How to Get Powerful Testimonials (plus, where and how to use them)
by Cheryl Binnie

Social proof! Social proof!

You’ve probably heard about how important it is to show that other, real-life human beings like your product or service and have gotten great results…

…and maybe you’ve even gotten a few testimonials (hooray!)…

…but there’s one big problem…

Most of the testimonials people (even the people who love you to the stars and back) give you aren’t that great.

I mean, they say wonderful, glowy things about you, and that’s great.

But often, the testimonial is a long, rambling beast of a novel.

Or it doesn’t focus on what you’d hoped it would (you know they got XYZ result – why didn’t they talk about that???).

And then there’s the OTHER big issue…

Many entrepreneurs don’t even ASK for testimonials.

I’m totally guilty of this myself, so I get it. Asking someone to say nice things about you can feel weeeeird.

So today, I’m gonna show you how to create a testimonial-gathering system that…

  • gets the right kinds of words and phrases out of your clients
  • plus removes as much of your emotional resistance as possible
  • plus shows you how to turn those beautifully incoherent rave reviews into something that actually helps potential customers understand what’s so great about you.

Ready? Here we gooooo!

Step 1. Send your testimonial request

First thing is, craft a short, templated email (read: one that you can use over and over again) that asks for the testimonial AND includes the best way for them to do it.

This could be as simple as:

Hi Name!

As your XYZ program comes to an end, I wanted to let you know how much I’ve loved working with you. It’s been such a pleasure to see your [progress with ABC / results like EFG.]

And I’d love it if you would share your experiences! With your permission, I may use some of your comments as a testimonial to help other people who may be trying to decide whether or not to work with me. I think so many people would relate to your story, and you could genuinely help them to see what’s truly possible!

If you’re up for it, I’ve included some prompts/questions below for you to answer / I’m linking a quick survey for you to fill out.

Let me know if you have any questions. And please know that this does not have to be perfectly worded, as I’ll likely tweak and edit your responses to fit the pages I’d like to use them on.

xoxo,

Your Name

Also, if there’s a benefit to them to your sharing their information with your audience, let them know that, too! For example, maybe you market to entrepreneurs, and they’d love to get their own business in front of your audience…

Your testimonial would be shared on various pages, social media platforms, and in my email newsletter – which means it’s a great way for your business to get extra exposure, too!

Then, either include your questions in the email and ask them to simply “hit reply” and send their answers in their email – or, set up your questions in a survey, like Google Forms (which will also automatically turn all of the responses into a Google spreadsheet).

There are 4 areas you want to cover in your questions:

  • Before working with you/using your product
  • During working with you/using your product
  • After working with your/using your product
  • Details (name, headshot, etc)

Below, I’ve included some sample questions and prompts you can give.

(Remember, the easier you make this for them, the more likely they are to fill it out, so don’t feel like you have to include ALL of these. Just pick what makes the most sense for your product or service.)

1. Before working with you/using your product

Struggle:

  • Where were you stuck?
  • What did your business look like before we started working together?
  • What was dating like before we started working together?

Objections:

  • What doubts or concerns did you have about working with me before you signed up?
  • What other methods had you already tried to fix this problem?

2. During working with you/using your product

  • What was the process of working with me like for you?
  • Why did you like working with me/using this product?
  • What was your favorite part of the program/product?

3. After working with you/using your product

  • What is your business like now?
  • What kinds of results have you gotten from working with me?
  • Any numbers, examples, or specific details you can give would be awesome!
  • Is there anything you’d like to add?

4. Details to collect:

  • Name as you’d like it to appear with your testimonial
  • Title (i.e. Founder of Sassy Underpants)
  • Website URL
  • OR, if Title and Website make no sense for your industry: Location (State or Province)
  • Headshot
  • Permission to use this as a testimonial for marketing purposes

If your people can’t or don’t want to share all that information:

Some of you will have clients who don’t have professional headshots. They might be willing to let you use a great photo of them from social media (you can even look at their profiles yourself to find a suggestion).

