Testimonials can be a powerful boost to your business. They offer social proof to back up what you’re saying and encourage potential clients to get on board.
When done well, testimonials can establish your credibility, promote your business, and improve your sales. If they aren’t done well, they don’t matter at all. They’re just extra words taking up space.So you need to make sure you get them right.
We’re going to share some testimonial insights from business coach Diane Whiddon. She offered a free, one-hour Marketing With Testimonials webinar that goes in-depth with practical strategies to help you make the most of rave reviews from your clients or customers.
Check out the webinar to get more insights.
Why Are Testimonials Important?
They work. Seriously, it’s that simple.
According to Nielsen, 92% of people will trust the opinion of someone they know, and 70% will trust “consumer opinion posted online” of someone they don’t know. Those numbers beat out everything else, including websites (58%), emails, (50%), and online ads (33-40%, depending on the type of ad).
Good testimonials work because they clearly illustrate the problem your customers have and, most importantly, explain how to solve it.
Customer reviews that simply say “Awesome!” or “Loved it!” aren’t helpful. What really makes a testimonial so effective is when people can connect to the story and see their own struggle in it. It’s the, “Hey, I had that problem, too!”
Outline of a Good Testimonial
So if a simple “They’re great!” isn’t a useful endorsement, what is? You want a testimonial that tells a complete story: problem, obstacles, solution, resolution.
A solid testimonial needs to answer these questions:
- What problem did you have? This establishes a baseline, giving potential clients something to identify with.
- What product/service did you purchase? This seems obvious, but it grounds the reader in the experience of working with you.
- What was your biggest obstacle to buying this product/service? People’s barriers to purchasing aren’t always what you expect. This can give you real insight, while also reinforcing that connection (“Oh yeah, I struggled with that too.”)
- What did you expect to get? This can be a helpful question to establish expectations, and then pay off how you met or exceeded those expectations.
- What was the result? This is the payoff, where they explain the benefit they received from working with you. Ask them to be as specific as possible. You could also extend this question and ask for more benefits, how it has changed their life, or what they’re doing now because of this.
How to Get Testimonials
OK, that’s a lot of questions to ask. How is anyone supposed to do this?
You Have to Ask
The single most important factor in getting testimonials: You have to ask. You can’t get what you don’t ask for.
Busy freelancers can have a hard time with this. We make excuses and we never quite get to it. Sometimes there’s an issue of confidence hiding in all those excuses. We’re reluctant to ask for testimonials. Sometimes it’s weird to have people rave about us. This is one of the challenges of marketing, and you’re going to need to come to terms with it.If you’re a successful businessperson, you do good work. People want to rave about you. So let them. Don’t apologize for asking. Just ask.
Create a Process
The best way to get reviews is to create a consistent process. Make it a part of your freelance business system and ask for them every time.
- Ask right away: As soon as a project is finished and you’ve delivered, ask for a testimonial. Your client is thrilled, so now is the best time to ask.
- Use this template: Diane Whiddon shared a template with her webinar that you’re welcome to use. It gives you questions to ask and some language for explaining the need.
- Tailor to the situation: Be sure to adjust your questions based on what a client purchased. If you did a giant project, spend some time with the client getting these answers. If you sold them an ebook, make it quick.
- Nice emails: What if a client says something great in an email that’s almost a testimonial? Ask if you can use it. If there’s something missing, ask if they’ll add to it.
- Deadline and incentive: Give clients a deadline and follow up with them. Also, let them know you’ll link to their website, so it’s a promo opportunity for them.
- Discount or rewards for testimonials?: No, don’t bribe people to get an endorsement. There is the rare industry where this is more common, but in general, avoid this practice (it may also run afoul of Federal Trade Commission policies).
- Legalese: Make sure you disclose how you’ll use someone’s endorsement. Something simple like, “I’ll be using this on my website and other promotional materials,” is fine.
Remember: People want to gush about you. This process makes it easy for them.
Another way to get even more bang from testimonials is to get them in other formats. Text is great, but video and even audio can be even more effective.
There’s an authenticity factor when you see someone giving an endorsement via video. While it may not be true, people have the impression that a video testimony is a greater commitment. It seems like more work and not everybody is comfortable being on camera. It’s also harder to fake. It’s unlikely people will doubt the authenticity of written testimonials, but it could happen. But video removes all doubt (OK, maybe not all doubt. It is possible to fake video, but now we’re in the realm of massive conspiracy theories.)
So if you want to go above and beyond, use video to capture your endorsements.
You Have Testimonials, Now What?
You’ve scored some endorsements—nice work!—now what?
Can You Edit a Testimonial?
Yes, you absolutely should edit the endorsements you receive:
- Grammar: At the very least, fix grammar and any spelling mistakes.
- Lightly edit: Remove unnecessary comments, paraphrase, and smooth out any awkward language.
- Lots of changes: If you have to make lots of changes to make the testimonial usable, that’s OK. Just send it back to your client and ask if they’re OK with the changes. They’ll be pleased you made them sound better.
- Attribution: Testimonials should be attributed with a name, title, and company. You want the person to have a sense of authority. A photo will also make the endorsement feel more authentic and real.
Where to Put Testimonials
Once your testimonials are ready to go, you need to share them.
The most obvious place to put testimonials is on your website. But be intentional about where. They should go anywhere on your site where you’re trying to convince people to take action. So definitely on a services page, but an about page would also be appropriate. Good placement of testimonials is part of effective websites.
As long as you have testimonials all throughout your site, then it can be good to also have a single testimonial page that brings them all together in one spot. But do not have just a testimonial page and expect people to go there.
You should also share those endorsements elsewhere:
- Social media: Sharing reviews can be a good way to offer that social proof in a very social setting.
- Email newsletters: Endorsements can help close the sale in your email pitches.
- Print materials: Don’t forget your brochures, postcards, or other print pieces.
More on Testimonials
For more insights on getting endorsements, watch the full webinar with Diane Whiddon. She gives more details on the anatomy of a testimonial, including questions to ask—and don’t forget the testimonial template. Diane also explores why you should give testimonials as well. Check out the full webinar for more.