The marketplace is a distrusting bunch. With Enron still fresh in the public minds, in just a short period of time we witnessed the fall of Lehman Brothers, the conviction of Bernard Madoff, the collapse of many investment instruments, the unravelling of the banking system and many other crises due to treacheries. Who can blame them for having trust issues after being betrayed so many times before? As an entrepreneur, you have to accept this reality and assume that your target market will be cynical and sceptical. Building and getting your target market’s trust is one of the most basic and critical challenge any business has to face. Without trust there won’t be any transactions. Therefore, this is something that has to be addressed right from the beginning. We will be discussing this topic quite a bit because this is so fundamental to your success. The good news is there are ways for you to build trust and credibility relatively fast. Imagine if instead of spending a lot of time trying to convince your prospects, you can shortcut that process and have them coming to you treating you as a trusted advisor instead, won’t that be great? Well, that can happen when you provide them with an overwhelming proof of what you claim is true.
One of the best ways to provide proof of your claims is to have credible and powerful testimonials. Having great testimonials can be a very effective tool to build trust with your prospects right from the beginning. In Secrets To Dominate Your Niche we’ve discussed the structure of persuasive testimonials and provided clear instructions on how to get them easily (By the way, if you don’t know how to get great testimonials, we recommend you pick up a copy of it). While testimonials are one of the most effective trust builders, it is not the only tool you can use. Following are some other trust builders you can use in your favour.
- Authority endorsement – This is one the other most effective proof you can get. When a trusted authority figure gives you their endorsement, you not only get their support, but your level of authority also rises in the mind of the prospects. Take note that authority comes in many different forms such as political leaders, CEOs, reviewers, consultants, et cetera. Anyone who has significant influence over a group of people can be seen as an authority figure.
- Customer List – Having a customer list, especially if you have some well-known customers, can effectively add to your credibility. This is one of the tools Thomas uses on PestBusters’ website.
- Statistical data from credible sources – This technique is widely used by government agencies or non-profit organisations to create awareness. However, most businesses can and should use this as well. For example: “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 34 per cent of US adults aged 20 and above are obese.” If you’re selling health supplements you can use this to your advantage.
- Visual proof – As the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. You can use pictures to show evidence of your claims or to imply certain things. One of the most popular use of this is the before and after proof. You can use videos to do the same.
Interestingly, not many people use these tools, even though they are very easy to use and extremely effective. What others say about you is so much more credible and convincing compared to anything you can say for yourself. So let others do the bragging for you, it is more effective that way. As long as what you’re claiming is true, you should not feel embarrassed using third-party endorsements. And just in case you’re wondering how much proof is enough, in our opinion, there is no such thing as too much proof. The more proof you have, the more convincing your pitch will be. Sant’s clients have seen wonderful results just by adding the proof elements in their marketing materials. You can too. Here we will show you how you can use this technique effectively.
Start by making a list of your differentiations, features and benefits that you want to be known for. This is the “claims list”. Then make another list of the potential doubts, fears and objections that your target market might have. This is the “objections list”. Now all you need to do is to get testimonials that substantiate all the various claims and objections that you have listed down. For example, one of Sant’s differentiations is “producing real results”. So under that he has testimonials such as:
“Sant is the real deal! His unique style of marketing really works and brings in bottom-line results. He has helped me profit additional tens of thousands of dollars from new opportunities… He also created a stronger corporate and personal branding for me by getting me regularly featured in the media such as The Straits Times, The Sunday Times, Singapore Business Review magazine, Steer magazine and others. Engaging Sant’s services is a smart move for any business that is serious about getting real bottom-line results. He is definitely worth it. I recommend him highly!
- Dennis Wee
Top Entrepreneur of the Year 2000
Founder and President
Dennis Wee Group
“One idea from Sant helped our company close 30% more sales… we also spend 50% less time in acquiring new prospects.”
- Karen Lee
Success IT Consultation & Services Pte Ltd
“Sant showed me how to differentiate and set myself apart from the competition in the market. He created a strong positioning for my business that helped increased my fees by 20 – 30% AND business has gone up in a very short period of time!”
- Chang Mei Chew
Sought after ‘A’ Maths Specialist
“Sant is indeed the expert in shoestring marketing. He taught real-life techniques that give proven, bottom-line results. Just one idea he shared had saved me more than $10,000 in my business. Incredible!”
- Kenneth Koh
Easttech Pte Ltd
Then under “proven practical strategies” he has testimonials such as:
“The secrets revealed by Sant Qiu are definitely worth thousands of dollars!”