Some of you will have clients who really don’t have any photos, or aren’t comfortable with you using a photo… or even their name.

So here’s what you want to try to get, in order of preference (just go down the list until you find some combination your person feels comfortable sharing)…

  • Full Name, (Title and Website, if relevant to your work), Headshot
  • Full Name, Headshot
  • First Name, Location (State or Province), Headshot
  • First Name, Location (State or Province)
  • Initials, Location (State or Province)
  • Initials

What you’re trying to get is enough information to make the testimonial look like it came from a real person, and isn’t a fake review you wrote to pretend that you have happy clients. (Please don’t do this.)

Optional: To request testimonials from super-busy clients… write the testimonial yourself, and ask for their approval!

I know, I know – this feels reeeeeally weird.

But I promise, most busy people are fine with this and actually appreciate it.

They love you and your work. They’d love to give you a testimonial that ticks all the boxes of what you’re looking for. They’d love to be thoughtful and eloquent with it…

…but, left up to them, it’ll never happen because it’s always Item #37 on their priority list.

So simply reach out to them, saying you’d love to get a testimonial. If they’d like, you can write a draft based on what you know about their experience and results.

Most of them will say yes, yes, please!

So you’ll draft up what you think they’d say about you, your program or product – then send it over to them for any tweaks or approval.

So not only do you get a testimonial from someone who likely would never have the time

Optional: If you don’t have any (or many) clients yet, get “character testimonials” from friends and family.

This is another one that might feel weird. But when you’re just getting started, it’s totally fine to get the people who already love you to write about how awesome you are.

(Just don’t ask them to pretend they’ve worked with you if they haven’t. Integrity, friends: let’s stay in it.)

Think about the qualities your target market might be looking for if they’re considering hiring you, and ask your loved ones to talk about those things.

  • Are you a good listener?
  • Do you have a knack for making tough-to-talk-about topics feel not-so-scary?
  • Are you super-organized and detail-oriented?
  • Do you bring a delightful sense of humor to all that you do?
  • Have you always been good at the service you now offer?

Optional: Take screenshots of emails and social media posts!

Every time someone posts in your Facebook Group, or replies to one of your posts with something positive about what you’ve done for them – take a screenshot of it!

Every time someone emails you a love note, a thank you note, or anything positive – take a screenshot of it (or at least, copy/paste it into your testimonial doc).

Then, you have two options…

  1. Thank that person, congratulate them, and ASK THEM FOR PERMISSION to use their post as a testimonial. If they say yes, screenshot that sucker! (Pro Tip: Rename the screenshot something like: “LuluSmith-permissiongranted.jpg” so you always know whether or not you’re allowed to use it as-is.)
  2. Or thank that person, congratulate them – and then edit the screenshot to black out their name, photo, and any personal information in their post. (You can easily do this in the Preview application on a Mac – I’m sure there’s an equivalent one for Windows or Linux – or by using the “edit” tools on your phone.)

And here’s the final version…

The first option is a great way to add more “realism” to it, but screenshots already have that benefit. (Someone obviously posted it in Facebook – you didn’t just write it yourself as a fake testimonial.)

But the second option can give you MORE testimonials to use on a single page.

Let’s say you have 1 or 2 powerhouse clients who are ALWAYS posting rave reviews and great results.

But you don’t want to keep using that same person’s testimonials all over your sales page, because it makes it look like you only have one client getting results.

But! If you’ve blacked out their name and photo, no one will know that it’s the same 1 or 2 clients over and over again.

Step 2. Follow up with people.

Errrrrgh. I know – now I’m asking you to keep pestering people to say nice things about you!

Just remember – we’re all busy, and things slip our mind.

And some of your people really, really want to write you the best, most thoughtful, most amazing testimonial EVER – which means they’re putting too much pressure on themselves and are probably psyching themselves out about it.

