By Thomas Clifford published September 23, 2011

3 Steps to Making Your Content More Credible (Prior to Publication)

Out of 42 different content marketing tactics, the CMI Content Marketing Playbook and CMI community ranked testimonials as one of the top 10 tactics.

Testimonials can definitely give your content that extra boost — and credibility —your audience is looking for.

But here’s the thing: Receiving testimonials after a project is complete is easy enough. But how do you receive testimonials when your content isn’t published yet?

Your content is ready to go. It’s proofed, designed and looking sharp. And, hey, the landing page is looking nifty, too.

What’s missing? Some testimonials to tip the scales in your favor.

The secret to receiving testimonials ahead of time

The secret to receiving testimonials before publishing your content is to give it away to a handful of people and ask for a testimonial from those select recipients. Testimonials help position your content in the best possible light and supply that extra “push” it needs to get noticed.

However simplistic this idea may appear, few people act on it. Instead, we cross our fingers and hope for the best.

But there are some easy steps you can take to increase the chances of receiving those testimonials:

  1. Identify five influential people.
  2. Craft a short, compelling email introduction.
  3. Email your content (if possible), and directly request a testimonial.

Step 1: Identify five influential people

The key is choosing five people who can benefit from your content and have their own audience or network that will also benefit.

You may know five people in your own network who may enjoy receiving your content; but if they’re not the target audience for your information because they can’t apply it to their business or they wouldn’t know how to share it with their network, you may not reap the full benefits of this advanced action.

Look for five people in your market who could use your insights in their business. If they find it helpful, they’ll likely feel more inclined to share it with their network and friends.

What if you can’t find people in your market?

If you are having trouble identifying influencers to reach out to for testimonials, try looking at these places to help you get started:

  1. LinkedIn contacts
  2. LinkedIn groups that are relevant to your business
  3. Twitter followers
  4. Industry bloggers
  5. Current customers
  6. Past customers
  7. Local companies

Step 2: Craft a short, compelling email introduction

Once you’ve identified your five targets, it’s time to contact them. If you know someone personally, a phone call is certainly a great way to see if he is interested in receiving your content and providing a brief testimonial.

If you have a relationship with someone, a phone call is a great way to see if your content might be of value to them. If they find your content intriguing, you can then ask for a testimonial after reviewing it. Let them know right away there is no obligation to write one.

If you don’t know any of your targets, an email might be a better way to introduce yourself. Emphasize how and why your content will help them and their audience.

Tell them you are seeking testimonials before the official launch of your new content, and that you would be honored to send them an exclusive preview for their consideration. Be sure to mention that there is no obligation to write a testimonial; they should only write one if they found the information helpful.

Here is an email template you can easily modify for your own purposes. You can even use a version of this for a phone call.

  1. Introduction. In one sentence, share what your content is and why your contact (and their audience) will find it helpful.
  2. Ask for a testimonial. If your contact finds the content unique and helpful, ask for a testimonial. Of course, share with them that they’re not obligated to write one; it’s entirely up to them.
  3. Attach your content. It’s easy to forget to attach your content! If you don’t have an attachment, consider providing a link pointing to your content.
  4. Close with a version of “thank you for your time.”

Step 3: Email your content and testimonial request to your targets

Once your email is crafted, send it to a friend for proofing and to get some honest feedback on your approach.

Ask how that friend would feel about receiving such an email out of the blue. If your friend has suggestions, incorporate their changes, attach your content to the email (or link), and send it off to your targets.

Next steps

Here’s a nudge: Do you have a project nearing completion? If so, it’s time to get moving.

Scan your contact list and write down five people who can benefit from your insights. Remember: If there’s a benefit for your targets, your odds of receiving powerful testimonials will be improved.

Over to you

How do you ask for and receive testimonials for content that hasn’t been published yet?

Do you wait until content is published to gather testimonials?

Feel free to share your experiences in the comments area.

