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We’re doing something kind of special this week – we’ll be talking about getting and using testimonials, which is one of the very most powerful things you can do.
Things you say about your product are one thing, what your CUSTOMERs say is a thousand times more effective.
Even though you may know all that, if you’re like me, you might feel kind of weird asking even HAPPY clients and customers for testimonials.
We asked aviation writer Kathryn Creedy to be our guest on the podcast today and share some insights and a solution for us.
Transcript – How to Get Testimonials! (And How to Use Them!)
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Paula Williams: We’re doing something kind of special this week – we’ll be talking about getting and using testimonials, which is one of the very most powerful things you can do. Things you say about your product are one thing, what your CUSTOMERs say is a thousand times more effective. And Kathryn Creedy is one of our favorite people.
Kathryn B. Creedy is a veteran aviation journalist and author. She is one of the few interdisciplinary aviation journalists with a thorough knowledge of airports as well as the business and commercial aviation industries affording unique insights into these dynamic industries. In addition, she has a growing knowledge of the unmanned systems industry, especially as it relates to unmanned aerial systems. Her work has included representing Embraer Executive Jets, the Federal Aviation Administration’s aviation regulatory division as well as its communications, satellites and navigation division.
She began her aviation work focusing on regional airlines in the immediate post-deregulation period. She founded a weekly newsletter Commuter/Regional Airline News in 1982 building it to become the bible of the industry. She also co-founded its sister publication, London-based C/R News International in 1987 which covered the European market. Kathryn has maintained her interest in the regional airline industry throughout her career.
Kathryn currently has a column in Forbes Online and is the author of Time Flies – The History of SkyWest Airlines. Her byline has appeared in Jane’s Airports, Centerlines, Airline Economics, Business Travel Executive, Airports International, Inflight, Low Fare & Regional Airlines, Aviation Week & Space Technology, Fly Corporate, Business Airports International and Airline Fleet Management. In addition to her Forbes column, Kathryn has two blogs – Winging It, Unconventional Wisdom About Aviation – and Beachcombers Chronicles about unique adventures at the beach.
Paula Williams: So let’s dive right into the heart of today’s topic, and that is, how to get testimonials. Do testimonials work for aviation companies? So do aviation companies use enough testimonials in their marketing materials, do you think?
Kathryn Creedy: I think this is one of the hardest things for aviation companies or indeed any company to do.
I just don’t see it enough, and I always look for well, who are their clients. And very few companies have a good client roster on their website. There’s a lot about what they do, and how it differs from their competition. But there’s nothing about, not a lot about, what our customers say.
And I think that’s hard for companies to do because they don’t really want to toot their own horn except for this is how we’re different from our competition.
Paula Williams: Exactly. It’s interesting when people call us, they call ABCI and of course, they probably been shopping for aviation marketing companies.
The first question they ask us is, what do you do better than anybody else? The second question they ask us is, who else are you doing business with? And I think that question would be, is really well served, and we can just send them a nice little testimonial, or something along those lines, or refer them to the testimonials on our website.
Kathryn Creedy: Right, and I think that good housekeeping seal of approval-
Paula Williams: Mm-hm.
Kathryn Creedy: And testimonials as well as, they may admire some of the companies that you’re working with. And therefore, that edges up that visibility quite a bit when they say, XYZ is working with ABCI. So that is a good housekeeping seal of approval on working with you, as well.
Paula Williams: Right. And we always say that, our customers are our best salespeople. And I think that’s true of most aviation companies. Because nobody wants to be the first person to do anything in aviation, right?
John Williams: Exactly.
Kathryn Creedy: Right, absolutely not. And I also think that testimonials, and talking with customers is exactly what other customers want to hear.
So I’ll give you a little example that I think is a riot because certainly, I didn’t do this on purpose. I identified a briefcase that I wanted to get. But it was too expensive for me and I searched online for it and I got it. And then I went to this convention recently and somebody said, where did you get that briefcase?
That’s perfect, that’s what I’ve been looking for. And I said, told them where it was. So they went immediately up on Amazon, they got the briefcase. Then they started showing it around to all of their friends and so I, at that one convention, I sold four briefcases.
Paula Williams: Man.
Kathryn Creedy: So then, I get on Capelli’s Facebook page and I said, “Where’s my cut, I’ve just sold four briefcases for you guys!” And, so I had a nice little relationship. So I go on another business trip and somebody sees my briefcase and said, I’ve been looking for a briefcase just like that.
