“WORD-OF-MOUTH IS MY BEST ADVERTISING.”

“Word-of-mouth is my best advertising.”

“I don’t need to advertise.  I rely on word-of-mouth. My customers tell their friends.”   

How often have you heard those words?

Personal referrals and recommendations are powerful, especially when we’re considering the purchase of a product or service from a new or unfamiliar source.

Successful online retailers from Amazon to Zappos understand the value of customer ratings and recommendations. Ebay created a whole new retail channel, where strangers could buy from strangers in confidence, based on ratings and testimonials of other strangers.

Yes, it sounds funny, but it works.  And it all boils down to word-of-mouth.

We prefer buying from people and companies we trust.  And trust is developed over time, on the basis of familiarity and experience.

For those of us in radio advertising, “word of mouth” has a special significance. It is, after all, how we earn our living. The primary tool of our trade—indeed, mankind’s primary means of communication— is human speech.

Now, all of this serves as a rather lengthy introduction to the real topic under consideration: the power of testimonials in advertising and marketing.

Perhaps you’ve created commercials built around customer testimonials. Hopefully, they worked well for you.  Unfortunately, even the most well-meaning customer, reading from a script, can be reduced to ridiculous in seconds.   Even worse is the spot that purports to feature a “satisfied customer,” played by a staff announcer or an office assistant coaxed into the production studio to voice the role.  (Incidentally, fraudulent testimonials, no matter how innocuous or well-intentioned, violate the Federal Trade Commission’s Truth-in-Advertising laws. Google it.)

Roy H. Williams likens testimonials to nitroglycerine. Done well, they’ll produce explosive results. Done poorly, they’ll blow up in your face. Let me illustrate.

 

Meet Meredith, a patient of Dr. David Leach at Clearview Eye Clinic in Moscow, Idaho. They’d asked Meredith to write up her story and read it in her own voice. Here’s that spot as recorded and mixed by a busy production person at a local radio station, prior to my involvement.

Fortunately the client realized that even though Meredith’s story is true, the spot sounded more like shilling than storytelling. They asked me if I could come up with a better spot.

So, I arranged to interview Meredith. In the space of 30 minutes, she told me her story. I subsequently interviewed both Dr. Leach and his nurse, Rhonda, to get their side of Meredith’s story. Armed with nearly an hour’s worth of audio, I began editing and weaving together three stories into one.  Here’s how it turned out:

Hear a difference? It’s the same set of facts in both spots. But while one just talks at you, the other grabs you and pulls you into the story.

Word-of-mouth is powerful.  And radio, the only pure audio medium, is uniquely suited to telling your story. I look forward to hearing yours.

P.S.  The irrepressibly insightful Phil Bernstein, formerly a radio AE with Clear Channel/Portland, Oregon, now a TV road warrior for Jim Doyle & Associates, recently shared a few observations on “the testimonial that writes itself.”  Spot-on, as usual with Phil, and well worth reading!

About Rod Schwartz

Rod Schwartz backed into a lifelong career in radio advertising in 1973 in Springfield, Illinois. He became sales manager for the Pullman Radio Group in 1979 and served in that position until 2006. He continues to serve clients in the region as the stations’ senior account executive. Since 1991, Rod and his family have operated Grace Broadcast Sales, providing short-form syndicated radio features to radio and TV stations across the U.S. and Canada. An avid photographer, Rod shares some of his favorite images of the Palouse at PalousePics.com.
This entry was posted in Advertising (General), Branding, Client-voiced commercials, Communication, Problem-solving, Professional Services Advertising, Radio Advertising, Radio Commercials, Radio Copywriting, Radio Production, Sales & Marketing, Storytelling and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “WORD-OF-MOUTH IS MY BEST ADVERTISING.”

  1. Terrific insight, Rod. The best testimonial ads sound like the client is sitting in her living room, telling the story to her best friend over a cup of coffee. Broadcast — radio or TV — can duplicate that atmosphere, but it takes a lot of hard work to make it sound that way. The spots you did with Rod and Meredith definitely hit the mark.

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