Testimonials remain one of the best ways to communicate the value of a chamber membership. There’s nothing better than having the credibility of an enthusiastic, third party endorsement.
One thing that makes them especially credible for chambers is that since your market is primarily businesses within your community, your members and prospects likely know or are familiar with the people/businesses providing those testimonials.
But all testimonials are not created equal.
The formula for the perfect testimonial is simple: this was my problem – this is how the chamber helped me solve my problem – that’s why I’m a member.
Though the formula is simple, there are few other things to keep in mind to create a cache of convincing, authentic testimonials that turn prospects into members, and members into lifetime fans.
You’re In Charge
Every chamber has a small army of raving fans that would be more than willing to provide testimonials, they just need to be asked. But while you are asking, be specific about what you want. Don’t leave your request too open-ended. If there are certain key messages you are trying to convey, focus on members who have had great experiences related to those messages. For example, you might hit up the owner of successful start-up that called on the chamber for resources as he/she was getting the business up and running.
It’s important that the testimonial be truthful and authentic, but you can point it in the direction you want it to go. Many of your members would be relieved to have you actually write it for them. In those cases, I recommend sitting down with the member for 15 or 20 minutes to ask some questions about their chamber experience and really take note of their passion points. You could do this on the phone or in person. It will be a lot easier to write something that’s an authentic representation of their experience when you have actually heard them describe it.
It’s All Relative
To be effective, your audience needs to be able to relate to the person or the situation within the testimonial. So, if it is a small business audience that you are trying to reach, don’t use bankers or major employers in your testimonials. Use small business owners describing situations that small business owners face and how the chamber helped them resolve their challenges.
Keep it simple, with one key takeaway from the testimonial. If you try to stuff too much into it, your message will be lost.
Avoid the Atypical
We’ve all seen weight loss infomercials loaded with testimonials describing amazing success stories with the product that is being advertised. What you also see in those informercials is often a fine print disclaimer that states “results are atypical,” or something to that effect.
Occasionally, chamber members have experiences that are outstanding, but atypical. For example, a new chamber member attends his first event and walks out the door with a verbal agreement on a $10,000 contract from a new contact. These things happen. And while they represent great success stories, they are not the norm.
It’s tempting to use a story like that as a testimonial or perhaps in a meeting with a prospect as you are trying to close the deal. But, by doing so, you are setting expectations that you cannot fulfill and you are setting that member/prospect up for disappointment and potentially cancellation, if their membership doesn’t do the same thing for them that it did for that other member.
If the product doesn’t work the way it was advertised, why would they buy it again? Keep your testimonials focused on things you can do, help you can offer to every member.
While testimonials are great for promoting the overall value of chamber membership, don’t overlook other ways they can be used.
Find a happy event sponsor and work with them to create a testimonial that can help you communicate the sponsorship value of your events to potential sponsors. View this example of a testimonial-style video we produced for the Springfield Area Chamber of Commerce to help them promote sponsorship of their Business After Hours event. (By the way, we recorded this on an iPhone. We can teach you how to do it too!)
Testimonials are very effective when done the right way. So take the time to plan the message and pull together authentic, convincing testimonials that communicate your chamber’s value through the words of your members.