The ultimate guide to getting testimonials [with infographic]
How to get customers to toot your horn
One testimonial is worth 1,000 words of tooting your own horn.
Great, you think. Maybe some businesses have customers sending them testimonials by email, WhatsApp and carrier pigeon, but mine sure aren’t. Plus I’m a bit introverted. And I don’t want to look unprofessional. And isn’t that imposing on them? And (add any other reservation you have here, plus a few of these).
Relax. We’re going to guide you through the wide world of testimonials, giving you plenty of options on how to get them and how to use them for best effect.
First hurdle: Finding customers who are ripe for testimonials
If a customer has done one or more of the following, they have great testimonial potential:
- Emailed you and said, “can I give you a testimonial?”
Okay, so customers like these are few and far between. They’re also likely to be internet marketers, and therefore know the value of a testimonial and want to grant it to a company they genuinely appreciate… or they’re out to get a link. I know. I’ve done it. With both motivations.
- Emailed you to thank you for the great product/service.
- Thanked you in person for the great product/service.
They like you enough to let you know. They obviously have what to say in your favor.
- Tweet/post to the world about how they like your product.
- Left a review on an online site, like Google, Yelp or a niche directory.
Not only do they have what to say, they’re willing to say it publicly. (You can check out your reviews that didn’t make it through Yelp’s filter to expand your pool.)
- Left positive comments on your blog.
- Downloaded a piece of your content.
These testimonials will be more about your company as an authority and content provider, not necessarily about your paid offering. It’s good to round out the picture.
- Filled out a customer feedback survey.
They have an opinion about your company and they’re willing to spend a few minutes to make themselves heard.
- Bought a product.
- Signed up for your service or SaaS. (Here’s an in-depth resource detailing the different kinds of testimonials.)
Okay, well then all of your customers have great testimonial potential.
So why didn’t you say so?
Not every single person who falls into those last two categories is going to be a good testimonial target. You’re going to need to do a little bit of follow-up and qualifying first. (Don’t worry – we’ll show you how below.)
But it is important to realize that as long as you have some (happy) customers, even if none of them come to you on their own singing love ballads, you can get testimonials.
Second hurdle: Getting the testimonial
- From customers who have sung your praises on social media:
- From customers who have already reached out to you to express their happiness:
Thank them from the bottom of your heart. Really. You should be appreciating their appreciation. Most people will reach out and complain when their purchase doesn’t live up to their expectations,but many fewer will reach out and express their appreciation, even if the purchase exceeds their wildest dreams. They made the effort. Respect that.
After that, ask them if they would mind giving a testimonial. Give them options (because not everyone’s a writer, even if they’d like to help) and you’ll lower the barrier to resistance
- “Could we quote you on our site?”
- “Would you be available to go on a phone call? I’ll ask you a few questions, write up a little blurb based on that, and give it to you to approve/edit?”
- “Would we be able to share your story? Would you be willing to be a featured customer on our featured customer blog series?” (And if you don’t have a featured customers blog series, now you do. Use it well. Here’s an example.)
You can use a phone call interview or email the questions and have them email back the answers. Alex Turnbull asks two questions:
- “I know you weren’t using customer help software before. How did you feel about managing support with email. What frustrated you?”
- “What was the moment you *knew* you had made the right choice with Groove? What did we do to prove you were getting real value out of the product?”
From customers who praised you to your face in a physical location:
Use video to capture the customer’s feelings. What else are iPhones for? You can whip your camera out, say cheese and start shooting. Video is one of the most effective testimonial media.
You can also use video for any client giving a testimonial. Suggest he takes a video of himself talking about and/or showing how he uses your product. Have the customer upload it to YouTube and you can embed or share it from there.
From customers who have praised you on third-party sites:
- If your customers are tweeting their happiness out about your brand, here are three ways you can curate all of the positive tweets and share them on your site.
- Compile all Facebook Reviews or LinkedIn recommendations for you or your employees and display them on your site.
- Check local search directories and niche review sites. If they provide ways to be in contact with the writers, contact them, tell them you appreciate their good wishes, and see if they’d like to give a testimonial for your site directly. Look for Yelp’s Filtered Views. This is unpublished content that you can follow up on to get more feedback that you can publish on your own site. Yelp didn’t want this particular post showing, but if you don’t share their concerns, contact the writer and offer them to write a testimonial that WILL show up.
