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Part one of this series focused on identifying the best prospects for your managed services testimonials and getting the right people involved in the process. While those steps are often the most difficult part of client endorsement projects, what comes after it isn’t always easy for an MSP. They’ll have to arrange interviews, schedule support personnel (videographers and writers) and may need to create a few primer questions to guide the discussion.

That’s why it’s so important to not only have a solid plan, but to stick to it as much as possible. The first rule of testimonials is to get the undivided attention of your customer, blocking off a specific amount of time so they can focus on what they want to say about your company. Video and audio recording sessions might require the client to travel offsite or make accommodations for the production team to visit them. When your customers understand the objectives of your testimonials, they typically jump on board to help make the project successful.

One word of caution: as owners or managers themselves, your clients may have their own personal experience in this area and be willing to share their insight. Just be sure they don’t drag your plan off course. Make adjustments, but hold true to your stated objectives. Remember, just because someone has done something before doesn’t mean it was done well or that it will work in a different industry.

After everyone’s schedule has been properly synched, it’s time to prepare each of the players. That starts by crafting opening questions and some points to keep the dialogue flowing. When done well, these queries should elicit a variety of good quotes that can be broken into smaller sound bites or bullet points that can be used in marketing materials and campaigns. Regardless of what some suggest, you don’t need to hire a professional journalist to handle those responsibilities. Anyone with basic communications skills (i.e. talking, writing) should be able to create a short list of questions to guide the interview. Of course, they do need to do their homework before crafting a list of questions, starting with:

  • Internal (employee) discussions: get individuals involved in the query generation process who know and understand your company as well as its customers. Members of the sales and customer services teams can often provide the best insight since they work regularly with clients and typically forge the closest relationships. They understand the customer’s “hot buttons” and have experience eliciting the proper responses during discussions. Find out why that client most enjoys working with your company (the unique value proposition) and ask for success stories involving your products, services or people.
  • Check account information: whether using a formal CRM system or another method for tracking client activities, review the notes related to each interview subject’s business. Look for information that will be useful to crafting solid questions, such as particular issues your team has addressed or solutions that helped improve their operations. Subtle reminders in the line of questioning may spark a memory of things they forgot, so be sure to include a specific benefit they received in the set up.
  • Send your client a list of draft questions: at least a week prior to the discussion, provide them with a rough copy so they understand the intent of the conversation and have time to develop coherent answers. Be sure to include a brief overview of your interview goals and what you plan to do with the information they share. You can ask them to submit a question or two of their own, but use caution: their ideas might not fit with your plan and that could hurt their feelings.

Game Day

After arranging schedules and getting your clients properly prepared for the testimonial interview, the next step is fairly straightforward. The “interrogator” asks the prepared line of questions and the subject responds—according to plan. If they deviate or stumble when answering, let them think and start over. Video and audio can be edited, and when recording for print, those sections can be fast forwarded.

Your customer’s words shouldn’t appear to be scripted, but genuine and supportive. If an answer appears vague or overly promotional, throw in a clarifying question that gets them thinking of something they didn’t rehearse. Ask them to share examples of solutions you provided and the subsequent benefits they received (based on your pre-interview research) and don’t rush their responses. The best way to get solid testimonials is to let your customers speak freely and use as much time as they need for replies.

Be sure your team knows the expectations going into the interview. It’s not unusual for an hour audio or video session to result in a solid five minutes of valuable testimonial dialogue. Most interviews take less than 30 minutes, and that typically generates three or four great quotes the marketing team needs to make it worthwhile. The objective should always be quality over quantity, though a good combination of both is definitely a plus.

After the testimonial has been recorded and the experts (i.e. videographers, writers) put the information into the preferred format, be sure to share a first cut with your interviewee. Be sure it puts them in a positive light and that they’re happy with their quotes before it goes “live” in any marketing or sales campaigns. If and when they sign off, send them a small gift and a nice thank you note as a reward for their time and efforts. Always remember they’re a customer first and, when executed properly, their participation in a testimonial program should only strengthen that relationship.

Next up: the most effective ways to leverage testimonials to increase sales opportunities…