Marketing / Business relationships

Client testimonials: Your questions answered

I get a lot of questions about client testimonials and the subject pops up regularly in the Flying Solo forum. So in this article I’ll give you my answers and tips.

14 May 2014 by

Why are client testimonials important?

When you work for yourself there are no performance reviews, no financial incentives and your birthday party is often celebrated by just you and your cat.

So testimonials can be a huge source of encouragement, affirmation and joy.

But more than that, testimonials are an essential way of boosting business.

Why? Well, people believe people.

We all know that word of mouth recommendation is hugely powerful. But word of mouth can be a slow method of driving business. That’s where testimonials come in. Even when you don’t actually know the person making the recommendation, the fact is that a personal experience shared by a real person is a persuasive marketing tool. Put simply, client testimonials win more customers. 

I’m a new soloist, can I use testimonials from my previous employers?

I think it’s fine to use testimonials from a previous employer as long as you clearly state your previous role, the name of your employer, when you got the testimonial and why you got it. As you build a collection of testimonials for your new business you can gradually replace the old ones.

"While blowing your own trumpet is fine, screaming your brilliance on every single page could nauseate rather than persuade."

How do I approach clients about a testimonial?

Of course it would be lovely if all testimonials were unsolicited but let’s get real.
People are busy and forgetful. They may have loved your service, but simply don’t remember to write something.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get and what’s the worst that can happen? They can simply say ‘no’, but they probably won’t.

Generally, you’ll know which clients are more likely to give you good feedback. So, if you’ve done a great job and really struck up a rapport with your client, then go for it. But if you did a less than perfect job, don’t ask!

I request a testimonial when I’m sending my ‘thank you’ email for final invoice payment – when the memory of my great service is still burning bright.

How do I make it easier for clients to give a testimonial?

Along with the request, I include a sample of what they could write, with options to amend or replace words.

For example:

“I chose to work with Kate because <reason>. I found her copywriting to be <adjective> and <adjective>.”

Some clients use this template, others create something themselves.

I also provide direct links to places where they can post the testimonial, such as my Google Places page, TrueLocal and LinkedIn. Then, not only can the quote work for me on my own page, it sends traffic from other sites.

You’ll find more advice on how to structure your testimonial request email here.

Can I call up and get a testimonial over the phone?

Calling for a testimonial is more immediate, but also far more daunting. Some business owners just can’t face it, and I’m often tasked with calling on a client’s behalf.

If you do choose this method, I’d recommend sending the questions to the client prior to the call, so they are fully prepared. Here are some questions you could ask:

  • What problem did you need to solve?
  • Why did you choose my services?
  • How did I solve your problem?
  • What did you particularly like about my approach?
  • Would you recommend me to others?

Oh, and check out this great Flying Solo video that offers even more useful advice on testimonials. 

Can I follow up on my testimonial? 

Yes. If you don’t hear back after your initial request I think it’s fine to send another, as it’s possible that your first email got lost in the pile. But after that, leave it and move on. Badgering people for a review is never a good idea.

Can I fix grammar and typos within the testimonial?

If you’re fixing simple spelling mistakes and grammar issues, I think that’s absolutely fine. However, if you alter the testimonial or change the message substantially (don’t), then send it back to your client for approval.

Where are the best places to display and promote testimonials?

I believe testimonials are more effective – and feel more genuine – if displayed with a photo. You can either request one from your client or use one that is already in the public domain (I tend to use the one from the client’s LinkedIn profile).

I also add a backlink to the client’s LinkedIn profile (as further proof of their realness) and a link to their website (as an SEO back link, please).

While your testimonials should ideally all ‘live’ on a single page, they are often more powerful in situ. So feel free to sprinkle them on your Home page, in your side bar and on individual product pages. But don’t overdo it.

While blowing your own trumpet is fine, screaming your brilliance in every single page could nauseate rather than persuade.

Are there rules and regulations related to testimonials?

Yes. I’ve been asked by many clients to ‘make up’ fake testimonials, and of course I always reply with a big fat ‘no’. There are now penalties for falsifying your testimonials. So don’t do it, okay?

The topic of client testimonials is a hot one and with good reason. If you get client testimonials right, you get more business. Simple as that.

Do you have any other questions about testimonials? How do you gather and promote client testimonials?

Kate Toon

is a copywriter, SEO lover and Hula Hooper based in Sydney. She’s the author of Confessions of a Misfit Entrepreneur | How to succeed in business despite yourself - available for pre-order now. Connect with her on Google+, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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