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Unkissed is unknown – the importance of credible testimonials

June 24, 2010
19th Century Image of an English longbowman

English Longbowman - as drawn by someone who clearly never shot a bow. This archer wears no bracer and would have had a very bruised arm.

Marketers around the world often forget the importance of the humble testimonial in helping taking customers beyond the “tipping point”.  A testimonial – real comments from real people (and not people like “Mrs M of Merseyside” so beloved by advertisers in women’s magazines) – is a sure fire way of helping people understand that “it’s not just us that’s telling you this is great”. However…

The importance of the credible testimonial is not a new thing. In the Reply of Friar Daw Topias to Jack Upland, written in 1419, we read this haunting verse:

On old Englis it is said unkissid is unknowun; and many men speken of Robyn Hood, and shotte nevere in his bowe

Of course, this line speaks of idleness of boastful braggard. But if we as marketers consider our customers as the unkissed, then it is our duty to make ourselves known. We require people to experience our bow, to bend it on the arm, to feel the string against their cheek, the surety of the cock feather and to loose the shot across the green.

Through experience, truth is conveyed. A bowman who knows not the pain of the string as it stripes the arm is a bowman in mind alone. He or she who has never witnessed the archer’s paradox – the vacillation of the correcting arrow as it spins in flight – can never in truth know the pleasure of toxophily. And they who talk of bulls eyes rather than the cluster, speak only of perceptions and not the satisfaction of controlling the uncontrollable.

For there is no greater test of man or woman than to master the mighty yew bow, that natural rod of the deep greenwood whose only gift to those that try to hold it at full stretch for more than a second is to snap clean in two. As Toxophilus himself advised in Roger Ascham’s handsome treatise written for Henry VIII: a bow at full stretch is nine-tenths broken.

The compelling testimonial is that which shows how a product has been used. How it improved the performance of the person. It conveys intense operation. It highlights an outcome that others can understand and by reading can be convinced.

A testimonial is not about saying this is the best thing since sliced bread. It’s about getting the jaws to masticate – to feel the texture of the loaf, the smell of the oven, and settling of hot butter into a myriad holes.

In getting good testimonials, ask your customers to tell a story. Out of stories come real truths – for truth, as Keats said, is beauty. And people will always pay for beauty. They also want to kiss it.

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