Getting good testimonials for your online marketing efforts


I stumbled on a testimonial last week for a much loved product that was so effusive in it’s praise it was unnerving. It read:

“**this application** is by far the best invoicing and billing application available. Our company would collapse in short order if not for their outstanding service!

Your company would collapse in short order? This is supposed to inspire confidence in your credentials? What fly-by-night outfit depends entirely on one billing service for the success of their business model? If they couldn’t bill that one way, they’d go right under.

No thank you.

The right testimonial can be a boon for both you and your client. Our Director of Strategy recorded a short video testimonial for a tool that we use and like, and it ended up on that site’s homepage. Our industry chops are recognized, and they got a great review. Everyone won.

Good reviews help a product or service for an interesting psychological reason that Robert Cialdini outlines in his book “Influence; The Psychology of Persuasion”. He calls the principle “Social Proof”, which is that one of the ways we decide what is good behavior is by watching those around us. How many times have you laughed at a joke you didn’t really get just because those around you were laughing? That’s social proof.

Mostly, following the social convention is a good way to know what to do in a given situation. When you collect testimonials or reviews from your clients, you give your potential clients a peer group to associate with. When they buy your product, they prove they are good decision makers.

So what makes a good testimonial? What type of review appears genuine without over promising? Here are some tips as you begin to ask your clients about your service.

1. If you can use their name, it’s good. If you can use their face, it’s better. If they say it to a camera, the best.

People are skeptical of testimonials online, and with good reason. Who is this person? Why should I trust their judgement? The more you can share about your clients, the more likely people will trust what they have to say. A video of a customer in your showroom praising you means something very different than a “these guys are the best!” without context.

2. Make it easy for them.

You want to make it dead easy for people to say good things about you, so incentivize them. If they walk out of your office happy, have a pencil and paper by the door so they can write about it. Offer a gift card or a discount if they leave a review.

3. Ask about the services you want them to talk about.

If tires are your hot ticket item, but people are only talking about the upholstery, ask a direct question. “How do you feel about your tire service?” elicits a specific response you can use in your specific marketing.

4. Use their words, not yours.

Don’t try to spice up a testimonial, it ends up sounding like a laugh track. People know when you’re being genuine; your clients are busy, not dumb.

5. Take the good with the bad.

If you get a bad review, try to figure out why. If people are hesitant to recommend your service, find out what went wrong. Take the opportunity to refine a business process so people can ALWAYS have something nice to say about you.

6. Make sure to show off your best work

Not every favorable testimonial is a good testimonial. “It’s great!” is usually less helpful than “John was great to work with and help my project succeed.” Be happy the client is happy, but don’t settle for a vague thumbs up. Put the testimonial up that makes the most difference.

7. Get it out there

Don’t just put your review on the website. Ask them to leave it on your Google maps listing. Locally, we make sure people who are looking for web design Phoenix get all the visibility available. We modify designs to incorporate important social elements like testimonials and reviews to make sure our clients best work is seen by potential customers. Find someone to get it out there for you.

Have you seen great testimonials? What persuades you to pick up the phone or fill out a form? How have other people’s opinions influenced your buying process?