That doesn’t mean they don’t want to write you a testimonial. It just means they need a reminder…

…and possibly for you to make it easier on them.

So, start by resending the questions. Let them know that it’s 120% okay if the testimonial is messy (you’ll be editing them, anyway!).

Optional ways to make it easier on them:

  • Offer to write a draft for them (see the above tip on getting testimonials from busy people). Bonus: This is a great way to make sure you have testimonials that talk about specific things that you want someone to talk about.
  • Ask if they’d like to jump on a quick, 10-15 minute call to talk through their experience with you. (You will either need to record this call, or be able to take really fast notes, so you can get their words, verbatim. It’ll be messy, but you’ll clean it up in the next step and send it back to them for tweaks and approval.) Bonus: This is a great way to reconnect with past clients (and possibly even remind them that they miss working with you!), and to do some actual market research.

Step 3. Edit Your Testimonials!

We’ve all seen those testimonials that read like a novel.

And while it’s lovely and wonderful that someone has that much to say about you…

…those super-long testimonials aren’t very effective.

Because usually what happens is the person…

  • repeats themselves or uses the same phrases multiple times.
  • has a bunch of fluff and unnecessary words at the beginning of the testimonial (sometimes at the beginning of every single sentence) before they get to the important bits.
  • shares lots of positive comments, but it’s not always what you know a potential buyer is interested in.
  • writes really long, complex sentences that are difficult for the reader to follow.
  • wasn’t even trying to write you a perfectly-crafted testimonial; they’d just sent you a gushing love note via email or social media, and you were like, “omg, thaaaank you! Do you mind if I use this as a testimonial?”

So do not – I repeat: DO NOT just take that entire massive paragraph and slap it on your website without editing it.

Yes, my friend, you are allowed to edit your testimonials.

I can’t think of a single person who has ever been offended by my editing their testimonial – and I’ve edited LOTS of them at this point, both for myself and for my clients. In fact, most people are happy to have me do it because they know it probably needs some work.

Here’s the thing to keep in mind:

You’re not changing the meaning of what they’ve said. You’re just helping them say it better: more succinctly, more clearly, and more interestingly.

If you still feel a little squirmy about editing someone else’s words (especially when those words are about you), there are a couple things you can do to make it less squirmy…

  • Tell them upfront that you will probably edit their testimonials to fit the space you need it for, so they’re expecting that. (In my experience, most people are grateful + relieved to know that they don’t have to get it perfect, that you’ll be helping it along!)
  • And/or, after you’ve edited the testimonial, you can send it back to them and ask if they’re okay with the changes you’ve made.

But honestly – by the time that person sees their testimonial on your website, they’ve usually forgotten exactly what they wrote, anyway.

So now that I’ve given you permission to edit those puppies, HOW do you do it?

When you first look at a massive testimonial (or even a short one), it’s normal to feel like you have no idea where to start. Everything they’ve said is lovely!

So these are the first things I look for:

  • Are there any thoughts or phrases that repeat? If so, where did they say it best? Keep that version (or splice together the two different versions to make it stronger)!
  • Are there a bunch of filler words and phrases? Like unnecessary padding and fluff that hide the actual important bits? Cut it out – even if it’s well-written and pretty. You don’t want to give your reader any reason to start skimming.
  • Are there bits that your potential buyer won’t relate to at all? Cut those out.
  • Are there complex or confusing sentences? Tweak those to make sense, break them up, or just shorten them.

Optional Step 4: Make a Long Version, a Short Version, and a Soundbite Version.

Sometimes, you’ll want to have a slightly longer testimonial. Sometimes, you’ll want a super short soundbite.

If you have a testimonial where you can pull out multiple versions, go for it!

LONG VERSION:

“I had my first 5-figure month!”

Before working with Cheryl, writing my own copy was extremely frustrating. My launches would flop, and I took it personally.