So I sold a fifth one and I’m sitting there going, this is me as a customer going up on the Facebook page and saying, I really love this briefcase. But more importantly, I’ve sold five of them just from using mine and telling people where I got them. Talk about a testimonial.
Paula Williams: Yeah, that is fantastic. And you are their target market and what people don’t realize is that their customers associate with other people in their target market, you know?
Kathryn Creedy: Exactly, exactly, so I think that this was an impromptu testimonial that I just did. Cuz I thought it was a riot that I was able to sell these guys a product and so easily, just by carting around my briefcase.
But that’s a testimonial that’s worth a million bucks.
Paula Williams: Absolutely. So yeah, if you want to sell a briefcase to aviation journalists, sell one to Kathryn. [LAUGH]
Kathryn Creedy: Yeah, definitely, definitely.
Paula Williams: And make sure it’s something that she loves, and that’s fantastic. So do you know of any aviation companies-
Kathryn Creedy: [INAUDIBLE] are reaching out and saying and talking about the products they love. And we’re encouraged to do that with Amazon and all of these other sites. So as consumers, it may be different for the aviation business consumer market. But it’s really the same principle that we should be leveraging how our customers feel about us to our broader marketing audience.
Paula Williams: Right. So, do you know if any companies that use testimonials particularly well or effectively in aviation?
Kathryn Creedy: No, I used to work for a company, doing a little public relations for a company called MassFlight. And they had a couple of testimonials on their website that I didn’t think were particularly effective.
But ultimately, just word of mouth is what got them the new business that they wanted. So I, it kind of confirmed for me that I was right about the testimonials on their website. But they weren’t leveraging the word of mouth that was getting them new business by putting it on their website.
John Williams: Well, I can tell you that I’m not a briefcase kind of guy, but having listened to you talk about the one you have, I’d be interested to look at it.
Paula Williams: [LAUGH]
Kathryn Creedy: I’ll send you a link. [LAUGH]
Paula Williams: Fantastic. I know, so you’re selling one to John, and John hasn’t carried a briefcase in years.
Kathryn Creedy: I definitely am going to go back to them and ask for a cut.
Paula Williams: You do.
John Williams: [LAUGH]
Paula Williams: You absolutely do, and that’s a whole another subject, is referral programs and rewarding referrals, and things like that. So maybe we’ll have to have you on again for a future episode about that.
But, yeah, you got that down.
Kathryn Creedy: [LAUGH] Mm-hm, mm-hm.
Paula Williams: Right?
Kathryn Creedy: You want to have fun with these types of things, so that was just, somebody really liked my briefcase. I told them who the manufacturer was. I told them where to go on the website, on the web in order to get it and to look at different websites to make sure they got the best price.
And when she actually bought it, I just thought, well, this is a riot. I’ve gotta tell Capelli. So I entered a little bit of a conversation with a manufacturer, I didn’t even know before. But that’s the same thing that you want to do. You want to enter into a conversation with any company you’re working with, because that’s the way you get to know them.
And if you can do it in a fun way like that, then so much the better.
Paula Williams: Right, and what I think is really interesting is that you want it to be accidental, but you can’t afford for it to be accidental, so-
Kathryn Creedy: Right.
Paula Williams: You have to kinda make it natural, but give people opportunities to naturally [LAUGH] provide you with honest testimonials, authentic testimonials, right?
John Williams: Naturally, accidentally.
Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Naturally, accidentally.
Kathryn Creedy: That’s really important, to give them the opportunity of, how did you like working with this company? Would you refer this company to other people? And I don’t think any companies do that. Certainly the retail market does it out the wazoo, but I don’t think the corporate market does it, and I haven’t seen it much in aviation.
Paula Williams: Right, right, well I’ll tell you some of our clients have really enjoyed some of the testimonials that you’ve done for them. Veelug, you did a really great interview with one of their happy customers, Veelug does aircraft digital log books. And we’ve been using the heck out of that testimonial that you did for them.
And this was a nice little interview of a happy costumer, and we had it printed in a nice format, we distributed it at several of their trade shows. We send them out in their prospecting boxes, and information packages, we use it in a million different ways and this is from one little piece that you did last year sometime, right?
Kathryn Creedy: Yeah, yeah, but I think that if you can tell a compelling story with your testimony, testimonials I think you’re much better off, and that was a very compelling story. If you’ve got a piece of equipment, or a facet of your aircraft that’s so critical to its value, and you don’t understand or you don’t leverage that value, then you’re really not organizing your company very well.
In other words, you’re not looking after your assets very well. So that was a very compelling story. So, I think in doing testimonials, you have to ferret out the information of why this company made a difference for your company.