- Use Google Alerts to set up daily notifications of your name and business names. You’ll often see unsolicited reviews written by bloggers or journalists. Quote them, and contact them if you’d like to get a more creative review on your own.Last, but not least, there are likely a ton of customer reviews that are written about your company on other sites, such as personal blogs, that are unsolicited.
- People leaving positive comments on your blog posts? They obviously appreciate you, and what you have to say. Contact them and ask for a testimonial.
From customers who have bought/signed up (but that’s it)
- If you offer a product or service for which it takes a long time to see results, Alex Turnbull’s advice is to have anyone who signs up receive an onboarding email asking: “why did you sign up?” If the answer is descriptive enough, ask permission and use it as is. If it’s not yet usable, contact them after a few months when they appear to be succeeding.
- If the benefit is immediate (a plumber came and fixed the toilet, the customer ordered a sapphire necklace), contact them immediately afterwards (next day or week). Ask how the service was, how the product works for them. After the phone call, you can email them a discount coupon for their next order, and refer them to one of your testimonial locations: either your own website, or a third-party site like Google or Yelp.
- Ask the average customer to give feedback. You can ask:
- over the phone
- by email
- have a “tell us how we’re doing” widget on your site
Many customers will jump at the chance to make a difference. After they’ve given their feedback (which is valuable in and of itself), if their answers convey a message you’d like prospective clients to hear, ask if you can use them on your testimonials (or other) pages.
- One creative way to get a review if you offer software or any product a client logs into: Program the product to send a message or two asking for a review at just the right moment. You can also embed requests in resources like eBooks or whitepapers that your customers have downloaded.
- Add links to review locales in the email signatures of everyone who has regular contact with customers. Make it accessible.
Third hurdle: Crafting an effective testimonial
The more of these qualities your testimonials have, the more they’ll resonate with your potential customers.
Be Specific: The testimonial should not be a general statement like “the service was amazing!” Give details. Talk about specific problems, solutions, features, benefits and outcomes.
Be Authentic: Testimonials should be in natural language and the customer’s voice, not yours. Grammatical misteps are not necessarily a bad thing if it adds to the au naturale impression.
“BDA” Format: The testimonial should explain what the customer experienced before, during and after they bought your product/service. This format takes the potential customer through the change that the customer experienced, and enables him to envision himself experiencing that change. For this reason, it’s especially powerful to get testimonials from customers who were skeptical at first.
Here are some sample questions from Alex Turnbull to help you get the information you need for the BDA format:
- “What was your situation before you purchased the program?”
- “What was the core problem you wanted to solve?”
- “What hesitation did you have about purchasing the program? Were you reluctant about anything?”
- “What program did you purchase?”
- “What results did you get from the program?”
- “What specific feature did you like most about the program?”
- “What are three other benefits about the program?”
- “Would you recommend it? If so, to whom?”
Prove You’re Real: The reader should be able to validate that the person who left the review is a real person. Photos, (full) names, locations, business names, social handles and website links are all elements that help back the credibility of the testimonial. Videos (when accompanied by the above elements) are very effective at giving the “I’m a real person” feeling.
Big Brands: People are more inclined to jump on the bandwagon if the big guys are there. Neil Patel found that showing potential clients the large brands his company worked with was MUCH more effective than showing them all the small and medium size businesses. The effect is so powerful, Neil claims, that it’s worth losing money or working pro bono on a project for a large brand, just to get their name and testimonial on your site.When we showed potential clients all of the small and medium businesses we worked with, our conversion rate of locking them in as a customer decreased by almost half versus only showing them large brands we worked with.” Neil states in his blog post.
Don’t break any rules: Read over the guidelines of the Federal Trade Commission before publishing testimonials to make sure you’re following the rules. For example, if a customer’s endorsement includes atypical results, you must include a disclaimer that states this.
Fourth hurdle: Where to put your testimonials
- Sales Pages
- Landing Pages
- Email launch announcement
- Twitter favorite curation
- Email signature
- On promotional products
- Business cards
- Social media: “It’s making customers like X happy that keeps us doing what we’re doing” and then share said customer’s words.
- Point of decision: “Ultimately, you’re trying to find the point where making ‘the right choice’ becomes most ambiguous.” –Econsultancy. Bring in your testimonials here as social proof to point your on-the-fence customers in the right direction.
Wow. That was almost 2,000 words on testimonials. If a testimonial is worth 1,000 words, maybe two testimonials about testimonials would have sufficed?!? You know what? Let’s just use a picture.