I follow several copywriters who are all at the top of their profession and niche segments. Each has a slightly different focus and I learn from all of them.
One of them was talking about the power of testimonials and shared some tips to get them from clients.
And what if you’re a new entrepreneur or your offerings are new?
Well, she said, just go to websites selling similar offerings, copy the testimonials, and then use them on your site.
Aside from the fact that she just recommended plagiarizing and violating copyright laws, doing something like that is unethical and deceptive.
I think I strained my finger clicking on the Unsubscribe link as fast as I did.
That’s the type of behavior that makes people skeptical of testimonials in the first place and especially skeptical of testimonials on the web.
Here are a few tips to using testimonials so your potential clients are educated, recognize you as the authority, and confident about working with you.
- Be Truthful. I always thought this went without saying but apparently it doesn’t. It’s very easy to replace one word with another one that sounds more powerful. Resist that temptation unless you check with the person giving you the testimonial. If someone wrote a nice testimonial but wasn’t as gushy as you’d like they may be trying to be more formal than necessary. Remind them of some words they used in the past. Or copy and paste something they said in an email that praised you. People are concerned about looking stupid or sounding silly so let them know that speaking from the heart serves them well. People want to help you but they want to look good doing it.
- Be representative of results. This is a tricky one. Especially when you perform a service. My mentor, Mike Koenigs, has people working for him in what he refers to as his “Department of Proof”. His team asks us to submit proof whenever we report a success story. This makes our testimonials much more powerful because he’s cobining the social proof of the testimonial with visual evidence for a powerful combination.
Follow-up with past clients to see how they’re doing. It can be a great way to get testimonials and even case studies as well as helping you stay top of mind with them and encourage referrals.
- Be as specific as your profession – and your client – allows. I know there are industries where those you serve are hesitant to reveal they came to you for service. Maybe you’re a career coach and your clients are afraid their employer will find out they worked with you and see it as a negative. I’ve had people who work in marketing come to me for help with their sales process and they don’t want their clients to know that (hey, we ALL need to work with someone). Use as much information as they’re comfortable with and is appropriate. Use pictures, first and last names, city and state, and web address if they have one. Video testimonials are great and can be powerful. People have a tendency to ramble though so consider sending them some questions to answer to help them stay on track if they’re going to submit a video. And if your industry or profession doesn’t really do names and pictures, that’s fine. I’m sure potential patients understand that. But recognize you may need to do more to help develop trust and make people feel more confident in hiring you as their service provider.
- Edit where necessary. I’ve worked with people who have these long (rambly) testimonials they used in their marketing. They weren’t effective because just looking at them made me not want to read them. Then I’d force myself and had a hard time following it. Or I’d have clients who’d edit their testimonials to sound more professional and the comments sounded way too stiff and impersonal. Make sure the testifier knows you have the right to and will edit for space and clarity. Feel free to take out phrases or sentences and use just those. A good example is the endorsement I received from legendary management guru and author Ken Blanchard. I submitted my first book’s manuscript to him and he gave me a fantastic endorsement that was a few sentences long. I wanted to have his name on the cover because we all know how that can help sell a book. The whole thing would have been too long, so I just used a short phrase “…provocative and reflective!” I edit testimonials for space, clarity, and spelling but I leave the bad grammar or clumsy sentence construction because that’s how people talk and write.
- Answer questions and concerns potential buyers have. If you offer a high-priced service then people may wonder if it’s worth it. Structure questions that help testifiers provide the answer to what someone is wondering. For example, I ask people if they were nervous about working with me. I’ll get great comments like “Yes, I was a little nervous because I’d worked with a guru who didn’t deliver.” That’s a great statement because it’s real, it’s heartfelt, and who hasn’t worked with someone who hasn’t delivered? We’ve all done that. So when a testimonial can go on to say something like “But I saw a benefit right away….” it really lowers the potential buyer’s guard. I actually added benchmarking where my clients are before we start working together because I found they were often terrible at tracking their results! So when I remind them of how things were before we started working together it can help them provide a richer before…and now… type of statement. Remember, your marketing and sales messaging and materials should always be focused on helping the potential buyer make the best decision for them. Statements like “I recouped my investment within a week” are priceless for you and give the potential client confidence they can benefit from working with you.
- Represent the clients you truly want to work with. When I first went out on my own I did a lot of work with corporate clients. Since I lived near Atlantic City in South Jersey I had casinos as clients and some mid-sized companies too. I started hearing that “I guess you don’t work with people like me” from exactly the sort of people I really wanted to work with so I took the list of companies off my site. Potential clients want proof you can do the job; but they also want to know you can do the job for people like them, organizations like theirs, and that you can solve the type of problem they’ve got. Your testimonials — and client list if you publish that — should help them see that.
Testimonials educate your potential buyers and really do assist you in helping clients buy so you can sell without being salesy and don’t sacrifice your values. The key is getting powerful testimonials that communicate the value of your offerings.
Testimonials – how you get them, how you use them, who gives them – should also be addressed in the general policies and Terms and Conditions (Ts & Cs) for your site. If you don’t have Ts&Cs I strongly recommend you get them.
I use and recommend Web Site Legal Form Generator put out by attorney Mike Young. Mike specializes in online / internet marketing. (That’s an affiliate link and I’ll get the equivalent of a cup of tea if you buy through it) And here’s a link to the US government’s guidelines on using testimonials and endorsements. (I’m not a lawyer and I’m not giving legal advice so be sure to talk to your own internet lawyer.)