Paula Williams: Right, right, exactly. And I had a question to ask you, but you’ve already started to answer so we can just continue along that line.
You have an interview style or a method of interviewing that really gets good information that the customer wants to hear. And I think you’ve got a way of doing that that is really more valuable than most of the testimonials that you see on people’s websites. Maybe you could tell us a little bit about your thought process, and how you go about making that happen in a way that’s so valuable to your client, and then to their customers.
Kathryn Creedy: Well, I think that I start as a reporter. I want to know why I should be interested in this company or this product. And the next thing I want to know is why this product is important, and how it makes a difference to its own clients. So in a Vlog example, it was kind of a save the day narrative, the log books were completely gone.
And then the aircraft evaluator found out that Vlog actually had them up digitally on the web. And it was such a relief for her to be able to know that she didn’t have to, one, go through dusty boxes in a back room, but also, it was available, and searchable, and very easy to use, and it made her job much easier.
So the message there was you not only protect the asset value, but you make it easier for those who might want to acquire that asset, or who need to develop a history on that asset, in evaluating that asset. So it starts with being a reporter, knowing the questions to ask, but the questions start with, why should I be interested?
I use the old acronym WIIFM, and what’s in it for me? Why should I care? And then, what makes your company different? What does your company do that makes a big difference for its customers?
Paula Williams: Right.
Kathryn Creedy: So those are the questions I basically talk, I start out with.
And then I let the person talk, because often they’ll be able to say something that I would never have thought to ask. Because they know the product better than I do. And then I just call out the sound bites that I want to use in the interview.
Paula Williams: Right, and I think being a reporter gives you two advantages.
Number one is the one that you talked about, and that is you have the methods of telling a good story. You have that skill that you’ve developed over a number of years, and have the vocabulary of the aviation industry that you’ve developed over years of working that way.
But the second advantage is the credibility, because people have seen Kathryn Creedy’s byline in all of the aviation magazines. And then they see an article on a story about ABCI by Kathryn Creedy, and that is just 1,000 times better than if it were by some no name author that they haven’t heard of.
John Williams: Yeah, but not everybody can afford Kathryn Creedy, even if she had the time for every company in the continental industry. So, you have some, suggested the easy approach for somebody to at least get something out there that has the basic tenets in it.
Paula Williams: Right, so how do you get testimonials if you’re on a budget?
Kathryn Creedy: I think you would start out with something that, to follow up to your costumer activity, on how did you like working, how can we make our job easier, how can we do a better job for you? It’s basically setting yourself up as a consultant and collaborating with them on making your job easier to make their company a success.
So, it’s starting out with that premise, but also, if you have that initial response from your customer that says this would make my job, this would make the task of working with you easier, then you can go back to them with a simple 15 minute phone call and say that was a really good suggestion.
And it starts to build a rapport, so that as you ask those questions about how do we make our effort on your behalf more effective, and how did you like working with us, that brings out some of the material that can then be used in a testimonial.
Paula Williams: Exactly, so, sometimes you can start with maybe a customer who is not perfectly happy, and turn that into a success story.
Kathryn Creedy: Absolutely, in fact, those are the ones, I have a saying that I’ve used all of my life. You learn more from those who give you constructive criticism than all those who will pat you on the back combined. So that’s how I have achieved what I’ve achieved in my career.
Because I’ve listened to the people, not only the people who would pat me on the back, but the people who really give me really solid feedback so that I can improve and get to where I am. And I think there’s something that we haven’t talked about that is very important is that you really have to be genuine.
As an aviation journalist, I don’t want to do anything that I don’t really believe in. So when I’m going into these, when I develop testimonials or I develop stories, it isn’t to pander to a client or to increase the visibility of the client alone. It is really helping them identify what it is that they do that will attract the attention of reporters, that makes their narrative different.
Or it could be recasting their narrative with a different view to enhance the visibility or the visibility of their company. Or to make people take another look at their company and say, gee, I didn’t think about that company that way. And I think that the work that I did for Embraer, most people thought Embraer is just a Brazilian manufacturer of regional jets.
They really aren’t a big player on the world stage. They really haven’t done anything to move the needle on advancing the industry. But quite the contrary, they’re one of the most innovative manufacturers out there. Not only going from their roots in the military arena but practically building the regional aviation industry in the United States along with a few other manufacturers.
But also then entering, having the guts to enter a whole new market, business aviation, and make that market change. So they feel the technologies and aircraft move the needle on and change the industry. And then on top of that, while they were doing all of this really risky stuff, right during the depth of the Great Recession they were expanding.
