A tale of 2 testimonials — is one of them yours?

Nothing brings more credibility to a B2B website than detailed case studies and testimonials from customers about how a product or service benefitted them.

Just about every  company I’ve done work for has asked me to interview a major client and craft a testimonial for marketing purposes. Before I start the work, they ask me what it’s going to cost. After six years of tackling these projects, I finally have an answer:

“Five hours of my time for a great case study or four hours of my time for no case study at all.”

What?

I can explain with — what else? — a case study of two testimonial projects.

Case Study #1: Company A and their client WidgetSoft

Company A’s project got off to a great start. Even before they contacted me, their VP of sales called the CEO of WidgetSoft and asked if we could get a testimonial from their head of IT. The WidgetSoft CEO agreed.

Company A’s VP sent me

  • background on their product
  • the history of the relationship between the two companies
  • phone numbers for the IT folks WidgetSoft.

I studied the materials, set up two phone interviews (mentioning the CEO’s agreement when I called), conducted the interviews, and wrote a draft. After Company A reviewed my draft, I sent a revised version over to WidgetSoft for review, along with a request for a photo of Company A’s product in use at WidgetSoft. When the draft came back, I incorporated their comments and changes and submitted the final version to Company A — along with a bill for 5 hours of my time.

Case Study #2: Company B and their client Gadgetron

Company B’s PR person called me to say that one of their salespeople had a buyer at Gadgetron who just loved Company B’s product. They wanted me to write a testimonial after talking with the exuberant salesperson and his customer.

I set about contacting the Company B salesperson, with repeated emails and phone messages. A week later, he got back to me with

  • links to background on their product
  • some numbers on how many units they’d sold to Gadgetron at various times over an unspecified period
  • a phone number for the IT buyer at Gadgetron.

Dead end on the roadI studied the materials and called the number. Sure enough, the IT folks at Gadgetron did indeed love  Company B’s  product. But the buyer’s numbers for how many products they’d purchased were considerably lower than the numbers from Company B. I also found out, at the end of the 30-minute interview, that Gadgetron’s PR department does not let employees endorse products, so I couldn’t quote any of the nice things the buyer told me. When I reported all this back to the Company B PR woman, she said “Well, can’t you write something?”

It was downhill from there. I  called the Gadgetron PR guy, who’d never heard of Company B. He said I needed to send him all of my interview questions and he’d see if he could get an executive to comment. Emails went back and forth, and eventually he sent a feeble quote to the effect that “Gadgetron believes that every company needs to buy products such as those made by Company B and other companies.” A photo? Get real.

By now, the PR person at Company B was impatient and exasperated. She sent me the original email from the salesperson, full of vague claims and what I now knew to be overstated numbers, and suggested that based on that I should be able to write some sort of case study. When I suggested that she ask the VP of sales at Company B to call one of the executives at Gadgetron, her response was that she couldn’t “bother” the VP of sales with “that sort of thing.” They’d hired me because I write testimonials, she noted, so why hadn’t I written one? With a sigh, I emailed her the name of her PR counterpart at Gadgetron — along with an invoice for the four hours of my time spent failing to write her testimonial.

The Bottom Line

If the second scenario above sounds familiar, it’s time to make some changes. If you’re the PR person, take a lesson from Company A (or, better yet, look for a job at Company A). If you’re the writer, take a firm stand. Say that you’ll be happy to conduct and write up an interview with an executive at their client company — as soon as they line one up for you.

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