.

In particular I related to the second point to talk with people and not at them. Every single stakeholder communication you make should aim to add value to THEIR day, not just yours. After all the best communications in life are two-way. You can read the blog here.



Death by Powerpoint


Like many people I have sat through a lot of presentations in my professional and personal life.  Unlike many people I have made hundreds (if not thousands) of them and so I have some strong opinions on what makes a good presentation and what can ruin one.

Powerpoint can fall into both of those categories.  Used wisely it can focus an audience’s attention and provide some key points for them to carry away.  Used badly it can send an audience into a catatonic stupor. Hence the often used phrase “Death by Powerpoint”.

Here are my top 10 tips to avoid death by powerpoint.

  1. Plan your talk first – Don’t start with the powerpoint and work backwards. Work out what you want to say, then you can pull out the main points to form the basis of your slides.
  2. Use your notes section – Don’t include your entire presentation on the slides. You may find it easier to write your notes section for each slide first and then pick the points you want to go on the slides.
  3. Know your audience – Use appropriate language and images to suit the background, culture, age, gender, ability and literacy level. Yes, I know this is blindingly obvious, but SO MANY people don’t seem to think about this.
  4. Keep it clean – Use fonts that are easy to read on screen and not too decorative. San serif fonts such as Arial or Calibri are recommended. Make sure you use dark text on light background and pick a colour scheme and stick to it. Use bolding for emphasis as it’s proven to be easier to read on a screen than underlined text, capitals or coloured text.
  5. Don’t include paragraphs – If you have a long quote you feel is important to share, read it out on the day, put it in your notes section and provide the notes. Don’t include it on a slide in 8 point just to fit it in. If nobody can read the quote, it kind of defeats the whole purpose of including it.
  6. Less is more – Aim for a maximum of 10 slides, 5 points per slide, 5 words per point.
  7. Keep animations to a minimum – They are so much more effective when used sparingly to make a point, not just to entertain. Used excessively they can be extremely distracting.
  8. Check your spelling and punctuation. Very carefully. Several times. Enough said.
  9. Timing is everything – As soon as a slide changes, or you add more text to a slide the audience will read it… so make sure it is relevant to what you are saying at that time.
  10. Practice makes perfect – The more you practice, the less you need to read the notes. The less you read the notes, the more you can engage with the audience. The more you engage with the audience the more likely they are to remember what you are talking about. And isn’t that the whole point?

AIM WA Scholarships

AIM WA offers annual scholarships to not-for-profit organisations and aspiring professionals in the community, who wish to embark on professional development. The scholarships provide training up to the value of $4,000 that can be used to fund participation in any of the Open Programs offered by the Institute in seven different fields.

Applications are now open for the 2017 AIM WA scholarships. For more information, head to the AIM WA website. Applications close 5pm Friday, 9 December 2016.


People are your best asset

“People are your best asset” was the opening sentence in an article I recently read in a ProBono Australia Newsletter. As a statement it is so true, however so rarely acknowledged in real and lasting actions within organisations. Mike Davis, the author, is the founder of Purposeful, a social impact advisory dedicated to empowering businesses to grow their social impact and performance. It’s worth a read – here is the link.


The Power of Three

The Power of Three

Given the conversations I seem to be having lately, it appears every Not for Profit organisation, business and individual in my little corner of the planet believes they need a whole new website, OR need to upgrade their current website, OR need to update the content on their website.

In particular those Not for Profits that now face new business, marketing and funding models are paying attention to their website and wanting to make it more effective. Many have put off dealing with improving their website because they’ve assumed it’s an expensive and/or time consuming business, plus they don’t know enough about the process to feel confident in seeking the right advice.

Websites are all about the power of three. There are three aspects to having a really good website and that means three skill sets (and often three people) to achieve the best results. Your website needs to:

  1. authentically tell your story … that’s the content aspect;
  2. have a look and feel that engages people and matches your brand … that’s the design of the site; and
  3. work … that’s the functionality aspect.