They were opening a new manufacturing facility in Florida right here in Melbourne. They were opening two different manufacturers in Portugal. So they were really the leader in offshore manufacturing, long before Airbus came to the United States. Boeing is yet to do that. So I think that if you can take a narrative of a company that people think they know the company, and then you can tell the full story.
Then people will come back to them and say, hm, I hadn’t thought about that company in that respect before. That’s worthy of my attention.
Paula Williams: Right.
John Williams: Well, one of our vendors has provided me with the ability to give him the opportunity to respond to constructive criticism. So, we’ll see how they do.
Paula Williams: [LAUGH]
Kathryn Creedy: Yeah, yeah.
John Williams: Because if it turned around, I’d be happy to give him a gold medal and all over wherever they want to do it.
Kathryn Creedy: Yeah, but the constructive criticism is really where the value of your product lies.
Paula Williams: Right, and I think people respect testimonials that include more of a narrative, as opposed to just a five stars or a great or whatever.
That doesn’t tell me anything useful. But if you tell me here’s a problem that we had that we worked through and got to a solution. That tells me a whole lot more about the company and whether or not I want to do business with them, right?
Kathryn Creedy: Right, it also tells them that the end product that you’re giving them is really not the end product because the most successful product is one that’s collaborative in nature.
So that it’s really an iteration. You can give them the first draft, and then they’ll critique the first draft, in fact you want them to. And then the combination of your talents and their talents will develop the product that they ultimately want.
Paula Williams: Right, yeah, and that feeds just so nicely from the conversation we just had in episode 35 about authenticity.
That was the book club conversation. And I think it’s the same story, just a very different angle on it. So if you haven’t listened to that episode, you might want to do those back to back cuz that’s a good one.
Kathryn Creedy: Yeah, I think I will. I was on an interview yesterday at that same time, and I’m deadlined, so I decided to go for the interview instead.
Paula Williams: [LAUGH] Well, we don’t blame you for that. If you’re making money or making a sale, then by all means [LAUGH] do so, yeah. One thing I think is kind of a common misconception is that people feel like they have to only interview the customers that they’ve had for ten years.
But some of the best come from newish customers. If you want to talk to somebody about the onboarding process, it’s much fresher in their mind. So a lot of times people can interview a new customer at maybe the 90 day point, or what’s your thoughts on that?
Kathryn Creedy: Well, I think 30, 60, and 90 are really good intervals because it keeps you active with the customer.
It’s another touch point. But also it makes sure that you are both on the same page, that the progress of the work is proceeding as both of, makes sure you’re all on the same page. Whenever I do something for a new client, I produce the work. And then I always say, I’d like to do a debriefing to ensure that it met your requirements.
If there’s any changes, all those changes are included in the price. And so I think those different touch points are very valuable. And I think that tapping new customers, because not only are you tapping the experience of getting them or of getting them from the need, identifying the need of the work that needs to be done, to the product.
And to the decision to hire you is, as you say, pressure in their mind and is part of the process of good customer relations. And I think that a lot of people forget about customer relations, especially those that have been with the company for a long time, that they need just as much care and feeding as new customers and vice versa.
Paula Williams: Absolutely, so this might be a good way to connect with customers at their anniversary point or 90 days or at any point in the customer life cycle. A marketing mastermind group that we belong to has kind of a theory of customer life cycle. And they say there are some points at which you can expect that your customers are going to be exceptionally happy with your product or service.
And usually that’s right after you’ve delivered your first positive report. Or right after they begin to realize the financial implications when they pay their taxes the first time after they purchased your product. Or I mean, it’s different for every product. But if you can figure out what those inflection points are, of this is the point at which they should be happiest.
[LAUGH] And then schedule some kind of an interview around that time, I think that’s a really good strategy.
Kathryn Creedy: And I think that my customers, my clients, have always liked that I’d like to do a debriefing. Especially if it’s a new client because I want to make sure that I didn’t misinterpret anything.
But also I want to make sure that if they have tweaks that need to be done, they know I’m available to do those tweaks if they want me to do it at no extra charge. And especially that first time you’re writing for a client, it’s particularly difficult cuz you don’t know them as well as you do when you’ve produced six articles for them and gone on from there.
Paula Williams: Right, and that’s one of the things that I really like about working with you. Because we work with a lot of writers and we get, I’m sure you understand, [LAUGH] varying experiences as far as, not only the quality of their work, but also with their involvement or their wanting to be involved with the work after it’s produced.
