The Art of an Excellent Testimonial

We all love receiving a testimonial about ourselves or our companies, but have you ever thought about what goes into making a truly excellent and useful testimonial?

  1. Speak from a position of knowledge; you need to have used the goods or services before you can give a testimonial about that person or company.
  2. Be Specific.  People want know how and why you used the product and how it performed.  Be sure to include some basic details about your age and demographics. i.e. Forty-six year old, mother of two girls.
  3. Honesty is the best policy. If there were glitches in performance but you were overall satisfied, include that information so that others can make an informed decision.  Be sure to acknowledge your own role in any shortcomings.
  4. If you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all. At least in public.  If you truly had a poor experience, take it directly to the company and let them know that you would like to offer them the chance to correct the situation.  Don’t use a testimonial opportunity to lash out at someone else; it will only make you look bad.
  5. Short is sweet. You can give a great testimonial without giving two paragraphs of back story about why you decided to use the service. While people like to know a little bit about you, the point of the testimonial is to tell them about an excellent company or person.Harry
  6. Put it in writing.  The very best gift you can give a company or person is your testimonial in writing.  Whether you write an online review on LinkedIn or speak up in a BNI or Chamber meeting, putting it on paper gives them something tangible that they can use to market themselves even better.

Bonus Tip: One of the best ways to receive excellent testimonials is to give excellent testimonials.  Use these guidelines the next time you want to give a testimonial and see if the good karma you generate pays off.

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Filed under BNI, Entrepreneur, Marketing, PR

Use “Actions that Achieve” to Get the Most Out of Your Visitors

Most BNI members understand that visitors are important to their chapter for a number of reasons—generating more referrals, providing access to new people and, most importantly, becoming new BNI members.  But even though visitors are extremely important to the health of a chapter, many of us fail to take them seriously.

Visitors at a BNI meeting can bring valuable new connections to your chapter and your business.

Visitors at a BNI meeting can bring valuable new connections to your chapter and your business.

What do I mean?  Here’s an example:

If I had a customer meeting that was 100 miles away from my home at 7 am tomorrow morning, do you think I would call to confirm that appointment today?  You bet I would! 

I wouldn’t want to risk driving all that way before the sun was even up to find out that my customer needed to reschedule because of a work emergency.  Yet, many of us fail to confirm attendance with our invited visitors the day before our weekly BNI meeting.

Suppose, to take it a step further, I confirmed ahead of time, but when I showed up at that early meeting, my customer wasn’t there.  What would you do? 

Of course, you would probably wait for the customer a few extra minutes and then you would call them to make sure everything was alright.  Do you do that when a visitor doesn’t show up for a meeting?  Or do you just think, “Well, it probably wasn’t a good fit for him anyway”?

Lastly, after that meeting with an important customer, do you follow-up with a thank you email or note?  How about someone who has taken the time and effort to visit your chapter?

When we invite visitors to our BNI chapter, we owe them the exact same courtesy as we would give any other business appointment and that means employing the Actions that Achieve:

  • Call the day before to confirm the appointment.
  • If someone doesn’t show up, call immediately to see if they are alright and find out why they didn’t come. Reschedule with them.
  • Send a Thank You note or email.

Get serious about your visitors and the business they represent, apply Actions that Achieve and increase your visibility, credibility and profitability in your chapter and business.

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Your Best PR is Your People

My husband came home from a bike ride the another night with another story about someone who had nearly run him off the road and come perilously close to having caused a crash with two other cars.  This, unfortunately, if not such an unusual occurrence.  What made it stand out in his mind was this–there was a company name on the car.

While he wasn’t very familiar with the local construction company named, he certainly has a negative image of them now.  And here’s the thing, it has NOTHING to do with how well they construct buildings and everything to with his experience (unwitting or not) with one person.

A safer place to ride your bike--the High Trestle Trail in Iowa.

A safer place to ride your bike–the High Trestle Trail in Iowa.

Do you think he’ll have good things to say about that company when their name comes up in conversation?  While my husband is a nice guy, he’ll uncountably recount his ONE experience with ONE person from that company.  Sadly, that company may never know the harm that one employee did to their reputation.

