How to Get Awesome Testimonials

Wish more people would hire you with less questioning and fuss?  Get stronger testimonials.

Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

When potential clients are balking about price, stalling, or otherwise skeptical, it’s because they’re not 100% convinced you can deliver incredible results.  You can (and probably already have) told them everything you can think of about why you’re awesome.  But it’s way stronger when it comes from an unbiased third party.  Enter the testimonial.

When it comes to testimonials, I see small businesses making a couple of big mistakes.  First, not having any testimonials!  Too often people just “haven’t gotten around to it.”  And second, a lot of businesses have long or unfocused testimonials.  These are a bore to read…so they don’t get read.

Here, I share first what makes a testimonial awesome.  And second, how to elicit awesome testimonials.  Do this well, and before a prospective client ever talks to you, they will already be eager to work with you.  Seriously!  People say to me all the time, “I’m so happy to meet you.  Your success stories are incredible.”

Five Components of Awe-Inspiring Testimonials

Describe the “Before” in a Relatable Way

In order for the testimonial to be powerful, your prospective client must see himself in the testimonial.  Therefore, make sure the testimonial author includes her “before” situation, before she worked with you.  What were her frustrations?  What were her pain points?  Other people in that situation will read it and say, “Yes, that’s me!  That’s what I’m struggling with!”

For example, if you are a wedding planner, your testimonials might include things like, “I was so overwhelmed with the thought of planning my wedding!”  Or, “Our budget was really tight.”

Avoid Detailed Descriptions of the Work Product

We love when our clients admire and appreciate the details of our work.  We beam when clients say:  “I love the way you finished the cabinets.”  Or, “Mary at the front desk is such a pleasure to work with.”

Unfortunately, these things should usually be edited out of a testimonial.  While positive, they are NOT what your prospective clients is looking for at the end of the day.  When they hired you, it was not to solve their cabinet finish problem, nor to have a nice person in their life to talk to.  Keep the testimonials concise and focus on the end results of your work.  “I love being in my new kitchen!”  And, “I’m in and out of the office in no time flat.”

Share Quantitative Results (If at All Possible)

We’re naturally cautious when reading a testimonial.  Is this person just saying nice things, or did they really get incredible results?  The way to break through skepticism is with hard numbers.  Take my business for example.  If my clients tell you that their business is “bigger and stronger,” you might think, “OK but is it worth it?”  But when people read that my clients’ businesses have “grown by 50%,” “doubled,” or “tripled,” people say “WOW!  I want that!”

Your clients’ results might be harder to quantify than mine, but here are some ideas: dollars saved, hours saved, website views, conversion percentage, amount under budget, amount ahead of schedule, number of people impacted, number of new customers, etc.

Include an Explicit Recommendation

The strongest conclusion for a testimonial is a call to action.  “Hire Acme, you will be glad you did.”  Or, “I recommend ABC Dog Walking to anyone who wants their dog in great hands.”

This sort of statement is priceless.  You could never say this yourself, but here it is coming from someone else!  Or, coming from all of these different people!

Cite the Full Name, Company, and Photo

Unfortunately, some people out there are forging testimonials, and so we’re naturally skeptical when reading them.  Are these real?  This one is glowing–your mom must have written it.

Too many companies allow this skepticism to fester by not including the full names of the authors.  Who is most credible:  “P. T.,” “Paul T.,” or “Paul Tempkin”?  Only the full name gives me the confidence that I could actually contact Paul to verify the testimonial (and people almost never actually take that step).  There are a few industries where, due to issues like patient confidentiality, testimonials have to be anonymous.  But for most of us, just ask permission, and you’ll be surprised how many people say, “Sure, include my name!”

By the same token, including the company name (if relevant) and a photo is really powerful.  Being able to see the person just makes it feel so much more credible.

How to Solicit an Effective Testimonial

How do you get clients to include all of these awe-inspiring things in their testimonials?  First, you have to ask!  Too many of us fail to make time for this really powerful marketing opportunity.

When you ask, ask questions that elicit the components I discussed above.  Here is a template to get you started:

  • Describe your situation that made you go look for someone like us.  What challenges were you facing?
  • What results have you seen from our work together?  Include numbers or percent changes if at all possible.
  • Why were these results important to you?  What did you get from them?
  • Would you recommend us to others?  Why?  To whom?


To give you some ideas, check out my testimonial page.

Action Plan

With a few hours’ work, you can have an awesome new set of marketing materials!  Great testimonials can easily push people from “sitting on the fence” to “eager to work with you.”

Make a list of 5 former clients, who loved working with you.  Send them an email telling them how much you enjoyed working with them, and asking if they’d take 5 minutes to write a testimonial for you.  Include the questions I listed above (or your modified version).

When you get their response, edit the answers into a single, brief statement.  Keep their own words!  Send it back to them to get their approval, and then include this on your website, brochure, rate card, proposals, etc.

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