How to get good testimonials

- December 16, 2019 4 MIN READ

Natalie Dowling shares some tips on how to get great testimonials, and how to use them.

Step One. Be good at what you do. Obviously. I’ll leave that to you.

You could proceed directly to the passive ‘leave a review’ approach, or simply ask your clients for nice words. But if you want to strategically leverage their experiences for your own business growth, there’s a bit more to it than good old Google rankings.

Here’s five reflective questions for your team to consider and five things to ask your clients, so you can make the most of the info gathering.

What does what you do, do?

I recently prepared a one-page project pitch to a client. It took me back to my days of project management. Folks were often confused by the terminology ‘outputs’ (the things) and ‘outcomes’ (the impact).

I spend a lot of time these days picking brains, to tease out layers of information. Most business people, when prompted, can identify their tangible outputs. The big picture impact is consistently missing from minds and business stories. But it is perhaps what can truly help you to understand and articulate the depth and value of what your business does.

In the pitch example above the proposed outputs were a survey, report, training and marketing resources. The proposed outcomes included changes in attitude and capability, measurable increase in successful applications, shared learnings and enhanced industry reputation. These will enable my client to give their stakeholders better outcomes in X, Y and Z. See how the impact flows?

This need to go deeper, to understand what it is that you do actually does, is relevant right across the board. I’ve worked through it with engineering firms, photographers and even execs rejigging a CV. When I deliver training I gather the immediate experience feedback, but I’m also keen to know how the workshop impacts a participant’s practices or business development down the track.

Five questions to ask yourself

These five questions are a good starting point to connect you in to the bigger story of what you do:
1. What does your business do; what are the things?
2. How does what you do make a difference to your clients or stakeholders?
3. What do your clients do differently because of what you’ve done with them; what does your work or product enable?
4. What impact are your clients now having in the world after engaging with you?
5. How can you utilise these stories to attract prospective clients to your business?

Five questions to ask clients

Don’t just ask for any old testimonial. Seek out targeted information to cover the bases:

1. Experience

There’s a popular meme quoting author Maya Angelou about how people will forget what you say or do but always remember how you made them feel. Try to get a sense of this relational aspect.
Ask: How were we to deal with? What was the experience like, and how did we treat you?

2. Quality

The feels are important but kindness is not a substitute for competence. You’ve got to know your stuff. Good client feedback will demonstrate your professionalism.
Ask: How would you judge our standard of work; what do you trust about our capability and expertise?

3. Solution

You want people to articulate what you’re good at and explain what you’ve done for them, so you can appreciate strengths and showcase relevance to others. This is the context and output question.
Ask: Why did you come to us, and what was the nuts and bolts problem we solved for you?

4. Impact

It’s also important to get a sense of the big picture; the difference that your services/product make. Find out about the flow-on outcomes for a client’s life or business, and what they can now do better.
Ask: How has your engagement or experience with us improved what you can do? What change or achievements have we enabled for you and your stakeholders/people/customers?

5. Freestyle

Give your clients a chance to offer an overall description in their own words. You’ll gather a better range of ideas and voices for use, and get a good insight into how people position you.
Ask: If you were talking to someone else, how would you describe our business and the value of what we do?

How to use testimonials

If you ask clients for specific and targeted testimonials you can gain insight into the breadth and depth of what you do, the problems that you solve and what you do really does.

That way your feedback bank will become a strategic resource to call on for different purposes, and you’ll be in charge of how the material gets displayed and deployed.

Armed with this quality info you can track continuity and improvement, use success stories to build internal morale and confidence, or prove your value and impact in a business case, industry award or client sales pitch.

One important tenet of business storytelling is ‘show, don’t tell’. Authentic testimonials or shares support your business to do just that. Instead of blithely saying, “we’re the best” you present a story with your client as the main character, someone with whom prospective customers can relate. Use teaser snippets on your website or socials, feature articles in your e-news or tailor case studies for your marketing collateral. Keep the material fresh and relevant.

Testimonials can also feed into your business development cycles. When you can see beyond what you do day-to-day and reflect on the bigger picture impact, it’s easier to align to and articulate purpose, meaning and values; that all-important ‘why’. Testimonials can be useful prompts to hone your business offerings. They’re also signals to attract the type of client with whom you want to grow your business.

It’s easy enough to automate a feedback process using Survey Monkey or another digital resource. All you have to do now, is ask.

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