Customer Testimonials: How to get powerful stories that move people

By Russell Lundstrom     |      April 9, 2020    |     Resources

I’ve thought lots about testimonials. At the end of the day, good, honest testimonials and reviews are the ultimate conversion trigger.

More so than just about anything else you can do to illustrate your value, an emotional testimonial trumps everything.

And this is the king daddy of testimonial pages – 3,700+ video testimonials, searchable by rank, industry, and geographical location.

A work of dedication to the art of testimonial creation.

What I’m hoping to emulate.

How do you ask for and collect powerful testimonials?

The bottom line is you can’t just ask for a testimonial.

People don’t know what to say. That is a barren wasteland riddled with landmines.

“Hey you, would you please tell me about how great I am?”

Only Mohamed Ali could get away with that one…

Yeah, not going to work out so well.

What you have to, at the very least, is give people a framework to think through and respond to.

The effective, but not super honest, way to get testimonials

One way to do this is to take unspecific commentary you have received either on your blog, customer service, or email and “edit” it to read like a well written testimonial.

Then, have it approved (or not, depends on your ethics) and cite the phrase.

Needless to say this isn’t ideal, but it does work. I’d guess a good percentage of internet testimonials are created this way (If not just straight up fabricated).

I know people that actually write the testimonial for the customer then just have them approve it.

The problem with this is that your customer can usually see right through this and will backfire on you.

A proven framework to get great testimonials – The Reverse Testimonial

Here is a great framework called the reverse testimonial. What I like about this framework is that you begin with the problem, the frustration, or the challenge the person was experiencing.

This foundation of vulnerability creates the common ground from which your prospects can relate to.

Side note: I hope to write more on vulnerability as it is an incredibly powerful tool in your marketing.

Step one for the Reverse Testimonial

The question I like to ask is having your guest discuss what was the obstacle in your mind/hesitation before buying this product/service?

You want to learn about the problem. If you can, get them to talk about the emotions of it. Was it frightening? Frustrating? How big and bad was the problem?

Was it money, time, or some other factor that was holding them back?

How difficult was it to find a solution?

You want to get a clear picture of what the world was like for them before they found you and your business.

Not only is this great for the testimonial, but it will also prove to be extraordinarily good customer research for your business.

You will learn about what needs are not being met out in your market. You will probably find that you have some product opportunities you hadn’t thought of before.

Step Two: The deciding factor

Phrase your question like this – “What was it that finally got you to pull the trigger and buy this product/service?”

(you can phrase it as formally as you want, of course, I just like the informal conversational tone best).

What you are looking for here is information about what was it that finally overcame the obstacle to investing in your product.

Despite the pains and challenges with the situation before they bought, something held them back. What was it that finally moved them to action?

Step Three: Narrow the reason

Most people will answer question two fairly vaguely, so your next question is geared towards getting more details.

“What specifically do you like most about this product/feature?”

Probe for details here. Try to get specific emotional language. How did they feel about this both before and after.

Step Four: Additional reasons

Now that they have the ball rolling, are there “any other features that they really love about your products?”

Feel free to ask them for a specific number, although it isn’t necessary.

Step Five: The ultimate referral

Ever see a net promoter score? It is the reputed #1 single answer a company can ask a customer.

I know you’ve seen them, everyone is using it.

Essentially you ask “Would you recommend our product / service to a friend?”

This is so powerful because when a person says they will recommend your product or service it comes with all their credibility.

They are putting their integrity on the line for you/your business/your product.

That’s why it is such a powerful response.

Step Six: Leftovers?

The final question you can ask is “Is there anything you would like to add?”

At this point you have probed, dug, and prodded pretty thoroughly. You just want to leave the door open to some negative criticism too.

This is beneficial to you as a business owner to know what might be missing in your product or buyer experience.

As well as I think it makes the testimonial so much more believable. Not much in life is perfect, so we might as well get it out there.

Another awesome testimonial formula is the Reciprocity Testimonial.

This one I gotta give credit to Abbey Woodcock, and amazing copywriter and author of :

“What They Hear When You Write: Find and Perfect Your Unique Writing Voice”

Here is what she does:

“So now what I do is send a Starbucks Gift Card at the end of a project via email (with a Starbucks corporate account you can order a whole bunch of embeddable gift card links. It’s free or $150 if you want to add your logo to it… I don’t haha).

So I send the gift card with a little note like “I LOVED working with you and just wanted to say thanks. I hope your launch goes well and here’s a cup of coffee or tea to help you get through it. If you need anything, I’m just a note away.”

THEN… ask for the testimonial. “If you have a sec, I’d love your perspective on how the project went. Can you take 3 min and let me know?” Then link to the survey.

BOOM! Huge boost in response. In fact, it’s rare that I don’t get one.

And of course, the survey questions are based on the reverse testimonial above.

Her keys to getting testimonials.

  1. Send the email as soon as the project is over
  2. Ask targeted questions rather than make them think
  3. Leverage reciprocity while giving them a nice surprise
  4. Care about your clients and keep their perspective in mind, always

Hope this helps,

Oh, so, let me ask you…

What was it that you are looking to find now that you’ve read this?

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Additional Resources:

Cool Tool – Otter Transcriptions

Clarity & Overwhelm