Reviews and testimonials cause stress for many people.
You never know what someone might say when they post a review. Even if they had a great experience.
And the nice folks who do post reviews or send you testimonials, they’re not copywriters. Even with all the goodness in their hearts, the testimonials fall flat.
“Jenny is great! We always laughed at her jokes!”
Do you think this testimonial is helping Jenny land new real estate clients? Nope.
I believe every word on your website has a purpose. Including testimonials.
Testimonials exist to build your authority. To help your potential customers trust you. They see that you helped someone like them solve their problem. And now they’re happy!
Most testimonials don’t accomplish any of those things!
What if you could get great testimonials, every time?
You can. It just takes a little intentionality.
Here are three steps you can take to get great testimonials (with a couple examples at the end of this post).
1. Send your customers a survey
The biggest paradigm shift I want you to take away from this article is that you’re not going to wait for your customers to write whatever they feel anymore.
You’re going to write their testimonials for them.
Gasp! But that’s dishonest! We don’t know what they’d say!
The truth is, most people don’t know what to say. They write a testimonial to help you out, but they don’t really know how. They don’t feel confident.
When you create a well-written testimonial that your customer agrees with and is proud to put their name on, you help them avoid feeling awkward.
To accomplish this, you start by sending them a survey. This survey will give you the details and insight you need to write a testimonial your customer is proud of.
The goal is to capture the most meaningful parts of their experience. Not only what’s meaningful to the person you’re sending the survey to. But also what’s meaningful to your potential customers.
How do you know what’s meaningful to your potential customers? Read on, friend.
2. Ask your customers these 7 questions
Helping your potential customers trust you is the goal of each of your testimonials. But what do they need to know to trust you? To understand this, let’s look at the journey each person goes through as they do business with you.
Every person on your website is there because they have a problem. You’re in business because you help them solve their problem, which means they can go on and live happy lives.
This is the foundation of the Hero’s Journey. It’s the story formula that many movies follow. And it’s the story you help your customers live.
Your potential customers intuitively know that they want to move forward in their journey. To do so, they need someone to help them solve their problem so they can win the day.
The questions in your survey must uncover the specific experiences your customers had as you helped them solve their problem in their Hero’s Journey.
Here are the seven questions you can ask to discover your customer’s experiences. If you’re familiar with the StoryBrand Framework, you’ll notice they line up with each of the seven aspects of a clear story.
1. What was your absolute biggest challenge prior to purchasing/joining/attending?
2. How did that challenge make you feel?
3. What changed after purchasing/joining/attending?
4. What specific results can you share?
5. What would you say to somebody on the fence about purchasing/joining/attending?
6. Anything else to add?
7. Do you grant permission for us to feature your company and this testimonial in our marketing materials?
Once you ask these seven questions, you’ll know the most important aspects of your customer’s experience. And you’re ready to write a testimonial that helps your future customers trust you.
3. Write their testimonials (and send to them for feedback and approval)
At this point, the problem you’re facing is the same as when your customers write their own testimonials. It’s so easy to write a bad one! Writing happy thoughts that mean nothing to your future customers is not your goal.
To understand how to write a great testimonial, let’s step into the world of music.
Have you ever played an instrument? One of the first things most people learn is that it’s not as easy as it looks. Just because it’s built to sound beautiful does not mean that it sounds beautiful in the hands of an amateur.
Hand your three-year-old nephew a guitar and you might find yourself grabbing your handy-dandy earplugs.
Why? What makes some sounds that guitar makes “music” and other sounds it makes “noise”?
There’s a secret here that every musician is keenly aware of: music is simply sounds subjected to rules.
There are keys you must play in, certain notes that pair well with other notes, a rhythm that must be maintained, and many more.
That guitar only makes music when the musician follows the rules.
And the same is true of words. This is why so many testimonials are just plain bad. Everyone has access to words, but not everyone knows the rules to follow to make them beautiful.
Here’s a simple 3-step formula you can use to write incredible testimonials
Look at the survey you sent your customer. We’ll walk through it to craft your beautiful, authority-building testimonial.
1. Start with the problem.
Use the first two questions from the survey to identify your customer’s external problem and their internal problem (the way it made them feel).
Click here to read more about external and internal problems (and the whole StoryBrand Framework).
You don’t have to include both the external and internal problems, but you do need to make sure the problem is clear—i.e., can a bystander, someone who hasn’t bought your product, understand what problem this person was experiencing?
Don’t move forward until that’s a solid YES.
2. Move to the solution.
The solution is your product or service, so you already have a pretty good idea of how it works. But look at question three to gain some insight into your customer’s experience of your solution.
Remember, you’re going to send this to them for feedback and approval, so lean on their experience. We want them to feel like this testimonial represents their experience.
3. Finish with success.
This last part is all about painting a picture of what their life looks like now. What success did your product or service help them achieve?
For my customers, the main success I look for is their business grew. This is primarily seen in its revenue stream. So the best success I can include in a testimonial is that revenue went up.
What is it for your customers? Look at question four. It’s okay to double-back and ask some follow up questions if their answer isn’t clear enough.
Look at these examples of great testimonials:
“When I initially hired Miriam, our company was struggling with interpersonal conflicts and poor communication across teams. With Miriam’s help, we instituted changes that improved our communication and enabled us to collaboratively develop a global-leading simulation product. Recently, we were acquired by ANSYS and are on the path toward even greater success.”
“Before working with Patty, I’d felt so stagnant and had no vision for the future I wanted. Patty had me take a personal inventory and helped me create clear steps toward my goals. Within a few weeks, I not only discovered that I want to start a business, but I also created my LLC and started drafting a business plan. I have the clarity I always wanted!”
And that is it! Now you have the tools to create great testimonials that build trust with your customers and clearly demonstrate how your company helps your customers solve their problems.
Good luck as you go about getting great testimonials for your website!
To your success,
P.S. If you want your testimonial to be short, you can skip the first two parts, problem and solution, and only include success. This is the most important aspect of the testimonial.