I knew who I wanted to work with but I didn’t know how to reach them. I wasn’t sure how to get someone to open their email, be engaged with what I was saying and take action and actually show up for my webinars.

I would sit in front of my computer screen for hours, stewing with anger and anxiety.

After my training sessions with Cheryl, I’m able to connect with my tribe, get in their head, move them to action and ultimately change their lives.

The best part is after my first launch working with Cheryl I had my first 5 figure month and since then have used the same skills and copy strategy to transform my business into 6 figures and beyond.

The best part is I enjoy writing now and connecting to my tribe and I feel confident in who and how to connect and find my people.

– Heather Chauvin, Parenting & Women’s Leadership Coach

********

SHORT VERSION:

Before working with Cheryl, writing my own copy was extremely frustrating. My launches would flop, and I took it personally. After my first launch working with Cheryl I had my first 5 figure month and since then have used the same skills and copy strategy to transform my business into 6 figures and beyond.

The best part is I enjoy writing now and connecting to my tribe and I feel confident in who and how to connect and find my people.

– Heather Chauvin, Parenting & Women’s Leadership Coach

********

SOUNDBITE VERSIONS:

After my first launch working with Cheryl I had my first 5 figure month!

**

I’ve used Cheryl’s copy strategy to transform my business into 6 figures and beyond.

**

I enjoy writing now and connecting to my tribe.


“Soundbite” testimonial for Jeanie Engelbach, Owner of professional organizing firm, ApartmentJeanie.com

Optional Step 5: Send it back to the person for their approval.

Honestly, you don’t have to do this. But if you’re worried that you may have changed the meaning of what they said, or that they’ll be offended if they suddenly see “their testimonial” on your website, and it’s 75% shorter than what they remember writing, go ahead and do this step.

In most cases, they won’t even remember what they wrote.

Or, if they did, they’ll be happy that you made them sound better.

Just be gracious – don’t make them feel like they’d sent you a pile of mush. Thank them, let them know how much their words touched you.

Then let them know that you’ve pulled together a shortened version, and you want to get their seal of approval before you put it out to the world with their name on it.

They may make some final tweaks. They may just give you a virtual thumbs up.

Step 6. Organize your testimonials for quick + easy use.

Now that you know which words and phrases are staying, craft a final version that you can easily copy/paste every time you need to grab a testimonial.

Don’t overlook this step, or else your beautifully edited testimonials will gather digital dust because you’ll never be able to find them again.

Or, each time you need a testimonial, you’ll have to scroll through pages and pages of messy first drafts until you find the edited version.

I like to keep a running Google Doc with all of my edited testimonials, so I don’t even have to look at the originals.

Title that document something like:

“Edited Testimonials – Program/Course/Product Name”

Give each testimonial a little title:

  • Pull out the best phrase from that testimonial (meaning, the phrase that would grab the attention of a potential buyer who is skimming through your page).
  • Put at the top of the testimonial and bold it, or make it a slightly bigger font.
  • This not only helps to re-grab the attention of any skimmers, but it also highlights the most important bits of information.

(Testimonial for a class I taught on writing sales pages)

(Testimonial for one of my clients, Monica Shah of RevenueBreakthrough.com)

Bold important lines or words:

  • No matter what we do, readers are gonna skim. So bold any lines or words that you want to jump out at them. (Again, these are lines that are important to your reader.)

(Testimonial for one of my clients, Monica Shah of RevenueBreakthrough.com)

Add the person’s details:

Add the link to where you can grab their headshot:

  • Since I work in Google Drive, I like to keep a headshot folder (you could also do this with Dropbox or wherever you store your business stuff on the cloud). I then grab the link to each headshot and put it with that person’s final testimonial.

Make sure to include any different versions you created for each testimonial: Long, Short, Soundbite.

All of this may seem like overkill, but I promise – it makes it waaaay easier for you to grab everything you need when you’re, for example, adding testimonials to an email or sales page.

