Every product needs quality testimonials. Whether you’re selling an e-book, an online course, or consulting services, a testimonial is a must-have on your website.
- A testimonial is a sales tool that doesn’t feel salesy.
- A testimonial builds trust without you saying a word.
- A testimonial is the most effective way to overcome any objections or skepticism your potential customers might have about buying your product.
Think of a testimonial as a customer-multiplying machine. Put one happy customer’s story on your website, and it can turn into ten, a hundred or a thousand more happy customers. But not any old testimonial can work that kind of magic.
Here’s our formula for soliciting testimonials that get results.
1. Talk about the pain, not the product
You might think a good testimonial goes into detail about the features of your product: how great it is, how well it works, how much better it is than your competitors.
The best testimonials tell a story in three parts.
The first part talks about the specific pain the customer experienced before they used your product. Details are important here — they’re the key to a trustworthy testimonial.
Details make the difference between:
“I could never get places on time.”
“I used to be late all the time. When I pulled up twenty minutes late to my daughter’s sixth grade soccer match, and missed seeing her score her first-ever goal, I felt absolutely terrible. I stood on the sidelines and saw the sadness on her face, and I knew I had to put a stop to my chronic lateness.”
The second quote draws you in and shows you the severity of the customer’s pain. It makes a fantastic beginning for a testimonial about a time management product. It reaches out and grabs potential customers who have found themselves in a similar situation.
2. Be honest about the initial skepticism and uncertainty
The second part of your testimonial story describes your customer’s reaction to hearing about your product or trying it for the first time. There’s usually some skepticism or disbelief experienced by a customer at this point.
Don’t hide that part!
Including real human emotions — even negative ones — makes future customers trust you more, because you’re not trying to hide the truth.
“When I heard about BE ON TIME, ALL THE TIME, I was skeptical at first. After all, I’ve been chronically late all my life. I’ve read all of the time management books and tried all of the time saving tricks. I’ve set my clocks back five minutes, fifteen minutes, even an hour in hopes that it would help me get places on time. And none of it worked. So when my friend told me about this course, my first reaction was: Yeah, right.”
3. Show transformative results…but be specific
The third part of your testimonial story is all about the transformation. People don’t buy seeds to have seeds — they buy seeds to have flowers. And people don’t buy your product to have your product — they buy it for the results it will create.
Just like parts one and two of the story, part three needs specifics to be believable. “This product changed my life!” is pretty much meaningless.
Something like this, on the other hand, is much more convincing:
“After my very first day using BE ON TIME, ALL THE TIME, I had a total breakthrough. I actually made it to my school PTA meeting five minutes early that night. My friend even commented on the fact that I was there early and got a seat near the front with her, instead of coming in late and hiding in the back like I usually do.
After finishing the course, I’ve been able to consistently manage my time like never before. Things that used to take hours to accomplish, I can do in minutes. That makes me happier — and it makes my family happier, too. It’s like a cloud has been hanging over our house for years, and it’s finally been lifted. I can’t recommend this course enough.”
4. Showcase customers who represent your target market
Of course, you want to ask your most enthusiastic customers to provide testimonials for you. But even beyond enthusiasm, you want to ask a customer who reflects your most profitable audience.
Our pal Patrick McKenzie, founder of Bingo Card Creator, put an incredible testimonial on his site. It included the customer’s pain points, how the Bingo Card Creator helped him overcome those issues, and all of the benefits he got out of it.
Patrick tested this awesome testimonial against a simple testimonial that was basically: “I really like your software.” Yet, the simple testimonial tested through the roof.
Because the awesome testimonial was from a man, and the simple testimonial was from a woman. The majority of Patrick’s customers are 40-60 year old female schoolteachers, and they trusted a woman’s opinion, even though it was less comprehensive.
The moral of the story is, people want to read (or watch) a testimonial from someone exactly like themselves. They need to be able to see themselves using your product and having the same positive experience.