I think we can all agree we may behave a little better under the watchful eyes of the boss. So how do you make sure that your employees are representing your company in an outstanding manner no matter where they are?  A lot of it comes down to corporate culture and probably has as much to do with how the boss behaves and treats the staff as anything else.  Show me a boss who cares for and supports their employees and I’ll show you employees who go out into the world and show that same care and concern to others.

You really can’t BUY the positive Public Relations (PR) that comes when one of your employees stops the company car at the side of the road to help someone change a tire. It may not seem like a big deal, but those hundreds of cars flying past are filled with people who will notice and file that positive impression away for future reference.

While it’s not the standard business school method for creating a PR plan, having a positive company environment and happy employees will go a long way towards creating the very best environment for a PR plan to flourish. So the next time you are thinking of investing in PR, start with your company culture and make sure that your people are delivering the company impression that you really want.

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Filed under Entrepreneur, Marketing, PR

6 Minutes to Finding Your PR Moments

I had a phone call the other day from a friend who has a great public relations (PR) opportunity in the form of an event that is taking place at her business on

Uncle Jerry celebrates Pi Day.

Uncle Jerry celebrates Pi Day.

March 14 (3/14) or “Pi Day.” She was looking for some feedback on what kinds of PR might be appropriate. Since my friend has more than 20 years in the marketing industry, she’s no slouch when it comes to recognizing PR moments.

But what about everyday business people who are so busy running their businesses that they barely have time to take out the trash, let alone think about PR?

PR moments surround us, but it often hard to see them without a little guidance. These questions will help you generate a list of possible PR moments so that you can garner more awareness for you and your business. Grab a sheet of paper and use the next six minutes to put together your PR road-map.

1. What National Days might naturally fit with your business?

For example, if you run a bakery you’ll want to mark National Cupcake Day (Dec. 15) as well as National Dessert Day (Oct. 14) on your calendar. And that’s just the start, there’s also days set aside for Oreos, Banana Cream Pie and Pi Day. Google “National Days” and see what opportunities exist for your business.

2.  Does your City/Town/Village have annual celebrations?

Make sure you put each and every local festival and parade on your PR calendar. There are always opportunities to raise your business profile by marching in a parade, sponsoring a contest or hosting a booth. If you happen to do it with a zany theme or to benefit a children’s charity, media will be delighted to hear about it.

 3. Has your business been nominated for or won any awards?

Don’t wait until you win! Even being nominated for an award is an honor and a press release to let the public know about it is perfectly legitimate. If the organization giving out the awards hasn’t created a release, you can build a little good will with others and mention all the award nominees in your press release. If you’ve won a coveted award, make sure the awarding organization has a professional photo of you or your business to send with their press release.

 4. Do you or your employees have any unusual hobbies or collections?

The media loves juxtapositions, so if you are a beautician by day and a roller babe by night, that’s the kind of “opposites” that make for an outstanding story. Bonus points if there are great visual elements to the story.

 5. Is there a trend that you’ve been seeing in your business?

One local business in our area has had eight couples become engaged at their facility in the past three years. Because the business owners generally know about the proposals in advance, it opens up some fun opportunities for that company to leverage the tenth engagement or an engagement that has unusual elements (like a singing mascot). Media is always on the lookout for emerging trends (why more people are doing public engagements) with great visual elements (a newly engaged couple with a singing mascot).

 6. Is there an organization or charity that your business avidly supports?

If you have a charity of choice, especially if you have a personal story that makes that bond tight, consider raising awareness and funds for that organization by hosting a special event or activity at your business. This is truly a win-win-win, with the media getting a great positive story while the charity and your business raise awareness.

 Take this list of PR moments that you’ve just generated and plan your PR for the year. I guarantee that taking advantage of all these precious PR moments will pay off big for both you and your company.

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Filed under Entrepreneur, Marketing, Non-Profits, PR, Sponsors

How to Save a Life

I was privileged to recently to be the headliner for the February SPARKS Talk in Indianapolis.  They give you free-reign for your topic and 10 minutes in which to present it.  Nerve-wracking to say the least!

If you are in the area, check out the SPARKS Talks which happen the 2nd Wednesday of every month (

And let me know in the comments below if you’ve used any of these techniques to Save a Life.

PS–For some reason the slides don’t line up with the video, ignore them.

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Filed under Disaster, Life Hacks

Surviving A Week Without Water

My front yard is being re-landscaped so I can have running water!

