How to Create Raving Fans of Your Small Business

By: Dan Kennedy on: January 25th, 2010 17 Comments

A variation of word-of-mouth advertising is what I call testimonial marketing. The best way to explain it is with some examples.

The best automobile salesman I’ve ever met was in Phoenix, where I lived for over ten years.

He was a true professional in every sense of the word.  He was knowledgeable, competent, a skilled listener.

He was able to exert pressure without being offensive, and he had many other great skills, but his most impressive attribute was mastery of testimonial marketing.

When you went in and sat down in his office you found a typical car salesman’s cubicle, a little desk, a couple side chairs, and a rather tacky tile floor. Just what you’d expect!

But the walls in Bill’s office are covered top to bottom, side to side with instant snap shots of Bill’s customers standing next to their new cars. Each snap shot shows the happy customer next to or in front of his or her new automobile.

As you look at the hundreds of these photos on his walls you can’t help but notice two things, first you’ll probably see someone you know or know of. Second the photos are dated and you’ll see some customers displayed several different times, years apart, pictured next to their new 1980 car, then again next to their new 1985 car, again next to their new 1990 car, again next to their new 2002 car, and again next to their 2009 car.

These pictures are worth thousands of words. Inevitable reactions are all these people can’t be wrong and these people wouldn’t keep coming back if they weren’t being treated well.

I’ve also taught this to thousands of doctors and know that those who use it get great results. In their waiting rooms you’ll find giant scrap books filled with photos of their happy, healthy patients.

Self-made multimillionaire W. Clement Stone used this exact tactic to build a huge insurance sales organization from scratch beginning in the great economic depression.

His reps then and still today enter a business and start selling by flipping through page after page after page of lists of other area business people who bought their insurance programs.

In my business, speaking and consulting, testimonial letters and comments from satisfied clients are the most valuable selling tools possible.

You need to carefully consider how you can collect testimonial type evidence of customer satisfaction and then use that evidence to attract and motivate other customers.

There are two specific applications of this idea that I’d suggest you think about that I’ll cover in an upcoming blog post in just a couple of days.


Dan Kennedy is internationally recognized as the 'Millionaire Maker,' helping people in just about every category of business turn their ideas into fortunes. Dan's "No B.S." approach is refreshing amidst a world of small business marketing hype and enriches those who act on his advice. For more money-making marketing tips, tactics and strategies, go to

17 Responses

  1. Once again, business-building advice from “The Professor of Harsh Reality.”

    Although Professor Dan Kennedy doesn’t just teach philosophical principles from an ivory tower that may or may not work.

    He teaches with real-life examples of real-life entrepreneurs, business owners and sales professionals who use his strategies and tactics to get real-life results.

    This one is a simple, tried-and-true technique that so many of us have used with great success. Why don’t more people do it? Is it just pure laziness?

    Whatever it is, that’s why it’s easy for the few of us who implement Dan Kennedy’s strategies to excel — especially compared to our counterparts who’d rather sit around and complain about “the economy” or some other such nonsense.

    Thanks again, Dan.

  2. This is a great reminder of the power of photos in using testimonials. We need to constantly think about how we can collect testimonial type evidence of happy customers and then use it immediately to attract and motivate other customers. Again, powerful!

    I’m thinking now how I can use this at our Local GKIC Chapter meeting tomorrow night. :)

    Thanks Dan!

  3. Is it just me, or is that image in the blog post a Menorah? :)

    Dan- Great Stuff… I know a gent named Hank Shrier who did the exact same type of strategy in selling cars, and doing so sold tons of them… I have sent him a link to this blog post, so I hope he’ll stop by and comment on how it works.

    The Rabbi

  4. Donna Kopf says:

    A ha! You have given me a great big loophole and I shall use it immediately!

    In the great state of Texas there is a code (Texas Administrative Code Chapter 140 Subchapter H 140.306 to be exact- I looked it up.) that says Massage Therapists can not use testimonials in their advertising. Seriously. I know, I didn’t believe it when they told me. But sure enough- no testimonials because they can be misleading. You also can not make broad statements (even in your slogan) that say “Massage works for everyone!” … because that is also misleading.

    So, needless to say, in reading Mr. Kennedy’s books I have been hunting for a way to market my new Massage Clinic and tip toe around misleading anyone.

    But hey- that code didn’t mention anything about a border of smiling faces!

  5. Hank Shrier says:

    Thanks for the mention Izzy. When selling cars was my career, it occurred to me that keeping my message in front of the customer had real value. When a customer bought a car, yes even “Previously Owned Cars” they had two pictures taken when they received the keys to the car. One they took home with them. The other went into a Happy Customer gallery. Having your picture in someone’s home or office is priceless. So why did you need two pictures you ask? Good question. this was in the days before Digital Cameras. We used a Kodak instant camera. The dealership was delighted to buy the film.

