When you own a business, asking for testimonials can be one of those moments that can feel almost sort of self-indulgent in a “toot your own horn” kind of way. It can also be a place where imposter syndrome creeps in, holding you back from asking for what you need. I’ve felt like that from time to time, especially in my past photography days, and I’ve heard so many friends and colleagues in the online business space say the same: it’s important, awkward, but a piece of our workflow that we need to nail down in order to help potential clients make those important purchasing decisions.
Here’s the thing about testimonials: it’s not as simple as asking for a 5 star rating or a quick review, getting really, really GOOD testimonials is so much more than asking for someone to tell you all the amazing things about your business.
In fact, a really fantastic testimonial is less about YOU and your business, and more about sharing the results that your clients and customers have gotten by using your products or services. Great testimonials serve as social proof, which the CRM platform Hubspot defines as “the idea that consumers will adapt their behavior according to what other people are doing.”
So… does your online business need testimonials? I think you know what my answer here is… heck YES! But, there are a few things to keep in mind as you gather this feedback to make sure your testimonials are as effective and impressive to potential customers as possible.
Guide Past Customers
There’s nothing less exciting than a generic testimonial that says something like, “This product was great! I loved it!” While that information is definitely nice for you as the business owner to know, it doesn’t help potential customers make their buying decision. If you’re leaving it up to your clients to craft a great testimonial, you’re doing them (and yourself) a disservice. Just like the client experience, guide them through this process and help them write a killer testimonial.
I’ve found it’s easiest to send out a short survey to past customers making it an almost mad libs style exercise with little writing prompts to help them get really detailed and specific about their experience, what they liked, what results they got, what your product did for them, any fears they had before purchasing, and any other important information you could then use in a testimonial.
Some questions you might consider asking include:
- What did you like about this product or service?
- What results did you experience after purchasing this product or service?
- Would you recommend it to a friend? Why or why not?
- Was it worth the price point? Why or why not?
- Did you have any fears before purchasing? If so, what was the outcome?
- Is there anything else we should know about your experience?
- Is there anything you would change about your experience? (Side note: This one is more helpful for you to know and have, but obviously you likely won’t use their answer in a testimonial!)
I also strongly recommend including in the survey a request for you to publish their name and feedback, and permission from them to shorten any of their answers to use as a testimonial on your website or social channels. This is critical because you want them to know you’d potentially like to use this a public review — if this hasn’t been a part of your process and they aren’t submitting this information onto a public website to leave a review, make sure you clarify with them their level of comfort with inclusion.
Don’t Wait Too Long
When I was a wedding photographer, I would send out a testimonial request shortly after they had gotten their finished gallery! I always wanted them to FIRST enjoy the finished product and ensure that they had a great experience from top to bottom but shortly after that I’d want to send out the request. So many times they would send back a glowing email before I even had the chance to send them the actual questions I’d love for them to answer but that always was a natural request after they sent back that initial feedback!
The thing is, you want the excitement and results to be fresh in your customer’s mind, so having that automation set up to send a week or two or after the finished product or service has been delivered will optimize the testimonials and help harness the power of the experience you offered. Take into account what your product is, when buyers would likely use it, and at what point they’d have enough of an experience with it to want to provide insightful feedback.
We recently overhauled my entire digital shop where I sell all kinds of templates, presets and guides and we built in an automation to follow up with 3 emails post purchase, the first connects the customer with their product, the second is just a gentle outreach to see if they have any questions or need any support, and then the third is to ask for a review or a rating on their product. I think it’s important to offer that chance to get support or ask a question before asking for a review because this will give you the ability to serve well and avoid any hiccups that could result in an unhappy customer prior to asking them to rate their experience.
Say Thank You
Having people help you market with their own words and experiences is so valuable. These are your clients sharing their experience and this is a PART of their overall experience. Make it worthwhile for them and feel like a value exchange. A few ways to do this could be offering them some sort of discount if they provide feedback, like a code for 10% off their next purchase of $100 or more if they fill out the survey. Or you can enter them into a giveaway for something like a $20 Starbucks gift card if they fill it out.
Even just making sure you send a thoughtful thank you email as a follow up to them is a way to let them know their feedback is very much appreciated and valued! It’s always nice to then follow up with your testimonial respondents to see if you can serve them better, to see if they have any potential future needs or opportunities or to see if their results have changed a month or two later down the line.
