How to get more customer testimonials with Positive Framing and… Teddy Roosevelt?

As a B2B marketer, you know that it’s incredibly valuable to get customers to participate in your marketing campaigns: creating joint case studies and testimonials, speaking in webinars and events, or even just mentioning their name or displaying their logo on your site.

It’s powerful “social proof.” Prospects and other customers love hearing from their peers, as opposed to hearing from “the vendor.” In my experience, content involving customers is the most effective type of content you can create, no matter the medium.

But getting customers to participate in your campaigns is usually frustratingly hard. You have to wait until the timing is just right: the customer is not too new but still excited about the product, they’re getting good results, and not experiencing any issues. Even when they agree to participate in principle, more often than not, you still need to go through multiple rounds of approvals and edits. The process can easily take weeks, if not months.

Last week, we tried a new approach at one of our client startups. We’re working on a new ebook related to one of their product features, and as always, we were hoping to include a few examples of how customers were successfully using this feature and getting great results. We were also planning to produce a webinar featuring the same content as the ebook, and knew it’d be a major coup to get a customer as a webinar speaker. This company has a fantastic roster of customers, with strong brand names, and being able to highlight them is always a powerful lever.

As always, though, we were apprehensive about securing approvals for including these customer stories in the ebook. It would take time… and we likely won’t get many of them. Usually, we would send out an email asking the customer if it was OK to feature them in our upcoming ebook. A wait, followed by multiple forwards / pings / approval requests would ensue.

This time, we decided to try a different approach. Let’s assume we’re creating content for feature X, and take a look at the email we sent:

Subject Line: X awards

Hi [customer contact],

Congratulations! I’m really excited to share that our team has identified [Customer Company] as one of the Top 5 companies using X. Your work will be featured in our upcoming roundup of top X implementations.

We’ll be interviewing the teams from a few of the winners for a webinar about building successful X implementations, and I wanted to see if you’d be interested in participating. It would be great exposure for the [Customer Company] X group and your work.

The content is still very preliminary, but you can take a look at the direction we’re thinking about in the attached doc.  

We’d love to have you speak, as we think your team is doing really amazing things in the space, so please let me know.

Congrats again on the award! It’s well deserved.


[Customer Success Manager]

The response came in two hours later.

Hi [Customer Success Manager],

Well this just made my day! Thanks so much for choosing to feature [Customer Company] as one of your Top 5 – we are honored! You and the team have been such incredible partners in all of our X implementations, so we really couldn’t do it without you guys 🙂

We’d love to participate/be interviewed for this – I’m cc’ing the rest of the X team for transparency. Do you have specific programs you’d like to highlight? Seems like A and B are the featured implementations for this? Let us know so we can have the right people on the call.


[customer contact]

Another response from a different customer came in the following day:

Hi [Customer Success Manager],

Thank you for reaching out, we are really excited about this! I have added [Another contact] who is VP of X to this email. She may have some questions for you and she should be able to answer any questions you might have for her. Thank you again for this and let me know if I can help in any way!


[customer contact]

Why did it work?

I immediately thought about the story about Teddy Roosevelt’s photograph. You can read the full version here. Essentially it goes like this:

Roosevelt was running for president for the third time in 1912. The campaign was an uphill battle, and at some point, Roosevelt’s staff decided to print an elegant pamphlet with his photo on the cover to distribute to voters. After printing three million copies, they realized they didn’t secure permission to use the president’s photo from Moffet Studios, the copyright holder. After some research they found out that distributing the pamphlets could mean $1 damages per picture in royalty payments — a staggering $3M in total.

Instead of entering a negotiation or bargaining situation with Moffett from a very weak position, campaign manager George Perkins sent Moffet the following cable:

We are planning to distribute millions of pamphlets with Teddy’s photo on the cover. This will be great publicity for the studio who took the photo. How much will you pay us to use yours? Reply immediately.

Moffett replied immediately:

We’ve never done this before, but under the circumstances we’ll offer you $250.

I love this story. It’s the perfect example of creative problem solving, positive framing, seeing things from the other side’s point of view (“what’s in it for them”), and getting to a win-win situation. The same framework applies in our Awards congratulatory email, with similar results. (Not as dramatic, of course!)

The key is thinking about what’s the benefit to the other side, not to you. This thinking will serve you well in marketing and messaging in general: instead of touting your product features, highlight customer benefits. Instead of writing about your company’s conference participation, mention three notable conference takeaways that may interest your audience. To put it bluntly, nobody cares about you. Everyone cares about themselves. Or as Dale Carnegie puts it in his-must read “How to Win Friends and Influence People”“The only way I can get you to do anything is by giving you what you want.”

The bottom line

Positive framing and a “what’s in it for them” approach can help you get more customer participation in your marketing campaigns (and more good things coming your way in life, in general).

Netta is the founder and CEO of Blue Seedling. She loves third wave coffee, thin crust pizza, and B2B marketing.

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