Using Testimonials to Support Capital Campaign Success

Testimonials are a powerful way to deliver a convincing message. The credibility of third party endorsement is gold, and that credibility is even stronger when the testimonial comes from a familiar face.

That’s why testimonials can be so effective for chambers of commerce and other nonprofit organizations that operate within a structured local or regional network. There’s a good chance that the people who see the testimonial are going to be familiar with the person or organization delivering it. It becomes more personal and relatable.

But effective doesn’t equate to easy. A good testimonial doesn’t happen by chance. Here are some tips to help you unleash the power of this marketing technique to help support the success of your next capital campaign.

Identify Your Audience
Like with any marketing effort, to be effective you need to know your audience. For a capital campaign, it’s likely to be C-suite executives, decision makers at larger employers, past investors, owners of successful businesses, etc.

It’s fine to identify your audience by job title, but if you really want to be effective, identify them by what might motivate them to make a decision about investing in the work of the chamber. It will help you develop a more targeted message.

For example, you might define your audience as “business decision makers who strongly believe in growing the local economy, have funds to invest, and want assurance that their funds will be invested in ways that will help the community’s economy grow.”

Sure, it’s a mouthful, but it very clearly defines whom you are targeting with your message. It also may help you think outside of the “usual suspects” when you are identifying the people you will approach to ask for an investment.

Make sure that your messenger(s) are able to provide authentic, on-message testimonials.

Decide On A Message
Not just any testimonial will do. Keep in mind; you’re in charge. What do you want your audience to remember, think, or do after they see the testimonial?

This is an important part of the process. You need to drive the testimonial in the direction that you want it to go. It must contain a message that aligns with your overall goal – to increase support for your capital campaign. The more concise the message is, the better.

That said, the testimonial should be truthful and steeped in the personal experience of the person delivering it. So you will need to match the message to a messenger that can deliver it with authenticity. You want to find messengers who have feelings or have had experiences that align with your desired message.

Identify Your Messengers
I have three suggestions for the types of messengers that can best help you deliver an authentic testimonial specific to a capital campaign. If you have the ability, I recommend that you try all three.

  • Peer Testimonial – A peer testimonial is a must-have. It is human nature to trust people that we view as similar to us. When the messenger is actually someone that the audience knows personally and perhaps does business with, that trust factor is multiplied. This type of testimonial will reinforce to your audience that people like them support the chamber’s effort, so perhaps they should too.
  • Business Beneficiary – If you want to take your testimonials to the next level, find a business that has benefitted from the economic development work of the chamber. This type of testimonial will send a very concrete message that an investment in the chamber yields real results for real people and businesses in your community.
  • Citizen Beneficiary – This type of testimonial could be the toughest to come by, but it could help your audience connect with your campaign in a very emotional way. If you are able to find a person in your community whose job was directly created through the chamber’s economic development work, you’ve found hidden treasure.

This kind of testimonial demonstrates the true value of economic development investment at the most personal of levels. You’ve heard the term “poster child.” It’s kind of like that. It attaches a face to your story and communicates to your audience how past investments have made a positive difference in the lives of real people. It will make your audience feel good in their hearts about committing to a long-term investment.

Choose Quality Over Quantity
When you are choosing your messengers, it is important that you choose quality over quantity. A single, powerful testimonial is worth far more than 10 mediocre ones. Focus your efforts on people that have a story to tell. It will take some extra time, but will be well worth the effort. Ask for help from volunteers. Do they know someone that fits the profile of the type of messenger you are looking for? Uncover hidden success stories in your community that are connected to the work your chamber is doing.

Help Them Tell Their Stories
Once again, you are in charge. You need to direct the process. But it is important that your end product is authentic. Don’t stretch the truth.

If you plan on using a text-based testimonial, I recommend you spend 10-15 minutes on the phone or in person with your messenger, talking about their experience, why they support the chamber, why they are thankful for the work the chamber does. Take notes or record it on your SmartPhone for reference later, then write the testimonial for them, using their words. Use a photo of the messenger alongside the testimonial to establish a more personal connection with your audience.

If you are going to deliver the testimonial through video, don’t script it. It needs to come from the heart and be authentic. Record it “interview-style” and ask questions that will draw out the answers that you want. Pay attention while you are recording to be sure you get what you need.

This is a great example of the high-quality video testimonial you can get using a smart phone.

Keep It Simple
Strive for just one key takeaway per testimonial. If your messenger has a lot of great things to say, split his/her comments up into multiple testimonials and use them across a variety of communications platforms.

For text-based testimonials, you want just a few sentences. For video, your finished video should be less than two minutes, preferably around one minute.

If your messenger has a very compelling story to tell that won’t fit into just a few sentences, consider telling their full story in an article on your chamber’s blog. Be sure to tie it all back to the economic development work of the chamber with a call to action that supports your campaign.