- Kenny “The Fish” Yap
Executive Chairman & Managing Director
Qian Hu Corporation Ltd
“Sant Qiu has a very unique and powerful way of conveying his marketing strategies and when you put them into action you will take your business to the next level and beyond. I am personally a huge fan of Sant Qiu.”
- Kurek Ashley
International Bestselling Author
Peak Performance Coach
“It can help me to strategise my business, the way I think, the way I make decisions and more importantly, execute the right things. It shows me how I can do what I have always wanted to do, and do it better and faster. I will definitely apply the strategies!”
- Jean Lee
Carona Holdings Pte Ltd
For Thomas, one of his differentiations is “we deliver when others can’t” (that’s a powerful differentiation isn’t it?) so he has testimonials such as the following:
“Our previous pest control company was more reactive than proactive because hotels will only upgrade their pest control programme when a problem arises or in cases of an emergency like having a VVIP finding cockroach in his soup! With PestBusters, we experienced improvements to hygiene and sanitation within six weeks! And in three months, there was a huge change in the attitude of our staff who now takes pride in keeping the premises pest-free and is actively engaged in working hand-in-hand with PestBusters.”
- Shaun Langdon
Crowne Plaza Mutiara, KL, Malaysia
“They successfully solved our perennial pest problems such as the issue of flies over the food in the outdoor dining area. With the help of their expertise, we were able to get HACCP certification in six months! Their efficient system of pest management worked so well for us that PestBusters was also entrusted to look after the entire Shangri-La group of Hotels in singpaore and KL.”
- Irene Ong
Hygiene and Sanitation Manager
Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
“As a new property, we had a serious challenge with rodents and cockroaches. That’s why we chose to work with PestBusters because they have a good track record in the integrated pest management business. They have a ‘zero’ complaint policy when it comes to pests and I’m pleased to say that they have stood by their promise. If you’re looking for professional, prompt and effective solutions, PestBusters is a sound investment.”
- Peter Brokenshire
Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC), Malaysia
As you can see, the testimonials help us substantiate our claims. Your consumers will expect you to state your own claims because you are selling them something. In the back of their minds they will be thinking, “Sure, you’ll say anything to convince me and get my money.” However, when a third-party; someone who had nothing to gain and used to have the same problems the prospects are having now is corroborating your claims, they will start to think, “Hey, if these people got real results and have benefited, maybe I will too.” And that’s what you want them to think about. It means that you’ve crossed the trust hurdle and got them to think about the benefits they can expect. And for the “objections list” you can have testimonials that help to dissolve those concerns your prospects might have. For example, PestBusters has a client saying something like “I was hesitant because their services were five to six times more than any other pest control companies. But they delivered and they are worth it!” If a prospect was hesitant because of pricing, this testimonial will definitely help to get them over their concern. Now, just imagine, if for every claim or objection you can think of you have a dozen proofs to back you up, wouldn’t that be powerful?
Let’s move on to how you can use these proofs in various ways maximally. The basic thing is to get a testimonial letter from a client and use that testimonial in your marketing materials such as advertisements, brochures, letters, websites, et cetera. However, there are so many other ways you can use these proofs to your advantage. Below we list down several basic and advanced methods to use proof that you can copy and adapt to your situation:
- Send them out – You can use copies of testimonial letters on official letterheads or excerpts of the testimonials in your various marketing materials. You can also include them in your sales presentations. Additionally, you can use the testimonials to pre-sell your prospects. When Sant received a serious and qualified enquiry for his consultancy services, the first thing he does is to send them a stack of copies of the testimonials he has received from previous clients, even before he meets with them. The testimonials help to set the frame that Sant is a professional with a proven track record and that the upcoming meeting will be about getting down to business and not just casual chats over coffee. This technique is extremely effective in pre-selling the prospect as by the time they meet, the prospect is already asking Sant how he can help their business, instead of wondering about Sant’s credentials. Sant’s clients who apply this technique by his urging reported that their salespeople are now seen as expert advisors by their prospects rather than annoying salespeople like they used to be perceived. This important change of perception has a direct impact in increasing sales conversion. So if you want better sales conversion, you can use this technique as well.
