Customer testimonials are some of the most powerful marketing tools you can use to build your business.
Whether you use these influential — and highly cost-effective — customer endorsements on your website, in your social feeds or in print, you can get a lot of bang for your buck. But there’s one catch: They have to be really great.
So, what makes a great testimonial? And how do you get a few dozen of them? It’s easy if you know the secret.
Let’s answer this question by first looking at what doesn’t make a great customer testimonial.
A certain Phoenix law firm runs a TV commercial on regular rotation in the local market. In the commercial, they feature a single client giving a video testimonial. She says, in total, “Oh, I just love them. They are so personable!”
Although the sentiment is lovely — and it’s nice to know they’re a personable group of lawyers — it does little to convince the viewer to pick up the phone. The cost for running this less-than-persuasive endorsement could certainly have been better used elsewhere.
A great testimonial helps to convince the reader (or viewer, if it’s in video) to buy whatever product or service you’re selling. It should be sincere and believable, but most important, a great testimonial expresses — specifically and in the client’s own words — how you solved that customer’s most pressing problem.
So how do you get amazing testimonials from your customers?
Most business owners struggle to get any customer testimonials at all, let alone good ones. A familiar axiom says that a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 people but a satisfied customer will tell only one. The research shows that those numbers are closer to seven and three, but you get the idea.
In today’s online-focused world, leaving negative reviews has become something of a sport. But when the product or service is good, we are less motivated to tell someone. You can chalk this up to busy lives, short attention spans, or more likely, simply not realizing how important our endorsements are for the businesses we patronize — and often adore.
If you ask your customers for testimonials, many will be more than happy to oblige as long as you time your request correctly. Unfortunately, most of them won’t know how to say what you want to hear. So like our law firm example above, you’re likely to end up with a glowing endorsement of your social skills rather than the value you provide.
Fortunately, the solution to this quandary is easier than you think.
Instead of waiting around and hoping your happy customers leave you a review or a testimonial, you must ask for it.
No, you can’t send out a mass email asking every customer to write a testimonial. You must ask shortly after a transaction. That way, the details are still fresh in the client’s mind.
You have a customer follow-up system in place, right? If so, simply make your request for a review or testimonial a part of your follow-up. If you don’t usually follow up, this is a great time to implement this important customer service tool.
When you contact the customer to follow up, first make sure they are satisfied with the transaction. (Otherwise you might not like the review they leave.) Once you’re sure they’re happy, ask if you can send them a link to leave a testimonial. Assuming they agree, get your request out to them ASAP.
Now, let’s take a look at how you ask for a customer testimonial.
Before you ask a client for a testimonial, put yourself in their shoes for a moment.
Think specifically about how you helped this customer with a problem they were having. This might require getting creative, because you may not see your business from the customer’s perspective. But the key is to think about how you can quantify your service to them.
Some services are easier to quantify than others. Real estate agents have it easy, and so do attorneys and tax accountants. For others, you’ll have to get creative.
Are you a garage door contractor? Maybe your repair team helped a good customer make it one more year before having to replace their old door — saving them $1,200.
Are you a physical therapist? Maybe your sports rehab therapy helped a client recover from knee surgery quickly, getting them back to training in four months instead of six.
Do you teach dance classes for children? Maybe you turned that gawky little angel into a burgeoning prima ballerina after just six months of classes.
Whatever your benefit was to the customer, figure it out — because you’re going to remind them of it when you ask for your testimonial.
Send your follow-up note to the customer as quickly as possible after you speak to them (think in terms of minutes or hours, not days). Thank them for allowing you to follow up and for agreeing to provide you with a testimonial.
Now, hit them with the goods. That is to say, remind them why you’re amazing. Like this:
“Hello, Mrs. Jones.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me today. Your satisfaction is very important to us here at Garth’s Garage Doors. It was great to learn that our technician successfully repaired your garage door last week, because even though we have the best prices in West Jordan, installing a new door generally runs around $1,200.
I’m so glad we were able to save you that money!”
Now that you’ve primed them with your greatness, you’re ready to request that testimonial.
Go on with your note:
“As we mentioned this morning, it would mean a lot to all of us to have a testimonial from you. You’ve been a valued client for eight years and your kind words would mean a lot to my team.
All you need to do is answer these three quick questions.
1. What was your reason for needing our services recently?
2. What was your favorite part about how we responded to your problem? (Be specific!)
3. If you were to tell a friend or family member about us, what would you say to them?”
The theory behind these three magic questions is best left for another post (hint: psychology), but suffice it to say, they should get you what you need in a testimonial almost every time. You can modify the questions to suit your business model, but keep in mind that you’re asking them to tell you, in a positive and specific way:
Regardless of whether you receive your testimonial, follow up with your customer in a few days.
If you received the testimonial, follow up to say thank you. If they provided a glowing endorsement, you might consider asking if they would stop by your location one day and record a video testimonial for you.
But if they haven’t yet provided their testimonial, don’t push too hard. The last thing you want is to make the customer feel obligated or put-upon. Drop a quick note to them, thanking them again for being a valued customer and for taking the time to speak with you. Tack on a little P.S. that says, “If you’re still interested in giving us a testimonial, we would love to hear from you,” and leave it at that.
If you follow these five steps with every customer, you will soon find yourself with more testimonials than you can imagine. As for how to use your customer testimonials, you’ll be surprised at how much benefit you will derive from the sincere words of a satisfied customer.
Be Locally SEO understands the value of social proof (like customer reviews and endorsements) for growing your business. In addition to providing expert SEO services to our customers, we also offer website design and search engine marketing (SEM) services. For more information or help with customer testimonials, contact us today.