Developers: David Colgan helps you escape 9-to-5 employment by building an effective freelance business you'll love to run.

Anti-Awkwardness as a Service

A look into Meg Cumby's business of getting freelancers testimonials from clients.

Content marketer Bruce Harpham had just finished up a successful client relationship.  Thanks to his efforts, the company made significant improvements to their inbound leads rate.  A great success!

He asked for a testimonial from the business.  Hopefully they'd give something nice to put on his website as social proof that, yes, he does know what he's talking about.

After waiting for a few days to hear back, he got an email.  The testimonial read:

"We had a tight timeline, and Bruce did what we asked."

Lovely!  This testimonial will surely drive all sorts of new business.

Bruce was frustrated that after winning such a great success for the business, this was all the testimonial juice they could offer.

Bruce knew he was ready and capable to take his business to the next level.  The goal was to move from the beginning stages of "being just a pair of hands" who receives orders from the client and blindly does them to being a "trusted advisor" who helps with high level business strategy.  But to get to that next level of trust, he needed a way to demonstrate his abilities.  Higher quality testimonials was his strategy.

But it seemed just a wee bit of an imposition to ask for more detail.  "Please tell me more about how awesome I am" seemed weird and needy.  Fishing for compliments is awkward.

So Bruce decided to invest in Meg Cumby's testimonial services.

Meg helps consultants "Get client testimonials without the awkwardness."

She has worked as a communications consultant for five years, and over the course of talking to friends and colleagues happened upon the idea of helping people get better testimonials.  Interested in diversifying her services, she began offering the-getting-of-testimonials-from-clients as a service.

You connect her with a client.  She arranges for a short 20-30 minute call and interviews the client for you, asking detailed questions about what it was like to work with you.  She then takes the mostly unedited responses and compiles them into a long-form 200-400 word shiny new testimonial to put on your website.  You can see the testimonials she got for Bruce here.

I want to analyze Meg's offerings because I think she does a whole bunch of things well that can be instructional for the rest of us.

An effective home page

I don't have to guess what Meg does when I go to her website.

The first thing I see is "Get client testimonials without the awkwardness."  An incredibly precise description of what she does and why I'd want it. 

The rest of her homepage is an excellent implementation of the "Pain-Dream-Fix" style of long form sales pages described by Jonathan Stark.  What is the pain I'm experiencing? (Getting good testimonials is hard and awkward.)  What is the dream?  (I wish I had high quality testimonials that somehow didn't require me to feel awkward.)  What is the fix?  (Meg's service of her interviewing clients for you and getting testimonials herself.)

A precise productized service that relies on her skill

Meg doesn't bill by the hour.  Instead she offers a productized service: for $500, she'll do everything needed to get a high quality testimonial.  Discount if you buy 3.  The purchaser knows exactly what they are getting and can budget or that amount without having to hope the engagement will run over budget.  This reduces risk for the buyer.

This service also has the awesome property of being something she can thoroughly teach to her audience without teaching herself out of a job.  Meg lays out exactly what she'll do when you hire her, and if you wanted, you could do it yourself.  But if you would be a good customer fit, you probably will hire her anyway as the real pain is awkwardness, not knowledge of how to do testimonial interviews.

Clear demonstrations of her skill

How do I know Meg is good at getting these testimonials?  Because she has the exact deliverable (a full testimonial) clearly on her website.  If you look at her testimonials page, she get testimonials for herself from her clients about her testimonial getting service.  And it's easy to find the testimonials she's gotten for her clients, like Bruce's on his website.

You must apply to work with Meg, she does not send proposals

This is a technique I've been seeing in a number of successful consultants' websites that I really want to try myself: instead of a "contact me" page, there is a "apply to work with me" page.  Instead of groveling at the feet of potential clients for their business, Meg flips that on it's head and makes herself the sought after one.  This sends a strong message of not-neediness and not-desperation, which are killers of your negotiating position.  Unless a prospective client looks worth working with and passes certain smell tests, Meg can avoid working with difficult clients from the very beginning.  See her application form here.

Marketing strategies that provide value

I know of at least two ways that Meg has effectively promoted her services in a non-obnoxious and actually highly valuable way.

First, she is an active member of Freelance Camp, an online community of freelancers and consultants.  She freely offers her knowledge of how to get effective referrals and testimonials and other business wisdom, and it's hard to not eventually find out about her services.

Second, she recently guested on The Freelancers' Show podcast where, for a good hour and a half she demonstrated the value in hiring her by explaining in detail how we could get better testimonials ourselves.  She explained her backstory, her journey to arrive at her positioning (she didn't originally think "awkwardness" would be the real pain point"), and everything she does when getting testimonials.

At the end of the podcast, she provided more value by giving out a link on her site to her cheatsheet on effective testimonial getting.

Podcasts are Kai Davis's favorite way to do marketing, because you demonstrate yourself competent to a completely new audience for an extended period of time in a way that is then an evergreen piece of content.  It's a way to give something to your audience first, before asking them to become clients.  And since the listeners of The Freelancers' Show would be mostly full of her target audience, that was a great fit.

If you aren't sure how to do marketing without feeling sleasy, try giving away value without specifically asking for anything in return, and see what happens.

An idea vetted by talking with potential customers

As Meg explained to me, she would not have thought of this idea without talking to people who would use the service (freelancers and consultants).  After hearing about this same pain point from a number of people, she knew there was a market for this service before even doing any of the work to start it up.

As someone who has multiple times run into the wall of "I built the thing in a vacuum and then nobody wanted it," this is a much less risky way of starting a new service.  It's also a better way to find ideas for services in the first place, as what you think people want may not be what they actually want.

Shoutouts to Meg and Bruce for being willing to be in this letter, and if you have the need for high quality client testimonials without the awkwardness, talk to Meg!

I send everything I make first as a letter to my mailing list. New letters go out each week!

Learn to Freelance from
The Less Boring Letters

Learn freelancing from someone who's gone down this path before. In the the Less Boring Letters, I'll teach you everything I know about ditching the 9-to-5. Build a profitable new business that you love, benefitting from all of my trial and error.

"I send all my newsletters straight to an email box I almost never read... except David's! Insightful, honest, sometimes downright hilarious, and truly helpful even after years of freelancing."

Elise Fog
It Must Bee: Websites with a Buzz!