Make 'Em Talk

The Power of Testimonies

If your product isn't one that's likely to get endorsements from magazines, try getting testimonials directly from customers. Some companies give products to industry experts or university researchers free in return for reports or testimonials on the use of the product. Sporting goods companies often call attention to their products by giving them away to pro athletes in return for the free publicity.

The secret of using solid testimonials is to provide enough information to make the report meaningful to the customer. I once worked with a new product that increased the life of cutting tools. We started with customers' reports that tool life increased by 25 to 80 percent. But that information alone was too vague to impress our prospects. Prospects started paying attention when we started publicizing more details, including the type of material being machined, the speed of the product and the amount of material removed. Prospects suddenly had a reference point they could understand.

The same principle applies to consumer products. A claim that a food processor cuts cooking time by 20 percent isn't that meaningful. A mother of four reporting that the food processor cuts the time of chopping vegetables for beef stew by 70 percent is much more meaningful.

Don Debelak is a new-business marketing consultant and the author of Bringing Your Product to Market(John Wiley & Sons). Send him your invention questions at

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This article was originally published in the September 2000 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Make 'Em Talk.

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