For example, if you’re selling a product for ad managers, get a testimonial from an ad manager at a reputable company like HubSpot. That will go miles in terms of convincing other ad managers that your product is right for them.
5. Customers are thrilled to give you testimonials — if you ask for the right stuff
Sometimes, the hardest part of getting a testimonial is asking your customer for it. You might feel embarrassed or like you’re hassling them.
Customers love to talk about products they believe in. And you’ll be amazed at the quality content you get out of your customers by asking the right questions.
Here’s how to do it:
- Reach out to your customers and ask them to write a testimonial that’s at least two sentences, but ideally a paragraph. Ask them to tell the three-part story outlined above. More is better! You can always cut things down. If they’re able, ask them to record a video, too.
- If they are having trouble writing the testimonial, you can have them answer a few questions that might help them get started. Use questions similar to your feedback forms.
- Email back the customer with the testimonial as you’ve edited it. Confirm their full name, business name/title, city, state and website address. Ask for their approval on the testimonial and for a recent professional photo.
6. You already have testimonial content hiding on your computer right now…
In addition to sending out requests, take a look at the wealth of content you already have from satisfied customers. You might be surprised how much you already have.
First, check out your customer feedback forms. You can use extracts of positive feedback you’ve gotten in the past as short blurbs.
Second, dig through your email. Look for anything you can find where a customer or colleague said something nice about your product. If you don’t know where to start, try searching for words like “feedback,” “thank you,” or your favorite customers’ names and email addresses.
When you find a good email, forward it to an email address you’ve set up solely for testimonials, like firstname.lastname@example.org. That way, you can quickly and easily save and sort through all of the good stuff.
Still looking for great content? Google your product name and see what people have said about it on their websites, blogs, podcasts or review sites.
In all of these scenarios, you MUST email the customer directly to ask if you can use their quotes. Also ask for a photo and confirm their full name, business name/title, city, state and website address.
7. You can write a testimonial for your customer, but you MUST have their permission
Some customers aren’t comfortable with writing, or don’t have time in their busy day to write a paragraph for you. That’s okay! You can write a testimonial on their behalf, as long as you get written confirmation that they approve it and you can post it under their name.
Here’s a sample email template you can use to ask someone for their approval on a testimonial you’ve written.
Hi <customer name>,
I’m helping PERSON with NAME OF PRODUCT OR BUSINESS.
PERSON asked me to reach out to you about a testimonial to use for marketing.
Based upon your feedback, I put together the following quote for you. Please feel free to edit, tweak and modify as you’d like. If it’s easier for you I’m happy to jump on a call, transcribe a video or voice recording, or I’ll turn some bullet points from you into a great testimonial.
Just let me know what’s easiest for you.
Here is what I came up with:
<insert written testimonial here>
If the testimonial above works for you, I just need your formal approval to use it in our marketing materials. Also, if possible, I’d love to get a photo of you to include, as well as your website, city and state of residence.
Thanks in advance!
<insert your name>
8. Honesty always wins the testimonial game
In the world of marketing, honesty is #1. Be above-board. Don’t twist your customers’ words or exaggerate their experiences. Using their real words is far more powerful than trying to concoct the perfect testimonial story.
Not to mention the fact that the FTC prevents you from lying in your advertising and marketing. Read these guidelines to make sure your testimonials are in compliance.
9. Take action today to be ready for tomorrow
You may not be ready to request testimonials right at this minute. That’s okay. But you can take three quick steps right now to kickstart your testimonial page with little effort.
- First, set up that email address we mentioned earlier, one you can use solely to store positive emails you get from customers. Call it something like “email@example.com.”
- Next, spend 20 minutes browsing through your customer emails. As you find emails that have good testimonial quotes, forward them to your new email address.
- Last, start a shortlist of people you can contact for testimonials in the future. Think of your favorite customers and see if you can get five names on the list. When it’s time to send out requests, you’ll already know who to ask.
Follow these steps, and you’ll have a long list of killer testimonials in no time.