Tuesday, February 07, 2012

Making the Most of Endorsements

To continue yesterday's musings on endorsements...

The endorsements people give you have many uses. But just because you have a testimonial doesn't mean that you must use it.

No Such Thing as a Bad Endorsement

I once worked on marketing a book. It's a good book -- worthwhile, well written, full of information, and written by an expert in the field. The author, however, had neglected to talk to friends and colleagues to obtain endorsements for the work. So I made it a priority to get some.

Don't allow personal reservations to
interfere with endorsements.
One of the first people I spoke to looked at the book and loved it. This person is also an expert in the field, with connections to several related professional organizations. Not only did he agree to give the book a glowing testimonial, but he enthusiastically recommended the book to his professional colleagues, who also liked it.

I thought this was a good thing. I still do. My take on it is -- anytime anyone says anything good about anything, it's cause for celebration. Ah, but the author had differing views.

The author expressed grave doubts about the belief system, the possible political agenda, and the overall weight that the various professional organizations in question carried. "We wouldn't want to mention an endorsement by one entity that could send the wrong message to potential buyers," was the rationale.

I, respectfully, fail to understand this train of thought. To illustrate, consider a work that focuses on solutions to social problems. If a conservative Christian group decides to adopt the project and offer an official endorsement -- great! That doesn't mean that the project wouldn't appeal equally to a left-leaning, ultra-liberal organization pushing for sweeping social change. It just means that perhaps you wouldn't use the conservatives' vote of confidence when marketing the project to the liberals.

The point is, collect endorsements. Get all the raves you can. If a group loves your work and wants to buy a ton of copies to distribute to its members, that's brilliant! It doesn't matter if you disagree with the group's politics, policies, or philosophy. It's an equal opportunity market. If people love your work, encourage them to give you an endorsement. Remember -- you don't have to use it. But it never hurts to have it.

The Endorsement At Work

When using endorsements and citing their sources, whenever possible, write in the present tense. That way, the project in question remains current, rather than historical.

You don't need a lot of testimonials to make endorsements work for you. All it takes to start out is one. Places where rave reviews are appropriate include:

* Your electronic signature. Add the best portions of the best endorsements to a short sentence about your latest work, and include it as part of your e-mail signature. Something like, Be sure to read My Latest Book, which the National Board of Book Readers deems "heartbreakingly good," and Bookworms Anonymous calls "an instant classic."

* Your website. If you have anything to offer, you should have a website. On the site, it is perfectly reasonable to include testimonials about you and your work.

* Your bio. Add a short section to your official bio for "What Others Have to Say." Include excerpts from your most ardent endorsements, and be sure to cite their sources. A short sentence that includes two- or three-word raves, like the one used on your electronic signature, can also be added to online bios and profiles.

* Marketing information. Liberally sprinkling excerpts from testimonials throughout your marketing materials can create powerful purchasing motivation to prospective clients. Endorsements show that you have a cache of people who are on board with you. They can help nearly any marketing campaign come alive.

* The project itself. By all means, include rave reviews directly on the product packaging whenever possible.

* On-line review boards. If an endorsement is particularly good, you might want to ask the person who gave it to you to post it online. Such reviews are often subject to a certain degree of suspicion, however. In most online forums, including Amazon.com, it's easy to write bad reviews that trash your competitors' work. It's also easy to write what you wish someone would say about your own, and then ask friends or employees to post them as if they were bona-fide reviews. Still, if someone has something good to say about you, posting it as a review can be an effective way to generate online interest.

* Business cards. A sampling of the brightest and best excerpts can add instant credibility.

You get the picture. Pick and choose the testimonials that pack the biggest punch for a particular audience. As better and better reviews come in, don't hesitate to use them in lieu of earlier endorsements.

A Word About Restraint

Though endorsements are a great way to tell people that others like your work, one place I see them overused is on Twitter. You may be tempted to tweet: "Another 5* review about #MyFabulousBook. Buy it here: http://bit.ly.SELFPROMO. #ebook #99cents #IHaveNoShame."

If you must tweet ads like this, please do so sparingly. No more than once a week. Really, once a lifetime is quite enough, IMO. Twitter is a place for you to engage your readers, to develop relationships with them, and to be so brilliant that they want to read more of your stuff. It's not a venue for the hard-sell or the shameless self-promotion.

The Final Word:

The over-arching purpose of endorsements is to let people know that others value your work. Whenever people are willing to say they believe a project of yours has merit, you owe it to them to help get the word out!

What ways have you used endorsements to get the word out about your projects? I encourage you to share them below.

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