A client once told me that she doesn't gather testimonials because "they're all fake anyway".
Personally, I don't think that's true. I think testimonials can be authentic, relatively easy to acquire, and boost your street cred in an impactful way.
So love 'em, hate 'em. We're going to debunk testimonials once and for all.
What's a testimonial?
A testimonial is an honest endorsement that is gathered from your client, customer, or colleague who has experienced positive benefits from the work you did together.
Why do testimonials matter?
Testimonials provide social proof, the idea that people copy the actions of others in an attempt to emulate behavior in certain situations.
When someone is making a big decision, like hiring a coach, wellness practitioner, or professional creative, they want to make sure they're making a sound investment and will achieve their goals.
A very easy way to satisfy a potential client's need for social proof is to share testimonials from past clients that have benefitted from working with you.
You want others to jump for joy from receiving your awesome services.
Can I just make the testimonials up?
No! Client testimonials should never be "made up" by the business and falsely attributed to a client because that's just creepy. And, bad karma.
Why do gathering client testimonials feel challenging?
1. Testimonials should be well written.
Not all of your clients are going to be gifted wordsmiths or storytellers that communicate your glowing service effectively.
Luckily, the best testimonials feel conversational and casual. Proper grammar is not as important as capturing a feeling.
2. Testimonials seem time consuming. You might not feel like you have time to email your client after your project is complete, let alone edit their words and craft it into something readable.
Using the five questions below, sending a client a questionnaire and crafting their answers into a testimonial should take about 30 minutes out of your day.
3. Testimonials require that you ask for something from the client beyond the scope of your service and that feels kind of selfish.
Don't be silly! Clients love the opportunity to express their gratitude for your amazing service. And, if you create a testimonial questionnaire with the just-right questions, the testimonial practically writes itself in very little time.
Testimonials Should Tell A Story
So, how do we help nudge our clients to write glowing words of praise without putting words in their mouth or writing the testimonials ourselves?
Help guide your client to tell a great story about the work you did together. After all, every great story is one of transformation moving from a challenge to a solution by means of a process. Take this example...
Story Beginning: The Challenge: The down-on-her-luck fisherwoman was worried about how to pay her rent and support her family.
Story Middle: The Process: Then, she found a mentor who taught her a new fishing technique that brought in triple the amount of fish in one outing.
Story End/ Transformation: The Outcome: Now, she's so successful that she owns several houses and runs a successful vacation rental agency that employs single mothers in need of work-from-home opportunities.
Just like any great story, an impactful client testimonial should have a beginning, middle, and end that portrays the client's transformation before, during, and after working with you.
Example of testimonial beginning: "Before I worked with Petunia the gardener, my backyard looked like the place where perennials go to die".
Example of testimonial middle: "Petunia is so knowledgeable about plants and she offers her expertise in such an accessible way that I can understand and implement her suggestions."
Example of testimonial ending: "Now that I've worked with Petunia, my backyard is the talk of the neighborhood! My plants are thriving and I am not embarrassed to have guests come over and hang out there."
The trick to a good testimonial is in the questions you ask. And in the order that you ask them.
Below, I have listed the five questions to ask your client after your work together is finished to craft into an impactful testimonial. These questions are based on the StoryBrand framework from the book, "Marketing Made Simple" by Donald Miller.
The 5 Questions to Ask for Client Testimonials That Tell a Transformational Story
1. What issue or problem were you having before you came to me for ______________ (specific service)?
What did the frustration feel like as you tried to solve the problem without my service?
What is different about my service and how I work?
Take us to the moment when you realized that our work together was actually working to solve your problem.
Tell us what life looks like now that your problem is solved or being solved.
You can send the five testimonial questions to your clients in several different ways:
It's important to introduce your questionnaire in a friendly and appreciative tone. After all, your client is taking precious time out of their day to do this for you! Here is the exact text I use on the top of my testimonial questionnaire:
It has been such a pleasure working with you. Thank you for taking a few valuable minutes to fill out this form to capture the story of your experience in working together. With your permission, I'd like to share your responses as a testimonial on my website.