Testimonials are the secret sauce of all business marketing. It doesn’t matter if you are marketing a product or service, or if you want to support a staff member, colleague or business, a testimonial is one of the most powerful things you can use.
Why? Humans are social animals. Most of us want to know others have tried and been happy with a service, person or product before we are willing to put our hard-earned money on the line.
If you have two products, services or people that you need to choose between, you generally pick the one with a glowing testimonial over the one with none. In many cases, you are happy to pay a higher rate just because you can see other people are satisfied with the product, person or service.
In this two-part series, we will take a deep dive into the world of testimonials: How to get them, and how to give them.
Giving & Getting Powerful Testimonials Series
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Business Testimonials – Why It Matters
Recent psychology studies show then when people are uncertain, they look to others for clues for what to do. Social proof is an exceptionally powerful way to influence behaviour.
Read more about the science behind social proof here https://blog.kissmetrics.com/social-proof-factors-2/ and here https://blog.bufferapp.com/the-ultimate-guide-to-social-proof.
In a nutshell, people look for social validation that their action is “right.” People believe what other people say about a person, product or service far more than when the person speaks about it themselves. If the person making comment about a product or service is just like them, it is even more believable.
Yet most small businesses don’t gather testimonials from clients. Their marketing material still focuses on the claims and the razzle-dazzle, with no proof behind it to back it up. Until there is proof – people’s natural reaction is “Why should I believe you.” People look for reasons not to trust you and what you are claiming and businesses don’t realise that trust is a competitive advantage.
Why Don’t Businesses Gather Testimonials from Clients?
Businesses don’t ask for testimonials for the same reason that people don’t like performance reviews or ask for feedback. They are afraid of what they may hear.
If a business owner is too busy to ask, or they don’t know how, or they forget to ask, then they don’t have to face the possibility that sometimes they had an off day and had a less than happy client.
However, what actually happens when they ask for testimonials or feedback is that overwhelmingly the results are positive. Yes, there will be the odd one or two testimonials that highlight areas to improve, but generally the business is given positive feedback.
Why People Struggle With Giving Testimonials
The other side of the situation is that most people struggle with writing great testimonials. They want to say good things, but without guidance and a simple way for them to respond, they set out with positive intentions and end up using words such as “great service.”
The best testimonials for businesses are the ones that are filled with rich descriptions, and which speak from the heart. Unfortunately, this is not the natural writing style of most people and they need a little bit of help to write great testimonials.
Read more about how to write a fantastic testimonial for someone.
How to Get Testimonials For Your Business: What To Ask
The words and the approach you use to gather testimonials will affect the results you get.
If you say to a client “Please write me a testimonial,” it is as terrifying to them as if you asked them to “Please paint me a picture.” People don’t know how big you want it; what colours you like; where you are going to paint the picture; if you like abstract or classical art etc.
With testimonials, they don’t want to let you down with their words, so they err on the side of short and bland. By giving prompts and guidelines, you will be more likely to get the result you are looking for.
The No Writing Required Option For Testimonial Gathering
The simplest way to ask for feedback is provide a tick sheet or rating scale and ask people if they could rate your service on the scale. All they need to do is tick a few boxes and return it to you.
This allows you to use statistical compilation data in your marketing – “98% of all our customers say we give great to exceptional service.”
If you are looking at tick sheets, make sure that the questions that you ask are directly related to your USP or what you are trying to be known for.
For example, if your USP is that you guarantee to turn up within 30 minutes of a scheduled appointment, then your tick sheet question would be:
(Company name) turned up within 30 minutes of our scheduled appointment Yes/No
If you want to be known for ensuring piano keys have smoother action after your tune up and not just better sound, you would ask:
The Verbal Option For How to Get Testimonials For Your Business
Telephones are not dead in the age of internet. This option ramps up your fear level slightly, but customers love it!
At the end of a project, call your clients to ask them for feedback on your services – both good and bad. It doesn’t have to be formal – just a “Hi. This is Ingrid doing our quick customer satisfaction check to make sure you were happy with our service.” It is often enough to open the floodgates of discussion.
As they are talking, jot down what they say. Comments such as “You are a great company to deal with” are too broad. If you get a general comment, ask the client “Specifically what did we do that was so brilliant?” and keep digging until you get to the nitty-gritty. If they say, “You turn up on time, clean up after yourself, and take the time to explain everything in non-geek speak” it adds more meaning.
Remember to action any things they mention that need to be improved (and tell them when you have actioned them so they know their feedback was useful).
If you get someone raving about your business on the phone say “Wow – thank you! I am so glad you loved our service. Would you mind if I used some of the things you just said in our marketing for our business?”
All you need to do is then email them the words they used and ensure you get their written consent before using the words. It only takes a quick “Sure” on an email and you are ready to go.
Stepping Into Written Words: Getting The Language Right From The Start
If you are going to ask your clients for a testimonial, then ban the words from your vocabulary “Please write a testimonial.” Ask people instead to “jot down a few words.” Asking people to jot a testimonial rather than write one will give you a better response.Asking people to jot a testimonial rather than write one will give you a better response.Click To Tweet
Jotting implies only a few words are needed and can be done quickly. Writing implies painfully sitting and staring at a blank computer screen for an extended period of time before squeezing out a few meagre words.
Asking The Right Questions: Writing Prompts For Success
With written testimonials, it often helps to give people a series of relevant questions as writing prompts and get them to jot their answers against these questions.
To give your testimonials some structure, you can ask your clients to jot their answers to the following points:
- Start with what prompted them to choose this service or product.
