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Better Blurbs Are More Persuasive

by Marcia Yudkin

Consider this testimonial for a program designed to get one started in a home business:

"Prior to learning about CBSI, I was disabled and unemployed with back problems. I now have people helping me and I expect my income to double." - M.B.

This blurb contains a kernel of persuasiveness but badly needs a makeover. Here are three problems with it:

  1. The phrase "now have people helping me" could mean either "now have people taking care of me because of my back problem" or "now have people voluntarily helping me run my business," neither of which attests to the power of the CBSI program.
  2. "I expect my income to double" is extremely weak. Many people expect their income to double from year to year. Does it actually do so?
  3. Even though the company says they have the original testimonial on file, the attribution to "M.B." appears flimsy. Many readers won't believe that "M.B." exists.

When you receive an unsolicited testimonial that isn't worded well, set up a brief conversation with the customer to clarify the facts and get permission for a revision. The following version of the above blurb, for instance, would give CBSI a greater boost:

"Prior to working with CBSI, I was disabled and unemployed with back problems. My husband and I now employ three people in a business that grosses $22,000 a month." - Marilyn Baxter, Lincoln Falls, Nebraska

Eliminate Wordiness With Powerful, Easy-to-Apply Guidelines
Learn how to get your point across in one page or how to satisfy a strict word count for magazine or newsletter editors. Find out how to identify and cut repetition, eliminate excess verbiage, make your point fast and convey a wealth of facts in a small space. My longwinded clients asked for this! Become more concise.

Use these guidelines for editing blurbs so that they sing your praises loud and clear.

  • Make it brief. When customer comments go on for more than three sentences, select the strongest portion and cut the rest. You want nuggets, not blobs of praise.
  • Make it positive. If the client wrote, "This was not a waste of time and money," ask if you can reword it to "This was a smart investment."
  • Make it specific. General adjectives like "wonderful" or "most beneficial" can't hold a candle to a precise, explicit description of what the product or service did for your buyer.
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  • Make it clear. Often people leave out of blurbs the background that you know and they know but that strangers need to know to understand a comment. Other times the intended meaning needs to be disentangled from twisted phrasing.
  • Attribute it. The most convincing quotes include the praiser's name, position and city and state. If there's some understandable reason the person prefers to remain unnamed, provide as much information about the writer (occupation, home town) as you can.

When collecting testimonials for a Web page or brochure, pay attention to the overall diversity of the quotes. If all the blurbs come from attorneys, readers will assume your clients are primarily lawyers. If most focus on one of the five services you provide, readers may think that accounts for a disproportionate share of your work. And make sure all the quotes don't come from men or from women if you serve a mixed clientele. Specific praise from named people with different things to say can be strong marketing ammunition indeed.

Copyright 2001 Marcia Yudkin.  All rights reserved.

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