My front yard is being re-landscaped so I can have running water!

After more than a week without running water, I appreciate even more the privilege of living in a first world country.  I never expected to be without running water for such a long period, but the unusually low temps in our area have prevented outside repairs.  We’re lucky though, even though our water main is broken, it has just enough pressure to allow us to turn it on for a few minutes each day to “restock” our water supply.

All this time without working faucets has got me to thinking about disasters in much greater detail.  I also have a much better understanding of how much water you HAVE to have each day to get by.

It turns out that the recommended 1 gal per person per day is actually a bare minimum.  We have found that, even if you aren’t taking showers or flushing toilets, you will need closer to 2-3 gallons per person per day.  Add toilets and basic personal hygiene (but still no showers) into the equation and you need more like 5-10 gallons per person.

Wow, what an eye opener.  Think about it, do you even have enough room or containers in your house to store 10 gallons of water per person for one day, let alone a week?  Puts things into perspective doesn’t it?

Of course, not all water is created equal.  The quality of the water coming through our broken pipe in not drinkable, so we’ve had to use a purification system to make sure we don’t create a “secondary emergency” by getting sick.  We’re fortunate to already own a system that will make our water potable, but it certainly isn’t something I would have thought about having in place for this type of situation.

My Red Cross disaster training has been really helpful in coping with this situation; it gave me some basic guidelines to follow and some ideas of how to be creative with our resources.  But nothing short of going through a situation can really make you challenge your underlying assumptions—many you may not even realize you have.

I had never considered how much water it takes to brush my teeth or how to wash my hands one at a time with one hand pouring from the pitcher and the other trying to wash itself. These are only two small things, but there are dozens of small challenges to be overcome without running water, everything from laundry to cooking.  I have always thought I would do OK during a zombie apocalypse, but I have definitely reconsidered some of my bravado after this past week.

While we’ve done great, we’ve also not been 100% without access to water or other resources.  At any time we can get in our car (which has plenty of gas) and drive to the store or go to a friend’s house for water.  We have more than enough food and haven’t lost power or heat, all things that can become scarce or nonexistent for weeks on end during disasters (think Hurricanes Sandy or Katrina).

So my message to all of you who are enjoying a cozy snow day, is to take a few minutes today to consider what you might do if you lost even one of these precious utilities that we take for granted.

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Filed under Disaster, Life Hacks

How to Use an Online Review

With online searching becoming so much of a standard in looking for everything from a new doctor to a plumber or a great restaurant or book, it is important to know how to decipher reviews to ensure you are able to make the very best choices for you and your family.  So whether you check out Google, Amazon or Yelp reviews, ask yourself these questions before making a decision.

  1. Is it relevant?Gold star

Make sure that the review speaks to the issue or needs that you have.  It’s nice to know that a repairman has a great smile, but that doesn’t tell you anything about his repair skills.

  1. Is it specific?

Another issue I’ve encountered is people telling you someone is “really good” but not telling you WHY they think so.  I want to know exactly what service the company performed for you and what the positive (or negative) outcomes were.

  1. Is it dated?

I always read the most recent reviews first.  I’ve found that organizations can change (just like people, imagine that!) so I tend to give more weight to the most recent reviews and will generally not look at anything much over a year old.

  1. Does it include credentials?

I’m looking for information on years in business, training, certifications or excellent end results so that when I pick a company I am confident that they have the resources to do a good job for me.

  1. Is it rational?

Unfortunately, for some reason there are some individuals that will decide to “flame” a company.  I have learned to filter out multiple negative rants that appear to come from the same person or group of people.  If the reviews seem a little too over the top, then I generally try to do some additional research.  A good clue is name calling or profanity.

  1. Is it too good to be true?

Occasionally I will come across a set of reviews that swing wildly from bad to good and back again. That is my clue that the company is having someone write good reviews (usually a family member or employee) to try to cover up the bad ones and push them further down the list.  I consider this  an act of bad faith.  I don’t mind having companies answer the accusations in a bad review and I usually even give them extra credit if their answer is polite and even-handed, but I will completely eliminate reviews that try to bolster a company’s rankings.

Reading reviews is a great way to find your next fabulous pet sitter or lawn care company, just be sure to apply your critical thinking skills to the process so you can have an awesome outcome!

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December 13, 2013 · 2:35 pm