Surprisingly Creative Ways to Get Testimonials

by Michelle Hunter

Building credibility with client stories.

Creative Ways to Get Testimonials

Something magical happens when real people discuss a business in a positive light. Suddenly even over-the-top claims become credible and people are drawn to learn more. In our increasingly digital marketplace, testimonials are an important part of the buying process… overcoming the objections of potential clients through the power of social proof.

What do I mean by a testimonial?

Simply put, a testimonial is just a series of comments from a customer or client about their experience while working with your business. Many of the business owners I work with struggle to gather testimonials because of confusion over this definition. Sure, a testimonial can be lengthy and formal… but it can also be a simple statement of gratitude received in an email or posted on social media.

The power isn’t in the length or the complexity of the comments themselves. The power is in the source. When your customers and clients sing your praises, potential clients notice… and begin to think of your business in a more positive light. The praise of others lends credibility to the claims you make about the value you provide.

When you solve problems for people, it naturally creates a buzz. People want to share the positive experience they had with friends and colleagues. Create a great product? Provide a valuable service? Go above and beyond in terms of customer service? People are talking about your work, I promise you. The question is this – -> Are you curating positive comments as a way to intentionally market your business? I hope so!

When is a testimonial appropriate for use as a case study?

Contrary to common thinking, length is not a factor in deciding how to use a client comment. Long comments are not necessarily worthy of case study status just because they make a nice paragraph. There’s a subtle distinction between a testimonial and a case study that actually has nothing to do with the number of words: obstacles and how they were overcome.

Case studies start with a problem or challenge- an obstacle the client is struggling with and hoping to overcome. The story itself is a type of hero’s journey… you come alongside the client as a guide, providing whatever is needed to solve the problem and face the challenge successfully. Along the way, you and the client may have a few difficulties… but you get through them together to achieve results.

Testimonials are statements of success that don’t include more than a passing recognition of the initial problem, instead focusing nearly completely on results. While case studies are typically historical, testimonials are rooted in the present with an eye to the future.

Am I getting a little nit-picky here? Probably… but as a copywriter and marketer, I think the distinction is an important one. Here are some examples, so you can see what I see…

  • Working with ABC Company was a dream. I felt supported, challenged, and engaged every step of the way. More importantly, my revenue has increased almost 25%! <–Testimonial
  • Before we worked together, my business was really struggling. I invested thousands of dollars into marketing, but nothing seemed to work. I didn’t realize the problem was a lack of strategy. It took some time for me to understand your process, and we struggled a bit at first. But, once things came together I quickly made progress. Now I’m confident in my marketing strategy and starting to get real results. < — Case Study

Starting to see the difference? I challenge you to review the praise or testimonial content you’ve curated for your business through this lens. You might discover a few hidden case studies on your praise page.

Serious about marketing? Time to get creative.

Marketing intentionally with testimonials means moving beyond the simple feedback form or client survey you might use now. Those are great techniques, but ultimately they are pretty passive. Some people respond, but most don’t- at least not without a bit of prompting and a few reminders. #awkward

The problem isn’t necessarily the quality of your work. It’s the timing and nature of the request. Most feedback requests come at the end of a project. The client is excited to use the new website, work with the new program, or implement the material you shared. The customer is back to work because your product solved the problem so well. Most will share a sincere thank you with ease… but a form with several questions can feel like a distraction at best and like an irritation at worst.

So what do you do? I suggest you quit waiting passively for responses and instead get a bit creative about your approach. Here’s how…

Talk about testimonials early and often.

Your customers know you market or advertise in some way in order to get new business. That’s why I recommend talking about the importance of positive feedback during your onboarding process and often throughout your work with clients. Share your commitment to customer service and how valuable satisfied customers are to your success.

Make it a practice to ask for feedback during nearly every engagement with a client. Respond quickly to issues and work to resolve them… but don’t stop there. Talk about your desire to share their experiences with others and ask for permission.

