You see them on many websites, often down near the bottom of the home page. They’re short snippets or parts of positive critical reviews. They come from past customers and clients. Is it really worth the time and effort to get these and post them on your website?
People are guided and motivated by the behaviour of other people. You can use the experiences of others to convert “lookers” into “buyers.” What’s amazing is that it works if your website visitors don’t even know them!
Testimonials all boil down to a term known as “social proof.” That’s where people reference the behaviour of others to guide their own behaviour. It’s known as a psychological phenomenon. We all have a natural desire to be “correct.” That is, to behave as the world wants us to in most circumstances. This greatly influences not only what we say and do, but also where we buy. Nobody wants to make a mistake. Nobody wants their friends to say, “Oh no! You didn’t buy your widgets from them did you? Their quality is horrible.”
So testimonials – words from complete and total strangers – have the ability to “tip the scale” as it were. They can nudge people into acting, especially when they’re not totally sure of what to do next. That’s social proof in action.
Testimonials Are Beneficial – So What Do They Look Like?
So, let’s admit that posting real testimonials on our website could influence many of our website visitors. What should these testimonials look like? What should they say and how lengthy and detailed should they be?
Testimonials should be from people that your prospects can relate to. They should be from people who, in the past, didn’t use your product or service. So it’s always best to have the testimonial infer that.
If you sell to consumers, then you really only need to name the person. So, “Mary P.” or “John Smith, Toronto” are adequate.
If you sell to businesses, then you generally need to add another level of credibility. You’ll have to give their work position and/or company. It might have to be, “Jean T., Marketing Manager” or even “Bob Robertson, Managing Partner, Global Bathtubs.”
Here’s a typical testimonial:
“I bought this set of widgets three months ago from Bob at Acme Widget. I have to say that it’s a superior product! They’re much better than the other widgets I’ve bought elsewhere. Highly recommended.”
There’s nothing all that wrong with that testimonial. But it’s not likely to bump someone hard enough to make them buy.
Is There A Proven Testimonials Format?
Good testimonials follow this formula: Before + After + What they’d tell someone.
Here’s an example, broken down into the three parts of the formula:
Before: “Before buying this widget set, I struggled with getting them to work properly. I tried installing them myself and I even took tutorials online. In the end, I was a widget idiot.
After: “That’s when I tried Acme Widget’s Super Widget Packs. Within minutes, my widgets were up and running. It was life-changing.”
What they’d tell someone: “If you’ve been frustrated by other widget packs before, I can totally recommend Acme’s widget packs.
The before statement tells the reader what the customer’s life was like before they tried Acme’s widgets. That way, the testimonial is more relatable – perhaps dead-on relatable to the reader’s problem.
The after tells the specific results that your customer got from you and your product or service. It could be anything from, “Now I’m saving over four hours each day using Acme’s widgets over doing things manually” to “I can attest an increase of over 30% efficiency when using Acme’s widgets.” Being able to quote a number or some other metric is beneficial here. But really, anything that indicates the benefits or advantages they received is probably good enough.
Finally, there’s the what they’d tell someone. In a way, this sums up – in a sentence or two – what the person would say to someone who’s considering this product or service. Because this statement is coming from a customer, it is very believable and credible.
Obtaining These Testimonials
Many people don’t know how to ask for testimonials. Maybe they feel uneasy about requesting such things.
Most of us don’t prompt others for compliments about us personally. It’s socially unacceptable. Asking someone, “How do you like my new haircut?” or “Do you think I look handsome/pretty?” might be thought of as narcissistic. But asking a customer how they like our product or service is a totally different thing! Anyone who understands even the slightest thing about business knows that getting feedback from customers is how we know if we’re running our business properly.
We’ve all had customers that we’d wished had done business with our competitors. So, stating the obvious, we’re not going to be asking these folks to relate rosy stories of dealing with us. We want a situation where we’ve over-delivered on value. Where we’ve offered and supplied a product or service that truly solved a problem. A situation where our team provided stellar customer service and made our customer feel as if we were totally in business to benefit them. Those are who we want to approach about providing us with a positive review of their encounters with us.
In my experience and in doing research on this subject, there are two significant things that can get you the customer testimonials you need:
- Ask them immediately or as soon as possible.
- Make it easy for them to respond.
Time – Or Timing – Is of the Essence
There is an excellent time to ask for a customer testimonial – and you already know when that is! If you’re in the service business, it’ll be immediately after the service (or project or whatever) is complete. If you’re in the product biz, it’ll be as soon as your customer has received and begun to get value from whatever you provided to them. The longer you wait, the prospect of getting any response from them decreases greatly. They’ve moved on to other problems and looking for other solutions.
