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Testimonials and References

by Randall Craig on July 24, 2015

Filed in: Blog, Business Development, Make It Happen Tipsheet

Tagged as: , , , ,

When you make a purchase decision, what is the one thing, more than anything else, that gives you confidence that the other party can (and will) do what they promise? Yes, statements of work, contracts, and case studies all play a role.  But what about references and testimonials?

References are those conversations that happen just prior to contract signature.  They revolve around two key concepts: verification of expertise, and verification of trustworthiness.

Testimonials, on the other hand, are typically one-or-two paragraph endorsements of general capability.  They play an important role in the much earlier qualification process. Testimonials have value – or they don’t – depending on how they are set up.  In the mind of the buyer, the testimonial’s value is dependent on two things:

1) Relevance:  The closer the testimonial is to the buyer’s requirements, the higher its value.  For example, a testimonial extolling the virtues of the company’s printing services would have zero value to a buyer of web development services.  Implication:  If your organization has several business lines, seek testimonials for each.

2) Believability:  Sadly, many testimonials seem almost made up, or written by shills.  Yet the power of the testimonial is a function of its credibility – something that is easily fixed.  Consider the following examples of how a testimonial might be “signed”:

  • Anonymous [eg not signed]
  • President
  • President of a digital consulting firm
  • Randall, President of a digital consulting firm
  • Randall Craig, President of a digital consulting firm
  • Randall Craig, President of 108 ideaspace
  • Randall Craig, President of 108 ideaspace, with Picture
  • Randall Craig, President of 108 ideaspace, with Video
  • Randall Craig, President of 108 ideaspace, with Video [Linked to LinkedIn profile]

Each testimonial sits somewhere on a hierarchy of value: the more real it appears to be, the higher its value.

This week’s action plan:  Clearly, an anonymous quote has vastly less power than a fully attributed quote with a video.  This week, review how you use testimonials: how might you add ones that are more relevant – and for those that you already have, how might you make them more believable?

Note: The Make It Happen Tipsheet is also available by email. Go to to register.

Randall Craig

@RandallCraig (follow me)
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.com: Web strategy, technology, and development
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Randall has been advising on Digital Strategy since 1994 when he put the Toronto Star online, the Globe and Mail's GlobeInvestor/Globefund, several financial institutions, and about 100+ other major organizations. He is the author of eight books, including Digital Transformation for Associations, the Everything Guide to Starting an Online Business, and Social Media for Business. He speaks and advises on Digital Transformation, Digital Trust, and Social Media. More at

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