(Tip: If you have a Virtual Assistant, you can have them do this organization step for you. Delegation for the win!)

Step 7. Use your testimonials!

Here are just a few ideas for where and how to use them…

  • On your website! Scatter Short Versions and Soundbites through ALL of your website’s pages. You might also want to have a “Rave Reviews” page that holds all of them. Just don’t ONLY have a separate page, as some people won’t ever look at it. You want to use those testimonials where they’ll be the most effective.

Jeanie Engelbach of ApartmentJeanie.com uses testimonials throughout her web pages…

…but she also has an entire page where ALL of her testimonials live:

  • Have a page that talks about a particular service or product? Make sure to put relevant testimonials on that page!
  • Have a Speaking Page? Make sure to put testimonials about your workshops or teaching ability on that page! (Also add those testimonials to your Speaker One-Sheet or Media Kit if you have them.)
  • Do you make a specific claim somewhere on your site? Put a testimonial that supports that claim, so it’s not just you saying it!
  • Feel weird saying nice things about yourself in your About Page, or the “Who am I?” section on a sales page? Add a testimonial that supports those nice things!
  • Put your strongest testimonials around your Calls to Action (e.g. your “buy now” buttons on your sales pages and your “schedule your call with me now!” links, etc.). Anything that talks about really awesome results or overcomes typical objections that might stop someone from taking action.
  • Include a “Rave Reviews” or “Client Success Stories” section in your email newsletters and highlight a new testimonial each time! (It’s okay if you eventually run out of new ones and have to cycle back through old ones. Just try to keep track of the last time you’ve used each one, and don’t forget to add new ones to the rotation as you collect them.)
  • Turn them into social media posts!

Check out Monica’s client testimonials in action on Instagram: @MonicaShah

And here’s one of MY testimonials that my speaking coach used 🙃:

Check out Sara’s client testimonials in action on Instagram: @speakmasterfully and on her website: SpeakMasterfully.com

Step 8. Make testimonial gathering a SYSTEM, so you don’t have to think about it.

As you may have noticed, there can be some emotional weight that goes along with asking people to do nice things for you.

So you may get in the habit of…

  • Getting testimonials, but never editing them or using them because it feels “vain.”
  • Asking for a testimonial, but never following up because you don’t want to bother people.
  • Never asking for testimonials in the first place.

My best advice is to turn this into a system.

So you don’t have to make decisions or think things like…

  • “When should I ask So-and-So for a testimonial?”
  • “Is it okay to follow up with her yet?”
  • “Oh geez, does she hate me now? I think she hates me now! I’m the most annoying person in the whole entire history of annoying people!”
  • (4 months later…) “Should I try again to get a testimonial from So-and-So? Is it too late now? It’s probably too late now.”

Just go ahead and decide:

  • “I send my templated testimonial request to a client when they reach XX weeks into (or after) a program/purchase with me.”
  • “If I don’t hear back from them, I follow up on Day X after my initial request, with a resend of the original email.”
  • “If I still don’t hear back, I follow up again on Day X, and offer to [write a draft myself/get on the phone with them to talk it out.]”
Pro Tip: This can be something you automate with your email software, or something your assistant schedules and handles for you – or something that gets added to your calendar as soon as a client signs up with you.

The goal is to remove, as much as possible, any emotional weight or decisions that you’d otherwise have to make every.single.time.

Just get to the point where you can say, “This is my system. This is how it works, so I don’t need to worry about whether or not it’s ‘okay’ to email So-and-So again.”

And there you have it!

The 8 steps to creating a powerful testimonial-gathering system (with lots of extra optional steps thrown in for good measure!)

Now, if you want to take those testimonials and make them do even MORE for you…

…check out my free mini-course, Copy that Resonates! It’s all about finding the exact words that will resonate with potential buyers – and guess what? Testimonials are a GREAT place to find those words!

Click here to get Copy that Resonates
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