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Testimonials can be a powerful influence

We don’t get them because we probably don’t ask for them. We might not always get what we ask for, of course. But if we never ask, we can bet we won’t get what we’re seeking.

That observation certainly applies to closing a sale. But in this case I’m referring to acquiring testimonials that, when used well, can be a big influence on a prospective buyer.

Unlike an ad or a website in which we boast about how great this product is or that service will be, testimonials are deemed as far more believable and trustworthy. For example, countless studies show an article in a newspaper extolling the benefits of a product will be twice as believable to readers as an ad that says exactly the same thing running in the same publication. In general, people are skeptical about ads, but readily buy into articles and even more so into testimonials.

Testimonials are endorsements of our products, services or even the manner in which we treat people. They are characterizations of our dealership by those who have had positive experiences and are willing to tell others. Bottom line: they are customers, in effect, “selling” for us.

So how do we get them? We must watch for opportunities and then we ask. For example, whenever a customer is complimenting the dealership on a problem solved or something done well, our team should know to ask: “Would it be OK with you if we print your comment on our website or in our newsletter? We really value your input.”

It might not only be when we solve a customer’s problem. After all, boating is an emotional thing. How often have you heard a customer telling you what a great day they’ve had with their boat or sharing what the boat means to their family lifestyle? How about a customer indicating how happy he is with his new boat? Or what about a customer describing their latest cruise, fishing success or adventure? “May we tell others, through our newsletter or website, what you’ve been enjoying?” is the obvious follow-up question.

Letters are gold. When a customer takes time to send a letter of thanks or appreciation, that letter should be put in a plastic sleeve and placed in a notebook that’s strategically placed where customers and prospects can easily access it. Tip: More people will look at the book if it’s left open on a table or counter.

Finally, if letters are gold, videos are platinum. They’re the new testimonial “letter.” It doesn’t take a pro to shoot a minute or so of a customer or customers talking about their boating enjoyment. It doesn’t even take a fancy camera. You can shoot good video these days with your iPad or iPhone. Videos of happy customers posted on your website are today’s powerful marketing technique. That’s why, for example, the industry’s Discover Boating national campaign uses such an excellent array of videos. They are professionally shot, of course, but customers sitting on their boat casually talking about their boating or dealership experiences doesn’t take a pro to shoot.

And, speaking of Discover Boating, it’s important to note there are a number of excellent general videos that dealers can post on their websites free at www.growboating.org. If you never have before, it’s worth your time to look them over and use the ones that can improve your website.

Testimonials are valuable third-party endorsements of a dealership and its products. Is it wrong to ask for a testimonial? No. It’s just part of a good marketing plan. Moreover, people who are pleased by their relationship with a dealer will likely be happy to tell others.

But we gotta ask.

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