The value of testimonials (part one)

I don’t remember when I first learned about the power of testimonials in the context of professional services. It was probably about twenty years ago – long before it became common place.

For many years I have encouraged accountants to collect testimonials and to use them for marketing purposes. I explain to the accountants how to obtain testimonials in a professional way and how to overcome common concerns if they need to collate some to start the ball rolling.

In my case I have a page of testimonials on my website. In each case I have included the full name of the person who gave the testimonial.I must admit though that I have not made the most of them as they are all in one place and not given a context. Thus it’s not clear which testimonials refer to which of my services or talks. Proof I’m not perfect (as if further proof were required!).  I am also very proud of the kind recommendations I have been accumulating on my Linkedin profile.

Why are testimonials so valuable in the context of professional services? Quite simply because they are the next best thing to a direct referral. Many professionals claim that they get much of their work through personal recommendations and I can believe that.They often claim that advertising is not really worthwhile.They may be right.

But there is, what I call, a disconnect here. When they advertise (and I include website material as part of the advertising mix) they are communicating with people who don’t know them. Equally these prospects may not know any existing clients.But those prospects could read testimonials from existing clients if these were easily available on the website and in other marketing materials.

Without testimonials the marketing messages are mere assertions.Testimonials can bring these assertions to life. They can act as the next best thing to a personal recommendation or referral. They need to be believable. They need to be relevant and they need to be authentic.

I’ll continue this theme in future blog posts.

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Due Diligence before Admission to Partnership

I would like to have attended the workshop on this subject run by the Association of Partnership Practitioners on Tuesday evening. Unfortunately I had a prior commitment so had to decline the invitation. I wonder if any of the speakers or contributors to the debate talked about the Google impact or that of online networking groups?

If I were on a partnership selection panel I would want to know as much as possible about candidates for partnership in my firm. Indeed I would probably run a ‘Google’ search on prospective new partners in any firm where I was a partner. After all I generally Google anyone I’m meeting for the first time.

Rarely does a Google search reveal anything untoward but with the rising popularity of online forums and networking sites there are an increasing number of other ways to perform online ‘due diligence’ before allowing new people to join the partnership. In addition to a general web based ‘search’ anyone can look you up on LinkedIn, on Facebook, on MySpace and on any other online networking community to which you might belong.

I would expect that HR departments of larger firms have staff who belong to and are familiar with each of the main online communities so that they can check out prospective partners.

Indeed, the same is probably true as regards any job applicant these days.

And the key question for ambitious professionals is whether your online postings, comments and profiles support and echo your job application and partnership admission papers? If you have revealed your real self online but carefully edited your CV to give a different impression, don’t be surprised if you are found out. If you’re lucky you may still make it to the interview and just get asked about who is the real you. In other cases your online persona may result in your name being removed from any shortlist. I haven’t heard of it happening yet to any ambitious professionals seeking partnership but it won’t be long.