    As Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story involved a carefully planned follow up strategy. Customers received phone calls 3, 10,17 and 30 days after the purchase. and then a call every 90 days. Within three months most of my business was based on referrals. When Minneapolis became my home, not a soul was known to me.

    The pictures were a GREAT closing tool, When someone said, “your price is too high” the pictures came out. You may be right, However, look at all the people who are clearly happy with the purchase they made. You can call anyone in the book to ask any question you wish.

    There is nothing better than 3rd party visual validation. Keep up the good work

  6. Rob Anspach says:

    Rabbi… it is a menorah!

    And it will bless you with more clients than you can handle…
    yep.., the testimonial menorah is what every entreprenuer should learn to use.


  7. Rob,

    The Testimonial Menorah! That’s exactly what I’ll call it in my book. :)

    You and Brian Horn will get thanks in the acknowledgments!

  8. I’d love to see a car salesman in my area with testimonial photos like that. Terrific idea. More businesses need to use this technique.

    Actually after getting butchered by a hairdresser I’m thinking she could use some happy customer haircut photos in her shop. At this point I don’t plan to ever go back. Plus every friend who sees my hair hears my horror story. Bad news spreads fast!

    I like having short hair but I specifically said don’t cut it so short I look like I’m in the Army. Well, I left with something really close to a crew cut. I’ve been bummed out waiting impatiently for my hair to grow back and that was 4 weeks ago.

    Talk about extremely bad makeover and horrid customer service. Her response at the end of my haircut “Its good you look OK with short hair.” OUCH!

  9. Charles Ra says:

    In my business, speaking and consulting, testimonial letters and comments from satisfied clients are the most valuable selling tools possible.
    You need to carefully consider how you can collect testimonial type evidence of customer satisfaction and then use that evidence to attract and motivate other customers.

    thanks Dan

    yes, Steve. few people who implement. excel. thanks

  10. I live off of “client comments”. BTW, thank you Paul Hartunian. I have been on Fox 17 4 times and TV13 3 times, and several smaller radio and print publications since investing in your program Dec. 07.

  11. Mike says:

    Great post. I worked for W. Clement Stone’s company in Australia and saw firsthand the effectiveness of using testimonials in the sales presentation.

    Working in a team of sales reps, we’d go to an area and put 20 to 30 testimonial sheets in our folder from people in the same suburb. Invariably, the prospect would know someone on that list – usually a business neighbor. No less than three times throughout the presentation we would stop talking about the product and leaf through more of the testimonials saying, in effect, “John D bought the program. Tim Smith, a business neighbor of yours bought the program. Nancy Funnypants bought the program too and has been with us for 11 years.” And so on.

    Truth is, I didn’t understand the power of this testimonial method of selling until years later when I started writing sales copy. One thing that helped was learning your method — from your book “the ultimate sales letter!” — of first describing a client’s experience with getting the results your letter promises and then letting the client tell their story in their own words with a testimonial.

    Just brilliant. Thanks a million!

  12. Jim Rowe says:

    In my restaurants we have photos on the walls and on a digital frame mounted in the waiting area. The people in the photos love it and the new guest waiting get to see happy people having a great time. Sad and funny we had a photo of a husband and wife and the husband passed away. The wife came in and asked if we could leave the photo up and we did happily. Jump forward a few months and she came in with her new boyfriend…we now have a new photo and a raving fan!

  13. Les Rose says:

    Jim, I loved your story. That really is a great way to build a happy client base, especially when you are selling a great night , just as much as good food !

  14. Mike,

    that part about “local” testimonials is genius!

    different testimonials for different folks base on who they are most likely to know! even linkedin could be used to see if they know anyone on your testimonial list.. and have those testimonials inserted in the salesletter sent to them!

    How do you like that idea? :)

  15. and another thing….

    Dr. Robert Cialdini found that when a letter is sent from (the “signature” or “From” name was similar to the name it was sent to (from Dan Kennedy to David Kannoly, for example), it achieved a much better response rate then if the names had nothing in common.

  16. Rob Anspach says:

    …Rabbi – very true… Cialdini is awesome.

  17. Every time I go and speak in front of a group of entrepreneurs where not a single one in the room has heard of Cialdini, I am astounded…!

    The same would be true for using someone of the same background.. Using a Spanish sounding name for Spanish speaking households, for example…

    On a related note, Mike Bloomberg’s re-election campaign carefully segmented voters by name and sent them material that would be most likely to influence their decision… as well as sending it in the language that was most likely to appeal to them. (does my name sound Spanish? That’s the language he targeted me in. most of my neighbors got one in… Yiddish!)

    Oh well… :)

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