And a lot of people just want to throw it over the fence and get paid.
Kathryn Creedy: Yeah.
Paula Williams: And that becomes especially when you’ve got complex articles or complex projects, there may be some questions, some follow up, and some other things that need to be done. And you’ve been really fantastic about that sort of thing because I really like your debrief process.
Kathryn Creedy: Mm-hm, well I also think that it’s all part of, as you know, a good customer relationship. You just want to show it’s a relationship. It’s not just I’ve got a writing assignment for this X, Y, Z customer, and I’m never going to see them again so I don’t really care.
I’m building a relationship. And you don’t sell anything on a brochure or a press release or any of these other things. You sell on relationships.
Paula Williams: Right, exactly. And I feel really, really comfortable introducing Kathryn Creedy to Larry Heinbaugh, or to any of our customers. Because we know from experience that she goes the extra mile to make them happy and to make sure that their concerns are addressed at any point in the process.
And we have some pretty particular customers, so we don’t feel comfortable throwing just any writer in with any client. But I think that really speaks well of your process and the way that you do business, so.
Kathryn Creedy: Yeah, and I think that to me, it’s the only way to do business cuz I do want to build relationships.
Even if it doesn’t develop into long-term business, that doesn’t matter to me so much as it is building the relationships and making sure the customer is happy. And producing the product they want, not the product I think they should have.
Paula Williams: Right, right, sometimes it’s a mix. Sometimes you have to tell people [LAUGH] that what they initially want, may not be the best fit for them.
Kathryn Creedy: Right, and that’s another thing about relationships. I approach clients in, I’m an advisor.
Paula Williams: Right.
Kathryn Creedy: I know public relations. I know writing. And they may not know that facet of what needs to be done. So I can advise them in, a couple of people have come to me and said well here’s the news hook, and I go no it’s not.
And they’re receptive to that. I’m working with a client now where deeply buried in their website is the fact that they pay CFIs full time salaries, higher than the regional airlines. And I said well, we got to do a press release on that because nobody does that.
Paula Williams: Right.
Kathryn Creedy: And that’s what sets you apart. So I think that that advisory capacity is again, part of the value you bring to the table.
Paula Williams: Right, exactly, you know what’s newsworthy. And maybe even if they don’t think they have anything newsworthy, it’s likely with your experience, you’re going to find something.
Kathryn Creedy: Mm-hm.
Paula Williams: Right.
Kathryn Creedy: Yeah, and I can say okay, we haven’t got the news hook yet. But here’s how we could position it with just a little extra work so that we have a news hook.
Paula Williams: Yeah, that’s true. Last question, and that is, what are some creative ways that people can use testimonials in their marketing that you may have seen?
Kathryn Creedy: Well I haven’t seen a lot of creativity on that, except for really strong narratives. But I would say it’s gotta be on the website on a what our customers say type of thing, really blatant headline type of that. But also testimonials on anything that will address a need to a certain customer target base.
We’ll go back to V-Log, target base is aircraft owners or aircraft managers who need to protect the value of their aircraft. So, the testimonials should address that need. It shouldn’t be, I just love working with this company. It should be, I was able to protect the asset value.
I got one-third higher price because I was able to achieve a higher price for my product than the guy down the road because I did X. And so, it has to be really pointed and address the need that your potential customers have.
Paula Williams: Right, so yeah, we’re putting together a tip sheet that will include, not only some ways to get testimonials, but also some ways to use testimonials that people can download from our website.
But yeah, I really appreciate the interview, and I know how busy you are with all of the projects that you’ve got going on. And I’m glad you were able to spend some time with us today.
Kathryn Creedy: Well as usual, I love talking with you and John, so anytime.
And I’ve got some bandwidth, because I haven’t taken on a lot of new assignments. In the first quarter I had 34 assignments. I did all but four, and the four that I didn’t do were blogs. And so after that was all done in mid-April, I said, I’m not going to take any more assignments until June.
So I still have some bandwidth left.
Paula Williams: Excellent, well, we’ll take advantage of it [LAUGH] and maybe offer some deals to our customers and see if we can get you busy. But we’ll talk about that another time. But thank you so much. This was really fun to do.
John Williams: Thank you, Kathryn.
Kathryn Creedy: Well as you know I love it. You guys are great.
Paula Williams: [LAUGH]
John Williams: We’ll talk to you later. Thank you, Kathryn.
Kathryn Creedy: Okay, bye.
Paula Williams: Bye bye.
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