How to Get Great Customer Testimonials

Ah, the much-heralded testimonial.

We need them.  There is scientific proof in the positive influence they have on buyer decision.

But how do we get them?  Well that’s easy Ryan, we just ask our customers!  True, true.  But you can actually turn this into a process, and greatly increase your chances of customers agreeing to testify on your behalf.

You can even help them to write great, thoughtful testimonials in just the way you like them!  Here’s how.

First, the proof.  3 out of 4 Doctors agree that social proof rules.

In all seriousness, many studies have indicated a direct correlation between displaying customer testimonials and increased sales.

One example, from the Journal of Theoretical and Applied Electronic Commerce Research (stay with me here, I’m not trying to bore you to death) found the following.

…testimonials participants showed higher level of trust, regardless of product touch level and product price. However, the positive influence of testimonials was significantly more pronounced with more expensive products than with high-touch products.

Testimonials graph shows positive impact

Testimonials produce positive impact


So basically, regardless of product type or product price, the presence of testimonials has a positive affect on sales.  Additionally, the more expensive an item is, the greater the influence of testimonials on purchasing decisions.

According to Marketing Sherpa, a leader in Internet marketing research and training,

Every experienced marketer on this planet will tell you: Testimonials make a huge difference in sales, especially online.

Okay.  We all agree that testimonials rock.  We need ’em and we want ’em.  So how do we get ’em?

Before we address how to get testimonials, know this.  There’s a difference between a quality testimonial and a junker.  Steer clear of the junkers!

A junker would be a faked testimonial.  One written by a marketer or employee.  They can be spotted from a mile away.  They’ll most certainly do more harm than good.  Marketing Sherpa illustrates the point that testimonials should be from actual customersperfectly:

…when viral (tell a friend) marketing campaigns were the hot new online tactic, marketers discovered a fascinating fact: If you let actual consumers write the recommendation message to their friend, their message, no matter how lame, always outperformed a message crafted by a marketer, no matter how expert.

Junkers can also come from actual customers.  But don’t worry, I’ll show you how to deal with that in a moment.  This kind of junker would be one that is submitted by a real-life human customer. But one that is heavy on positivity and low on length.  Things like: “Great service!”, “This is the perfect gift”, and “This is the best pair of shoes my toes have ever felt!”.  Those kinds of testimonials, while painfully nice, don’t offer your customers any real value.  There is no sense of the value your service provided or problem your product solved.  I don’t know about you, but those kinds of testimonials do nothing for me.  They might as well be faked because I can’t tell the difference.

A Quality Testimonial Should Go Something Like This:

Personal Details
It should include some real, personal details of the person giving the testimonial.  Ideally, you want more than just the first name and last initial. (“Jane D.”)  If possible, include the person’s full name, location, company, age and even a picture.  These may not all be applicable.  And not everyone will be willing to give full details.  But try to get as much as you can.  The more details you have, the more valid it will be perceived.

It’s a safe bet that your testimonials will say something flattering about your company or offering.  However, an exceptional testimonial will include facts and data that help tell (prove) the story of the customer.

Not Too Short
It’s helpful if a testimonial is more than a couple of sentences long.  Quality testimonials will tell a detailed story of the customer’s experience, how it helped them or made them feel, and even an endorsement for others to give you a try.  For lengthy submissions, help your readers by highlighting key points in bold or using numbering and bullet points to break things up.  And a really long testimonial could become the foundation for a Case Study!  (with their permission of course)

Now that we know what a good testimonial is, shall we develop a process for nurturing quality testimonials?

Yeah, let’s do that!

Okay, so the first obvious point I’d like to make is that in order to get testimonials, I’m assuming you already have sales. How would you have happy customers if you didn’t, right?  Duh.

That being said, it’s fairly safe to assume that you have been collecting the email addresses of your customers.  Please tell me you’re collecting their email addresses!