It is rare to find one person who can supply all those skills – although they are out there. Many organisations choose to write the content in-house and buy in someone to “set up the website”. And therein lies the most common mistake…. making the assumption that someone with excellent graphic design skills can also supply the technical knowledge needed to set up the website functionality OR vice versa. They are actually different skill-sets. Yes – some people have both skill-sets, but it is not as common as you might think. Some creative agencies offer a comprehensive service and have people who can provide all those skill-sets. That is one of the advantages of choosing to use an agency. Some however, do not. My advice is to make sure you ask who will be doing what.

Before you start talking to experts however, you need to work out what you want your website to say, look like and do. Look around for websites that appeal to you, or that offer some functionality you want. Think about your requirements for colours, photos, layout, forms, security, accessibility, engagement and interactivity. Give some thought to what search terms potential clients are likely to use. The more information you can provide when talking to experts in any of those three aspects, the more likely you are to get the outcome you want.

And to keep with the power of three theme, for those who decide to write the content in-house, here are my top three tips:

  1. Language – Remember who you are writing for and use language appropriate to them. That means do NOT use internal organisational language. Yes, your section or division names, or even those program names with clever acronyms, make life easier within the organisation. However, if your potential clients or stakeholders don’t relate to them – you’ve lost them. This is particularly important with headings, sub-headings and menu items. People skim over a web page, so those headings are vital in grabbing their attention so they will read further. Oh, and they help with the Google searches too.
  2. Less is more – Websites should not be too wordy. I recommend you write what you want to say, then look at each sentence and work out how you can shorten it and still say the same thing. For every 10 words you have used, try to use 5 or 6. You kind of need to push the grammar boundaries here. Go on, I dare you…’s strangely exhilarating.
  3. Repeat yourself – People explore websites in different ways. Some go onto every page, some cherry-pick from lots of pages and others like to find one page that explains everything they want. That means your main messages and vital information need to be repeated across the site. Examples here are key dates, links to an important form, or telephone numbers. Use that information often and in different ways to maximise exposure.


Social Media Engagement

There was a very interesting article that popped up in my inbox recently regarding a Facebook scam. The scammers had copied the Facebook page of a legitimate business and were offering promotions in return for personal details.

I spent some time working for WAScamNet in Consumer Protection here in Western Australia (who by the way, do a wonderful job of helping people to avoid scams or deal with being scammed), so nothing in the article about the scam itself was particularly remarkable to me. However one statement struck a chord. It was a quote from a social media educator who made the comment “fake business pages are a warning to business owners to not run their social media accounts half-heartedly. If you’re not online communicating with customers each day, a space opens up for scammers to do it for you“.

Many not for profit organisations (and businesses for that matter) have social media accounts, all started with the best of intentions, but many of which are sadly underutilised. Social media is all about engagement – it’s a way to build a relationship with clients and other stakeholders. And just like every other relationship it takes work. Different social media platforms require different levels of activity to keep people interested and therefore to maximise the benefit to your organisation as well as your clients. Choosing the right platform needs to take into account your organisational capacity to regularly post information, respond to others and monitor the account for any misuse.

This article in fact highlighted another reason to utilise your social media accounts regularly and effectively.  “If you’ve got a lot of people who ‘Like’ a Facebook page, but pretty low regular engagement, that inactivity really opens up the question of ‘Cost of Inaction’. You have to ask why a scammer is doing a better job of [engaging with] customers than you are. Making a page and not then doing anything with it is part of the problem.

If you have a social media account that is languishing, my advice is to look at ways to quickly ramp up your usage or think about closing it down. Half-hearted social media is not going to engage anyone.


Keeping your privacy intact

There was a great article recently in the Guardian Australia about privacy online and in particular the HUGE corporation that Mark Zuckerberg controls….Facebook, Whats App, Messenger and Instagram… which adds up to a whopping figure of 3.5 billion accounts.

We all hand over our data without really thinking about the consequences. I worked in WA ScamNet for a while and had quite the education on what happens when our social media profiles are hacked. Not only are we vulnerable to scammers ourselves, they often use bits and pieces of our ID to scam others. And you need to believe me when I say scammers are EXTREMELY good at what they do.

But scammers aside, we need to also protect our data from being used in a way that we are not comfortable with. What makes this article so good is that it has a list of 15 very practical security measure tips to keep you safer online.

You can read the full article here.