A strong testimonial can be a great asset for any business's online presence, allowing you to frame your business's appeal and strengths in a client's words. Yet in a world where reviews and comments can turn up anywhere and everywhere -- between Facebook, Twitter and Google Reviews -- it can still seem impossible to find them, even when your clients won't stop singing your praises.
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Shae Lalor at Flying Solo has shared five top tips not just for collecting testimonials, but also making sure you get the most out of them. She starts by pointing out the varied use of testimonials -- they can be included on websites, newsletters, social media and any publications regarding your business. Figuring out how to use them is the easy part, however -- it's collecting testimonials in the first place that can be a challenge.
1. Ask EVERY client
At the end of every project or job, I try to remember to ask for a written testimonial. It needs to become a standard practice. Consider a template email that’s ready to go when you send that final invoice.
This is the key piece of advice to keep in mind. If you don't ask then you'll never receive, and once you turn it into a habit it will be much easier to collect glowing, sincere testimonials from your client. Consider running it off the back of any positive praise you receive -- as soon as that comes your way, fire back with a request for more in-depth feedback. You don't want to settle for a generic "you did a good job" statement, after all, but rather find something that captures your individual appeal.
2. Make it easy for them
Tell them what you want. Tell them where you plan to use the testimonial, such as on your website and/or in quotes and proposals. Show them what others have said about your business, product or service.
No one likes doing extra work, and without enough detail, that's what writing a testimonial may feel like to your clients. It's not part of their job description, so you should go out of your way to make it an easy process for them to go through. Make your requests specific -- instead of just asking for feedback, ask for feedback on a specific example of your service, especially one that may not already be addressed by any of your other client testimonials.
Once you have this process worked out it's also highly repeatable, consider creating an easy template for a response that will let your clients know what you're looking for in a testimonial and where they can expect it to be used.
3. Don’t be tempted to write it for them
As a copywriter, this would be the easiest way to source a glowing testimonial. In fact, I have been asked by clients to write a testimonial about myself so they can just ‘sign off’. To those, I have said, no thanks.
For starters, you can actually be fined for fake testimonials -- in one case, a solar company in Australia was fined $145,000 for promoting false customer testimonials.
Despite the fact that it's illegal, having a testimonial you've written is also worth less to your business -- genuine feedback is always going to be valuable whether you're using it as a testimonial or not, as this can help you to sell your services to future clients. Even if the truthful testimonial isn't as overwhelmingly positive as one you might have written, sometimes it helps to take your shortcomings into account as well.
4. Try a survey
If you’re not sure if the client is really happy with your work – sometimes they just don’t go out of their way to tell you –you can send a survey.
If the client hasn't given you any positive feedback at the end of a job to bounce off, try sending a short survey instead -- with an added section for the client to include a testimonial. Again this is a document you only have to prepare once, which will save you a lot of time in getting feedback from your business relationships.
Of course you may not get something usable -- or anything at all -- every time, but even when you're left short a testimonial, you'll likely have some interesting data to evaluate your own performance, and what can be done better in the future.
5. Don’t quit trying!
There will always be clients who prefer not to give a testimonial. In particular, I find government clients are less likely to put an endorsement in writing given their need to be seen as fair and transparent with all service providers.
Sometimes a client just won't want to give a testimonial, which could happen for a number of reasons. Encourage your client to keep in touch -- whether this involves signing up for your newsletter, following on Facebook, or connecting via LinkedIn. This way, your business stays in the front of their mind, and you're able to maintain a business relationship with them.
When it comes down to it, all you can do is ask -- the worst that can happen is that they'll say no.