Not only is this a super valuable way for you to gather feedback on the life cycle of your product, but it can also be a way to remind past customers that your business is still there and has resources and products for them… because by the way, did you know it’s easier and more lucrative to retain customers than it is to find new ones? That’s according to research from consulting firm Bain and Company, who also say that increasing customer retention rates by just 5% can increase your profits by 25% to 95%.
Find additional ways to follow up with them in the future whether you ask if they want to join your monthly email lists or through sending a Christmas card or dropping something in the mail to celebrate a milestone with them. Checking back in and asking if past customers are still pleased with the product, and then offering an upsell or downsell opportunity 2 or 3 months down the line is a powerful way to continue gathering feedback and retain those previous customers while continuing their experience.
How to Publish Testimonials
Testimonials aren’t just meant to be a pat on the back or notions of praise for you, if you’re being incredibly thoughtful with your testimonials, you want to choose strong testimonials that tackle your potential clients greatest objections. Beyond time and money — which are general objections for every purchase — what are the biggest things holding people back from investing in your product or service?
You should be able to come up with a list of 3-5 main objections that most of your potential clients face and your goal should be to choose testimonials that help tackle those objections and give clarity to a person who’s about to make a purchasing decision. Be sure you choose diverse testimonials to showcase varying aspects that will help different people see themselves reflected. That means you want to represent all different types of customers and their different types of results or experiences with your product. You want people to imagine themselves as your customer so showcase stories and paying customers who will help them visualize themselves getting those same results.
As for how many testimonials to use on your website, this depends on several factors like how many offers you have and the types of products or services available for purchase, it’s also dependent on the price point of your offers, and how many people have used or experienced your offer and have gotten amazing results. Of course, the more offers you have or the more of an investment they are, the more social proof can be helpful for buyers on the fence.
You don’t want to bombard visitors with just tons and tons of testimonials to sift through. I recommend sprinkling them throughout your website and only picking the ones that are most impressive and compelling to be the stars of the feature. If you have a couple REALLY powerful testimonials, they can stand alone on the page or even be used as a social media post graphic. I also love using carousels on websites that cycle through 3 to 5 really great and diverse testimonials. Make sure these carousels also have some sort of arrow or button so visitors can click through and read them easily.
If Your Biz is New
I like to keep what I call a happy folder in my email of past students or clients who send me emails with notes of appreciation or their wins from using my products. You can also screenshot and save any praise that you might find in communities, like if you run a Facebook group or small coaching group via a platform like Slack.
This is a great way to keep track of client feedback without sending out such a specific survey, and odds are you have a few people who have been pleased with what you’ve done for them and have told you about it. Start saving these emails or even taking screenshots of them to have as not only a source of inspiration for YOU, but also to use if you need testimonials. Just be sure you ask them if it’s okay to publish their feedback and their name before doing so.
If you’re releasing a brand new product or service, try reaching out to past customers or clients to see if they’d be willing to test it for you at a lower cost or no cost to them in exchange for their unbiased feedback, which you can then use in testimonials before even releasing your new offer to the public. Beta groups are an awesome way to test out a new offer and to get valuable insight before you launch it to the world, it’s also an awesome way to serve past paying clients for free or at a discount, continuing their positive experience with you and your brand.
The Big Picture
If I haven’t stressed it enough, trust me here: it is time for you to gather those testimoniations. You need to have them on your website because they offer potential customers the opportunity to see themselves in someone else’s experiences and results using your product or service.
They show that your stuff works, it gets people results, and it’s worthy of their investment. Hearing that from a REAL customer is always going to be more powerful than you as the business owner trying to convince people of the same things. Plus, let’s be real… it’s kinda fun to read the nice things people think about your products and services! Like, you don’t have to save that for a rainy day, this can become a natural part of your process!
Just make sure to pull the most impactful feedback, keep it concise, sprinkle testimonials sparingly throughout your website, and always, always make your customers know that they’re appreciated for sharing their honest thoughts with you. If you follow these tips, you should see an improvement in conversions and you’ll also have some amazing feedback to continue refining and improving your offers down the line… all good things if you ask me!