So if you’ve got the email addresses of actual paying customers, you’ve got the means to develop a process that will generate testimonials for you!  And it’s not a complicated process at all.

What I would recommend is a simple 2 tiered email campaign.

The 1st Tier would be an email sent out to your entire list of paid customers, asking for their feedback.

The 2nd Tier would have two options.  One for those who replied with negative feedback or declined your request.  And the other for everyone else.

Let’s break it down.

For the 1st email, you don’t want to explicitly ask for a testimonial.  That doesn’t come off all too well.  Instead, do this:

  • Make a request for a quick ‘favor’ or ‘help’ or something along those lines.
  • Personalize it with their first name
  • Mention their purchase, specifically if possible, if not, just the fact that they purchased from you
  • Then ask them if they’d mind helping you out by answering 3 easy questions
  • Then list out your questions.  Keep them short.
    • How did this product/service SPECIFICALLY help or benefit you?
    • Was it easy to setup/learn/use?
    • Would you recommend this to your friends?
  • Ask them to be as specific as they can.
  • Finally, promise them a ‘bonus’ or ‘surprise’ for helping you out, and thank them.

This email should garner some positive responses, and it is set up in a way that will encourage some detailed thoughts.  And, it should follow the format that you’ve spelled out for them.  In short, it should be a Quality Testimonial!

However, if you get responses that aren’t all that positive, or those that simply decline your offer, your 2nd email will be easy.  Do this:

  • Thank them for their response
  • Address any issues or concerns they mentioned in their response
  • Provide them with the ‘bonus’ or ‘surprise’ that you promised them in the initial email.  A good example would be a coupon or discount code on a future purchase.
    • Be specific about exactly how they can redeem discount and what its value and time limits are.
  • Thank them again and you’re done.

For all of the positive responses you get, you’ll hopefully have a slew of well thought out testimonials that tell specific stories of your happy customers.  These are the responses you’re going to be posting to your website.  In this case, your 2nd email will do is this:

  • Review each response, and make minor edits, create a headline, and format the user’s details.  Keep it in the customer’s voice; just make things concise and easy to read, with a headline that gets their message across easily.
  • Then in your email response to the submitter, do this:
    • Thank them for their feedback and address a key point they mentioned.
    • Ask them if they would mind if you put their feedback on your site and tell them why their response would be beneficial for others.
    • Tell them you slightly edited it, and show them exactly how it would read on your site.
    • Let them know that they just need to reply and say yes, along with any final tweaks to the wording or personal details they may request.  …and ask for a picture if they’d like to provide one.
    • Just as you did with the negative response email, provide them with the ‘bonus’ or ‘surprise’ that you promised them in the initial email.  A good example would be a coupon or discount code on a future purchase
      • § Be specific about exactly how they can redeem discount and what its value and time limits are.
    • Big thanks and bye. You’re done.

How and Why This Works

You’ve just created a simple process for generating testimonials.  Quality testimonials that meet your specific requirements.  Good stuff!  This method works because it’s conversational, humble, and it leads the customer where you want them to go without being too specific.

This elicits the kinds of responses that will cover a broad range of benefits and advantages of your products & services.  You’ve encouraged very detailed accounts of their experiences.  And since you didn’t specifically ask for a “testimonial”, you’re likely to get more natural language responses.

And finally, you’ve incentivized the customer to make a response in two ways.  One, you asked them for help on a personal level.  Most folks respond positively to this kind of thing.  Two, you’ve offered them a small reward for your trouble.  Both of these things will work in your favor and increase the likelihood of getting responses.

In Conclusion

You’ve now got a simple, repeatable plan of action for generating great testimonials.  They are undoubtedly going to improve your image, enhance your credibility, build more trust between you and potential customers, and of course, boost your conversions and your bottom line!

I hope you’ve found this useful.  And, I’d LOVE to hear about your results if you have implemented something similar in the past or do in the future.

Best of luck!

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