- Then – what they were concerned about or afraid about (e.g.: they may have found similar services were very slow or the service person didn’t turn up)?
- Then – what happened when they bought the product or service? What did they do and what results did they get?
- What was their favourite feature of the product or service?
- What did they like most about the approach the product or service took?
- Who would they recommend this product or service to? Why?
- What’s the most important thing people need to know about working with our business?
- Anything else they would like to add.
What you then do is join each of the answers that they respond to together into one lovely rich testimonial. Here’s as example using this approach from a social media course I ran:
What Do You Do If You Get An Unsolicited Testimonial
If one of your lovely clients sends you a fabulous thank you letter or email out of the blue about your services that would make a great testimonial, you still need to make sure you have their consent before you use it in your marketing. Drop them an email or letter and make sure you get their consent on file first!
Testimonial Gathering Systems
The trick with gathering testimonials is to create systems and processes to make testimonial collection simpler and easier. If you have to think about it for more than a few seconds, you will suddenly find an excuse to defrost the fridge rather than take action.
Build in asking for testimonials as part of your process for purchasing. Turn your tick sheet or question list into a template email that requests feedback on your service.
This can be as simple as creating an Outlook Template where all you need to do is add in the person’s first name and email address and click “send.”
Read more about how to create an Outlook template here https://support.office.com/en-sg/article/Create-an-email-message-template-43ec7142-4dd0-4351-8727-bd0977b6b2d1 and how to use your template https://support.office.com/en-sg/article/Send-an-email-message-based-on-a-template-56c645fc-1b25-4059-808b-55ee72b6bc2d.
You could also have this template email as part of your autoresponder program that sends automatically a few days after a purchase.
Gathering Testimonials On Social Media Sites
So far we have focussed on asking and getting testimonials directly back to you. The other thing to consider is how to attract testimonials on social media and directory sites, as these send great positive signals to Google on your trustworthiness (which is then rewarded in your search results).
If you are going to encourage people to review you on social media sites, then suggest they use the sites they personally most commonly use – Google+ if they use Gmail, WOMO if they use WOMO, Facebook if they are on Facebook etc.
Before you refer them to a site, the first thing is you need to read the terms of trade of each site. For example, Yelp bans active soliciting for testimonials. You can’t include links or encourage people to review you from your business site. The most you can do is say “Find us on Yelp” and possibly give them instructions on how to search for your listing on Yelp (do not under any circumstances include a direct link to your listing).
Google maps are another one where active solicitation can result in your reviews being hidden by Google, so it is safer to follow the same precautions as for Yelp.
I recommend being selective about sending out review requests over a staggered timeframe rather than as part of your standard process. I also recommend giving people a range of options where they can review you, and subtly put them in order of the sites you most prefer to your least preferred option. Don’t trumpet this; just lead your clients down the right path.
If you are a local business on Facebook, you can include a review section on your Facebook business page where people can rate your service and provide comment. This is an extremely simple way to get reviews and testimonials for your business and worth exploring if you are a small business.
For a great short video on the functionality of the review section see here http://www.fullappointmentbook.com/managing-facebook-reviews/
If you are active in LinkedIn, you can ask for a recommendation from your connections. Be selective (no blanket broadcasts here), and follow all the same rules that we have discussed. Ask someone to jot a few words and then give then some clues or questions on areas specifically where you would like to be recommended.
Can You Copy Reviews From Social Media Sites To Your Own Website?
If you get a great review on social media, unfortunately you can’t just copy and paste them over to your site. Legally the social media site owns the content on their site … including your reviews,
Best practice is to:
1) Get in touch with the person who has left the review and ask their consent to use the review
2) Use verbatim quotes. Don’t change the words around.
3) Correctly attribute the quote back to the site. So for Yelp you would need to say something along the lines of “As seen on Yelp”.
4) You also need to include any required branding (Yelp usually requires their logo and a link back to the relevant page).
A Few Rules About Testimonials
Before you go out and hunt down some testimonials – here are a few rules to remember.
People mean well and may think great things about you, but unless you ask them, they generally will not tell you what they are thinking. You need to ask for feedback.
NEVER use someone’s words without their explicit consent (ideally with a signature attached to it).
In Their Own Words
This is a hard and fast rule – never never never write a testimonial on behalf of someone else and get them to sign it. For starters, it is not in their language style – so it stands out a mile. If someone asks you to write their testimonial, these are great candidates to talk with on the phone about what they liked about your service. By talking with them and then jotting down their answers, you can get around their writers block.
Don’t Make Them Up
It is illegal and will get you into very hot water with regulatory bodies such as the ACCC and FTC. Many Australian businesses are now facing steep penalties for made up testimonials as our regulatory bodies have become very active in this area.
The best testimonials come immediately after purchase, or within a short space of time after purchase. Don’t leave your testimonial gathering until too late after the event.
That said, if you have never collected testimonials before there is no better time than the present to start. Contact past clients who you feel would be positive and happy to give you a testimonial. Give them a reason why you have not contacted them previously, before making your request.
Specific Names Are Better Than Initials
Mrs Mary Smith of Arana Hills in North Brisbane is ten times more powerful than MS, Brisbane.
If possible, include some information about the person writing the testimonial, as people are more influenced by people who are “like them.”
The Testimonial Hierarchy Of Power
All testimonials are great – but film testimonials are more powerful than recordings; which are more powerful than a photo with words; which are more powerful than just words.
Grab your camera phone and either ask your client the structured questions already discussed or simple let them talk about the product or service. Send the video to their mobile, or drop it onto a USB and mail it for their approval prior to using it.