Author: Thomas Clifford

Thomas Clifford is a B2B content marketing writer and certified copywriter. He helps companies generate and nurture high quality leads through eNewsletters, blog articles and free special download reports. Tom has 25 years under his belt as an award-winning B2B filmmaker. He's produced hundreds of marketing-branding films and brings his street-level interviewing experience to every project. Tom is featured in the book “Content Rules: How to Create Killer Blogs, Podcasts, Videos, Ebooks, Webinars (and More) That Engage Customers and Ignite Your Business." He has also written dozens of articles as an “Expert Blogger” for FastCompany.com. You can follow Tom on Twitter at @ThomasClifford. His blog, "Humanizing Business Communications," is packed with new media business communication tips and writing strategies. His eBook "5 (Ridiculously Simple) Ways to Write Faster, Better, Easier" is free to new subscribers.

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  • http://twitter.com/dtfpress Deborah TaylorFrench

    Thanks Thomas, I’m jumping on this now. Solid ideas for launching my first novel and a NGO project too.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Deborah-

      Glad you found this helpful and good luck with your launch! 

  • http://twitter.com/brencournoyer Brendan Cournoyer

    I look at testimonials for content the same way I look at them for books. When you see a new book that has a testimonial from from some credible source (a thought leader in the field), it certainly speaks highly to the book before you purchase it. Same thing goes for content. This works best for special content (an eBook, report, some sort of running series), but can also help pump up your site overall, say, if someone has something nice to say about your newsletter, etc.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Brendan-

      Yes, you’re spot on. I almost released my ebook for blog subscribers without any testimonials. I’m glad I rethought that strategy because I think testimonials can give your projects that extra “push” it needs. My own experience is what inspired me to write this post. 🙂 

  • http://twitter.com/KatieMcCaskey Katie McCaskey

    Thanks, Thomas. What are your thoughts about “ranking” testimonials? For example, is it better to get the name “everyone” knows up top, or that from your niche/industry leader? I can imagine benefits of either approach and depends on audience, but wondered what you thought. More bang from an industry leader or the celebrity?

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Katie,

      I really haven’t had enough experience to A/B the ranking system so I prefer not guessing. 

      I’m hoping other readers can share their thoughts or experiences with you here.

  • http://twitter.com/Mywritingworld Fran Aslam

    Thomas I like reading your article but to be very frank whenever I see testimonial for a new book just published, to me these testimonials sound fake.  May be I am wrong. But this is my life experience for my actions.  I do not expect every one to do what I do.  I rather add testimonials later on my ebook site with the date of the testimonial.  However your article is awesome, I like how you have added so many strategies for promotion. Thanks for a good read.  Fran A

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Fran,

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts. 

      I think if your information is helpful and truly resonates with someone, then the testimonial (hopefully) will come across as believable. If not, perhaps consider having the endorser rewrite the testimonial. Or perhaps you can tweak the testimonial and have the endorser approve it. 

      Just a thought. 

  • Anonymous

    Have you ever wondered how some book authors get enthusiastic blurbs “(This book will change your life!!!!) for the backs of their books, even a first edition? They send out parts of the manuscript ahead of time, just as Thomas Clifford describes. I did that for my second book, Publishing Magazine Articles.
    I believe that your response rate will go up, as it did for me, if you make it easy for the person from whom you want a referral. Write a first draft of what you’d like the other person to say about your content. Tell them something like, “I know you’re busy, and so I’ve given you a starting point — some thoughts that you might incorporate into your comments.” Just be sure that what you’ve written sounds like something they’d be likely to say.  In my experience, you’ll be more likely to get a response from your referral source, it will come faster, and those blurbs will be more likely to be useable.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi cfriesen,

      Yes, writing a testimonial for someone not only increases the chances of getting a testimonial but getting a testimonial in a timely manner. It can be tempting for someone to say “Yes” to a testimonial but getting it can be another matter. 

      Thanks for sharing that tip!

  • http://www.modeltrainhobbyist.com/ Lionel Bachmann

    Nice post. I never considered trying to get testimonials prior to publishing content. Most marketers know that testimonials gain trust and authority from its readers, but releasing content with testimonials already in place is genius. The best thing is that you have a chance to make corrections or rewrites before publishing.

    • http://twitter.com/ThomasClifford Thomas Clifford

      Hi Lionel,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. 

      You brought up a great point I didn’t think of: making corrections before publishing. I think the tendency is to write something, proofread it but skip the part about sharing it with colleagues for feedback. 

      Thanks for sharing!

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