Marketing for startups: use testimonials for maximum impact

29th July, 2015

Starting a business is an exciting time. There are so many things to think about to turn ideas into actions.

Entrepreneurs at the beginning of their business journey may not have much in the way of industry credibility, or direct experience running a company, or a hint of ‘dirt under the fingernails’ to prove they know what they’re doing.

How can a startup express the founder’s credentials so that investors, buyers, suppliers, customers, resellers — or anyone else for that matter — will look at them and think, “ah yes, they look like they have what it takes to be a success”?

Identifying and promoting the founder’s personal credentials through the astute use of testimonials is a tactic that can help the business to gain a quick win in the credibility stakes.

Here are some ideas about how to go about doing this.

Use LinkedIn recommendations

Publish the most relevant LinkedIn recommendations in all of your online and offline marketing materials. These channels should include the company website, investor presentations, and proposal documents. If the company’s key people don’t have many (or any!) recommendations, reach out to their respective LinkedIn networks and ask for them. In return, offer to write recommendations for those people too.

Produce a short video

The power of online video is growing as platforms like YouTube, Vimeo, Vine and Periscope become ubiquitous. Every startup has a story to tell about its origins and the personal experiences of the founders that have lead them to this point in their career.

There is no better way to capture and communicate this story than a well-crafted video of those people who have worked with the founders, persuasively describing their abilities and achievements. Professionally cutting this together into a short video (maximum five minutes) is an inspiring way to deliver a high impact, storytelling-based approach to showcasing a startup’s credentials.

The cost to produce a video can vary wildly depending on a range of factors; generally a starting cost of a few thousand dollars is enough to produce a quality video.

Publish up-to-date testimonials on your product or service

A startup may have developed a prototype product and is testing it with a prospective customer or two. Or it may have launched a complete product or service and has some existing — and happy — customers.

In either of these circumstances, the customer or prospect may be willing to extoll the virtues of the product or service on behalf of the startup. This kind of testimonial is gold because it is directly related to the startup’s performance to date. How and where these are published depends on factors such as the physical characteristics of the product or service, the time available, and evolutionary pace of the product or service. An important point to note in this situation is to look at refreshing the customer testimonial at regular intervals, depending on the growth and lifecycle of the product or service.

The worst scenario is have out-of-date testimonials still publicly accessible on a company website or a social media channel; that can inflict a degree of reputational damage to a startup striving to appear ‘ahead of the curve’. For more ideas on testimonials, KissMetrics have posted 7 creative ways to get your own customer testimonials on their blog.

Encourage investors to be advocates

A startup can take advantage of energetic investors by getting them to describe the range of skills and experiences that attracted them to the startup in the first place. For these people who have committed their own money to help the startup to grow, publicly endorsing the startup and its founders won’t be surprising to a casual observer.

However, it is what an investor may say in this situation that can provide insights and commendations that are not going to be expressed by previous managers, colleagues or even customers. If possible, use investors as advocates for a startup; they will have a unique insight into why your business deserves to be a success.

Don’t ‘hide your light under bushel’

When testimonials are available to promote a new business, they should be front-and-centre so everyone who comes into contact with the company sees them. On the company website, this content is likely to be one of the key items a serious visitor will read. Make sure they can find it and it is presented in the best possible light.

READ: 5 signs of a thriving service business

Concluding thoughts

Testimonials are an influential marketing tactic for most businesses. Startups with a limited track record should consider how to take advantage of testimonials in creative and relevant ways. Questions to ask include: Who should provide them? What is the audience the testimonials should appeal to? Where should the testimonials be published? And what is the definitive testimonial to showcase our product or service? Answer these and you’ll have a pretty good idea how to make testimonials benefit your startup.