The Story Economy Blog

3 Rules for Stand-out Client Testimonials

testimonialI’m a sucker for a pretty picture of a dress. Scrolling through “New Arrivals” at Modcloth and adding pieces to my “Love List” is one of my favorite things to do when I’m tired of thinking.

But while I might be a mindless window shopper, I’m a mindful buyer.

In fact, I think we’re living in an era of mindful buying.

First of all, because we care more. And secondly, because there’s a sharing infrastructure in place that wasn’t there a decade ago. Via reviews, feedback, and testimonials, we have unprecedented access to the experiences of other consumers and customers, and unprecedented ways to share our own.

Hearing others’ stories simply has a way of sparking our imagination.

So, for example, at Modcloth, I like hearing from someone just like me that the fabric is way flimsier than it looks, that the V-neck hits at exactly the right spot, or that this was the perfect dress for a date night with her husband.

In the era of mindful buying, we are talking to each other more than ever before. Real people talking to real people.

This is exactly why client testimonials are such powerful marketing tools.

So it pains me that lots of people still aren’t using them effectively.

I’ve spent a lot of time in the past few years helping clients gather testimonials (plus I’ve gathered my own). I’ve combed through this experience, and I have three key tips to share.


#1 Specific is always better than general.

“It was an awesome experience!” “The service was outstanding!” “The product was high quality.”

These kinds of statements are well intentioned, but useless. They don’t say anything. What comes to your imagination when you hear the service was outstanding? Probably nothing.

One of my clients is a local homebuilder, and each quarter, I help them gather testimonials from satisfied buyers. One of the best recent ones was from some homebuyers who ran into the owner of the company at a Cincinnati Bengals football game. The husband talked about how he was standing there with his wife, in this crowd of 60,000 people at the stadium, and the owner spotted them from across the way, fought his way through the crowd and came over to give them some updates on the construction. What amazed the husband so much was that they’d only met the owner once. But not only did he spot them in this huge crowd, he also remembered exactly who they were, and knew the up-to-the-minute details on their home—basically off the top of his head. This was the moment the homeowners knew they had made the exact right decision.

Will you remember that Joe from Cincinnati said the service was outstanding? No. But you’ll remember a story about a crowded Bengals game (can’t you just hear the noise in the stadium?).

The best testimonials are specific stories about real people having real experiences related to the product or service in their everyday lives. Specific problems that found specific solutions. Not collections of adjectives and exclamation marks.


#2 Ask for what you really want.

There is an element of reverse engineering that happens with testimonials. If you know what you want, you need to ask for it.

Several years ago, I was thinking about asking for one of my first testimonials. I had written some speeches for this client, and I wanted to find more of that kind of work. Someone looking to hire me for that kind of work would want to know that I understood voice and cadence—which I did. I really wanted this client to say that I was good at hearing voice and helping people tell stories in their own voice. My stomach hurt thinking about asking him to be so specific.

“So, uh, I think I’m really good at, uh, finding, uh . . . voice?” I said

Perhaps not in this particular moment, I was thinking.

Of course, he wrote something amazing.

The first few times, it’s hard to be direct and ask someone to address a talent or point of differentiation you have, or a specific situation that showcases that. But it gets easier. This is also a great reason to hire someone to help you with your client testimonials. Having a third party do it takes the pressure and awkwardness away. Plus, people like me know how to pull the story out: I’m never afraid to push for specifics for other people.


#3¬† Don’t be afraid to edit.

A client testimonial isn’t a letter of recommendation from the Dean that comes sealed. It’s not sacred and untouchable. It isn’t hard news, either. No one is “on the record” or “off the record.” It’s fair game for editing, tweaking, and rearranging. Yes, testimonials should be honest. But that doesn’t mean you need to include every word that someone emails. Or that you can’t pull together the idea someone is getting across in a more succinct way. And then, of course, present it to them and ask them to approve it. If someone has taken the time to give you a professional testimonial, they want it to be the most helpful it can possibly be. There is a definite art to editing testimonials, and making the most important parts shine through. Don’t think you’re not allowed to touch it!

I hope this inspires you to pull together some fantastic client testimonials!

I’m taking a few weeks off from the newsletter to retool some things, go to a writers’ conference (this one, in Chicago), and focus on some projects. But I’ll be back . . .

Leave A Comment

Related Posts