So, if you’ve got your timing down correctly and you’re going to solicit a reference from your customer, how can you make it easy for them? One of the effects of asking for testimonials is that it puts pressure on people to come up with something perfect. So, what do they do? They freeze and do nothing.
I think there are two possible ways to get good and detailed positive testimonials from your customers and you’re going to have to determine which method is best. It’ll depend on what kind of selling you are engaged in and what kind of established relationship you already have with your clients. If you’ve been mostly selling and delivering your product or service verbally, then I’d approach them with a phone call. If most of the sales process has been handled through email and online, then perhaps sending them an email or two is the best approach.
Verbally Obtaining a Testimonial
Call your customer on the phone and say, “I know you’re quite happy with our company and its products/services. Thank you once again for being a customer. I’m hoping that you might give a short testimonial about your experience in working with us. Nothing big, just a few words. We might end up putting part of it up on our website or using it in other marketing materials.”
“But does that mean people are going to be phoning me, asking about your company?”
“No way! We’ll just give your first name and initial. How’s that sound?”
“Not bad. I’m happy to help out.”
“Super! It’ll only take about five minutes. Can we do it now, or would you rather make a specific date and time?…”
When you’ve got your customer ready, simply ask her or him for responses to the three same statements I’ve already indicated. The best way to approach this would be simply put those statements into these questions:
- What were things like before you used our product/service?
- What were they like after you used our product/service?
- What would you tell others who are considering our product/service?
Ask the questions one at a time and take down some notes. Your notes don’t need to be perfect because your customer isn’t going to remember exactly what they said. You’re just paraphrasing and trying to get the gist of their testimonial. You’ll eventually be cobbling those words into a few written statements.
Getting a Testimonial by Email
For this strategy, you’re going to ask your customer the same three questions. Here’s what you might write in your email as a lead-up to those questions:
Thanks for being an Acme Widgets customer, we really appreciate your business.
You might have noticed that our website has a few customer testimonials on the home page. We’ve found these relevant and short statements to be very helpful in highlighting the strengths of our products/services to prospective customers. We like to keep them fresh and relevant. I’m reaching out to you, hoping that you’ll share a personal testimonial about your experience with our company. It’ll only take a few minutes and would be greatly appreciated.
Please respond to these three questions:…
This method unfortunately isn’t as reliable as a phone call. You’re not at the other end of the line, subtly pressuring your customer. They can choose to ignore or put off answering your email. So, you’re going to have to them a little here, by priming them with some potential answers. You know your product or service inside-out and you know what the typical answers to those questions are almost certainly going to be. So, prompt your customer with some further questions to help them along.
If, for example, you sell a cream that relieves itching, you might state your questions like this:
- What were things like before you used our product? Was that itchiness driving you crazy? Did you itch in one place or many? Where? Had you tried other products? Which ones?
- What were things like like after you used our product? Was your relief instant? Did the itchiness go away completely? Was the product easy to use?
- What would you tell others who are considering our product?
Note that I didn’t indicate that you’d be helping with the third question. That’s because it’s going to be a lot easier for your customer to answer that one. Answering the first to are a natural lead-in for getting them to tell you what they’d tell others about your product or service.
Get Final Permission
Yes, this is a hassle – but you legitimize your relationship with this customer by never assuming anything. You’ve allowed them to have the final say on what you’re going to publish to the world. So drop them an email and ask for their approval for the testimonial they provided to you. If things have gone well, it should read something like this:
“I’d suffered for years with an itch to my right foot big toe. Nothing would make that itch go away, not even Brand X. Two minutes after I applied Acme Itch Cream I had total relief! I thought I was going to be itchy forever – but not after using your product!”
Note that this testimonial contains those three required ingredients: what it was like before, what it was like after, and what I’d now tell someone else.
As we all know, word-of-mouth is generally the best type of marketing for most any business. If people like a product or service, they are naturally inclined to tell their friends and acquaintances. Friendships and relationships are strengthened through help and advice.
Similarly — though admittedly not as strongly as word-of-mouth — testimonials on your website support your product or service with words from someone who has been down the road your potential prospect is thinking of going. Most people don’t want to make a mistake and a few choice phrases that are presented in the three-part format I’ve outlined may “tip the balance” of a prospect who’s sitting on the fence and needs just one more nudge in your direction to commit to your offer.