I’ve got a serious crush on testimonials.
As far as social proof goes, there’s nothing that packs quite the same punch as a well-placed story from a satisfied customer. After all, that’s what testimonials really are – success stories, wrapped up in a neat little package that gives your business some cred when customers come calling.
This post is going to be a fast and easy crash course on the best process I’ve found for getting more testimonials out of your happy customers – and making sure the testimonials you get back will pack a wallop with prospective customers.
Not all testimonials carry the same weight.
While general platitudes and “YOU GUYS ARE SO AWESOME!” are nice to hear, they’re not as strong as a compelling story that a lead can relate to. The best testimonials are more than just reviews – they’re accounts of an experience.
There are a few components that make for the optimal testimonial:
- A relatable speaker: Just like your headlines and body copy, leads are looking to see themselves in the stories left by your customers – so your testimonials should come from people that fall into your target audience. If you’re trying to target enterprise-level clients, for example, testimonials from small fries won’t be quite as compelling.
- A relatable struggle: Behind every conversion is a problem that needed solving. If your leads can read a story that mirrors their own (similar challenges), they’re more likely to believe the outcome you’re promising is theirs for the taking.
- A highly desirable outcome: Testimonials need a “So what?” – What can the customer do now that they couldn’t before? Were they able to achieve everything they had hoped for?
Given these things, the best testimonials tend to have a few things in common:
- They’re specific. The problems, benefits and outcomes experienced are all explicitly mentioned.
- They’re authentic. Most testimonials feel like a polished script from the Price is Right. Testimonials should use the customers’ own language and feel genuine instead of hyperbolic.
- They tell a three-part story. A good testimonial walks through the “Before, during and after” of a customer’s journey. In this format, a lead is exposed to the factors that made someone else choose you, what they were hoping to accomplish, what their experience with you was like and how their buying decision impacted their desired outcome.
There’s just one thing – almost nobody leaves testimonials that way.
In fact, people get weird when you ask them to leave a testimonial. It’s like the part of their brain responsible for natural speech shuts off and in its place is an exclamation mark spewing monster.
Your clients get nervous because they know their words will be read by the rest of the world and, in their over-eagerness to make you sound like a champion, they spit out something similar to a used car commercial.
I’ve got a pretty simple way to get customer testimonials that don’t suck: just ask for feedback.
Clients don’t seize up when asked for feedback. It tends to flow more naturally, because the pressure is off.
Now, I’m not saying you should should leave an open-ended, “Hey! What’s your feedback!?” in your clients’ inboxes – that would give you responses just as bad as you’re already getting.
What I’m recommending here is a short but systematic approach to asking for feedback that gives you exactly the soundbites you need. The goal is to avoid yes/no questions and set people up with some talking points. You’ll want to keep it as short as you can to avoid losing people along the way – but 4 – 5 questions should be all that you need.
Here are some examples of things you can ask:
- Before using X, what was your biggest business challenge? (Helps fill in the “Before” part of the story)
- What were your biggest hesitations before buying? (Can identify differences between you and your competition and unearth preconceived notions)
- What has your favorite feature been so far, and why? (We want to get them talking about the specifics of your product)
- How has X helped your business? (or: What has the result of working with X been? We’re looking for that transformational outcome)
- Would you recommend our product/service to others? If so, who? (Lock down their endorsement and get that “I relate” factor)
You can tweak these questions based on your responses, or even tailor them towards a particular conversation.
Some other ideas you can consider, based on your situation:
- What did you think of X feature?
- What has been the biggest benefit of your purchase/working with us?
- Did we do anything that really impressed you or let you down?
- What did you like about working with us?
It’s okay to play with questions and experiment to see which ones bring back the most in-depth, thoughtful responses.
When you’ve collected your feedback, it’s time to ask permission to turn it into a testimonial.
Check in with the client and get the thumbs-up, then take what they’ve sent you and polish it up into a testimonial you can use on your site. By “polish up”, I don’t mean change what they’ve said. The more of the words you can leave completely alone, the better.
All you want to do is connect their ideas into a natural, flowing set of sentences. You can cherry pick the parts you’re most keen to display and assemble your ideal testimonial based on the feedback you’ve already received.
Finally, fire it over for final sign-off to make sure they don’t feel you’ve misrepresented what they had to say.
As far as the mechanics of collecting the feedback, that part is even easier!
There are plenty of great free tools for collecting feedback, but the one I like best is Google Drive’s Form functionality. In a matter of minutes you can create, style and share a feedback form that’s completely tailored to the mission at hand – no pesky signups and absolutely no need to have any technical knowledge beyond the extreme basics of Excel.
Here’s a snapshot of part of what I’m testing right now. I whipped it up in all of 10 minutes:
When you’ve created your form, all that’s left to do is ask! Simply contact recent clients with a polite request for feedback and fire over the link.
It doesn’t get much easier than that!