- Expand them – When you have a happy client with a great back story, instead of just using their testimonial as is, you can expand on it. Get in touch with your client and find out more details of their story. From there you can develop an interesting full story around it that will probably appeal to more people than just a straight forward testimonial. Thomas does this regularly with his clients. He will get the full details of his client’s story, develop it into a full story and then publish it on one of the popular trade magazines. This achieves a few things. First, the clients are happy as they are getting free publicity and readers will know that they invest in premium services like PestBusters to ensure high standards of hygiene. Secondly, Thomas achieves his objectives of letting readers get to know PestBusters’ highly regarded services and its well-known clientele. Thirdly, by developing it into a story, he makes it more interesting for readers and therefore increasing its exposure. Sant also uses this idea to develop full-length case studies for his subscribers. In the case studies, he breaks down the strategies he applied and show readers why and how they work. His case studies series, available only to his exclusive subscribers, are highly popular.
- Put them up – You see a lot of paintings, photos and awards on the wall of some offices. Alongside those, you can also put up article clippings featuring yourself or your business, photos of you taken with authority figures and even testimonials. If you walk into Thomas’ office, that’s what you will see. This will impress upon visitors and prospects that you’re an established company with a rich history and is probably trustworthy. This is also regularly used by food stalls that have been featured in the media positively. Simple things like this works. In a food court with over 20 individual stalls, which one will you choose? If you don’t have a specific dish preference, you probably will look for which ones have been recommended or endorsed by some authority figures. There is one famous bak kut teh (pork rib herbal soup) restaurant in Singapore that plaster its walls with the owner’s photos taken with various celebrities and other famous people who ate there. Almost every inch of all sides of their walls is covered with these blown up laminated photos. It’s like a giant montage of photos and photos and photos. It’s clear they didn’t put any thoughts on aesthetically pleasing considerations. But it works. And as we said earlier, result is what matters. Customers who are in the restaurant end up spending a lot of time trying to identify the various famous people in those photos. And that is a very overwhelming social proof. This made the restaurant even more popular.
- Compile them – When you have a lot of testimonials, you can compile them all into a booklet or a folder. You can segment them according to the various claims and possible objections from your prospects. Or you can create some kind of simple narrative into it to make it more like a real book. Then you can come up with a title that will be interesting to your prospects. For example if you’re selling vacation packages you can come up with a title that says “52 Ways You Can Ignite Your Lover’s Passion And Embrace Romance”. The book will contain 52 stories of past customers who bought vacation packages from you and experience a romantic time during their travels. You can add beautiful sceneries to enhance the effect of the book. Of course, all of those stories mentioned how wonderful you are as their travel consultant and how appreciative they are to you. After reading that, a prospect will probably only want to look for you. You can send the book out to your prospects or have a few copies in the waiting room as reading materials. That is much better than having non-beneficial magazines lying around. Imagine if in the waiting room of a dentist, he has a book titled “The Secret To Attract The Opposite Sex, Get Paid What You’re Worth And Live Life The Way You Want” Inside the book will contain stories of patients who met their ideal partners, got a raise, felt more confident and became happier after having a better smile. Do you think enquiries on aesthetic procedures will increase? Absolutely! This is so easy and economical to do. All you need is just some planning and taking action. Sadly, we’ve not seen a dentist do that yet. But remember, you can apply this in any type of business.
- Put it on video and audio – You can have the basic recorded testimonials with your clients speaking to the camera. You can apply the book concept into a video. You can also do an infomercial-style video. A lot of people prefer to watch something rather than read something. This will appeal to those people. Again, you can send them out in DVD format or you can play it at strategic places like the waiting room. The key here is not to be tacky and keep the pace of the video up so that it’s not boring. You can do the same in audio format.
- Print it on – You can print endorsements, testimonials, awards and other type of proofs on your product or packaging. Take a look at fast food restaurant, Carl Jr’s packaging and you will see positive reviews by various food reviewers printed on it. You can even print it on your corporate t-shirt. Sport apparel giants print famous athletes’ signatures on their t-shirts and sell them for high prices. Why not borrow the idea and use it to your advantage.
- Put it on the phone – Many companies uses music on hold systems so that when callers are put on hold, they will be entertained with some music. Instead of playing music, you can play audio testimonials. The key here is to keep each testimonial short, sharp and entertaining. It’s better to use a professional voice talent to read the testimonials so that there is consistency and the delivery is more pleasant. Also use a system which allows you to play random audio tracks so that callers don’t always hear the same story again and again.
There are countless ways you can use proof in your business. However, the core idea is to provide overwhelming proof so that you can easily eliminate the natural initial resistance of the prospects. This way you can get right down to the business of providing them with solutions, with them already somewhat presold.