During a recent strategy call, for example, one of my clients shared an experience she had using the core messaging we created together as a value proposition at a networking event. She told me how she felt nervous at first, but quickly realized the message we developed gave her confidence. As we celebrated her success, I asked her if I could share her experience with my other clients to inspire them. She happily agreed and provided what amounts to a testimonial.

Create multiple opportunities to discuss results.

Rather than leaving feedback-type conversations for the end of a project, create multiple opportunities for clients and customers to share their experiences.

  • Review the past coaching call and ask the client to share insights as a part of opening each new session. Listen closely for results.
  • Ask for feedback at each project milestone point and celebrate wins together.  
  • Follow up as the client begins using your product to provide helpful information and discuss how things are going to this point.

Recently, my husband and I were enjoying a meal at a new restaurant. Our server did an excellent job of modeling the mindset I’m encouraging here. Before we ordered, he asked why we selected the location and offered to help us celebrate any special event or occasion. After each course, he checked to see how we were enjoying the experience and if he could do anything to add value. At the end of the meal, he gave us another opportunity to share our thoughts.

Most importantly, he went beyond the usual “how is everything tasting…” to express sincere interest in our experience. He was not annoying or intrusive, just friendly and engaged. He encouraged us to share our thoughts openly at multiple points during our time there.

Look at your current operations and identify moments when you might humbly ask your customers to share their experiences. Cultivate a mindset of honest curiosity and take the time to truly listen and engage with your clients. You might be surprised at what you learn.

Offer additional value in exchange for a testimonial.

In the right context, I’m not opposed to bribery. In fact, I’m quite a fan of offering a juicy bit of additional value in exchange for a testimonial or case study. After all, there’s a reason why bribery is illegal in most settings- it works!

At times in the past, I found it a bit awkward to ask for a testimonial. In my mind, the testimonial was a type of favor clients did for me, rather than a natural part of our business relationship. I struggled because of the shift in energy from providing value to taking it. This shifted for me when I started offering real value in exchange for each testimonial I requested.

Often a client requests a little something outside of our original scope of work. In the type of creative work I do, scope creep is always lurking right around the next corner. Rather than dreading these requests, I now wait for them and use them as an opportunity to get a testimonial. I agree to a small adjustment in scope in exchange for feedback I can use in my marketing efforts. You could call this barter, rather than bribery, I suppose.

Sometimes a project wraps up without any requests to expand scope. If I’m interested in a testimonial (or a case study) at this point, I consider extending an invitation to an additional strategy session on a marketing topic or possibly even a bit of copywriting work.

Ask testimonial-type questions during a feedback call.

I use this strategy fairly often, actually… typically as we near the successful completion of a project. I invite the client to a special feedback call to discuss our work together, share feedback, and identify any additional work we might enjoy doing together in the future. You might call this a “project wrap-up call” if that makes it a bit easier to schedule with your clients. This type of call is ideal for gathering testimonial information.

Typically, I have three goals for a call like this. I want to make sure the client is happy with our work together and I want to address any lingering questions or issues still on our minds. I want to identify any opportunities to create another project or support my client with the implementation of the strategy we created. Then, once these two goals have been met, I turn my attention to gathering feedback for a testimonial.

Here are some of the questions I ask…

  • What surprised you during our work together?
  • How can I refine my process and improve it?
  • How did you feel as we worked together?
  • What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?
  • What impact do you think this work will have on your business in the near future?

Notice these questions are all open-ended. They can’t be answered with a word or two, but instead require a bit of dialogue and conversation to answer. After I ask a question like this, I listen closely. I often ask follow up questions or ask “why” to learn a bit more. This type of conversation is rich with the types of insight that make truly powerful testimonials.

Make gathering testimonials a part of your regular marketing routine.

Challenge yourself to ask for a testimonial (in some way) as a part of every sale. If you don’t currently use a form or survey, start there. Then push yourself to take a more active approach as well. You’ll quickly notice the positive effect testimonials have on lead generation and your sales process.

Struggling with lead generation? Finding it difficult to convert leads into new clients? These are indications that your marketing strategy needs a bit of love. Let’s talk.

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