The Ultimate Guide to Getting Powerful Client Testimonials (With 6 Simple Questions)

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Powerful Client Testimonials (With 6 Simple Questions)
client testimonials: 2017

If you’ve worked with a client and want to know about their experience working with you, asking for their feedback is important. While it may not seem like much, this simple task lets you uncover:

  • What your client's hesitations were before working with you
  • How the client benefited from your service
  • If your client would recommend your services to others
  • And many, many more things

With just a few simple steps, you can turn pieces of customer feedback into powerful testimonials that support the benefits of your services, and directly address objections that future customers may raise.

No matter how you collect client feedback, making sure the questions you ask focus on the business outcomes you’ve helped the client achieve, or the objections the client had before working with you, will help you build a powerful testimonial.

That’s because you want your testimonials to speak directly to prospective clients, and tell them how you’ll help improve their businesses.

The number one lesson you should take away from this article? The questions you ask to get a testimonial — and the habit of regularly asking for a testimonial — are incredibly important.

You need both a regular, repeatable process to go through, where you follow-up with a client and solicit their feedback on the benefits of your work together.

After reading this article, you’ll understand:

  • Why and how testimonials will help your business (and why it’s more important to talk about your client and their business than yourself).
  • Why you should ask for testimonials, instead of waiting for them to come to you.
  • The different shapes and forms that testimonials can take (and when each makes sense).
  • When it’s the best time to ask for a testimonial (hint: it isn’t necessarily once the project is complete!).
  • What makes a strong testimonial, what makes a weak testimonial, and how to upgrade your testimonials from weak to strong.
  • The specific questions you can ask a client to generate a strong testimonial.
  • What you should do if a client goes non-responsive after agreeing to give you a testimonial.
  • How you can get the best possible results-focused testimonials.
  • How you can leverage testimonials in your work.

I’ve put all the resources included in this article (in addition to word-for-word email templates that you can use with your clients) into a free download available at GetClientTestimonials.com. Take the resources available here and start getting better testimonials from your client today!

Why and how do testimonials help your business?

Let’s take a look at testimonials from a client’s perspective. When do clients see your testimonials? What purpose do they serve?

Typically, prospective clients will encounter your testimonials when they’re shopping for services, considering different consultants, and evaluating if you’re the right consultant for them.

At that point in the purchasing process, the thing on their mind? Risk!

  • How do they know if you’re going to be a good person to work with?
  • How do they know if your experience is relevant to their problem?
  • How can they know if you’ll be able to overcome any objections they have?

When we think about testimonials from the perspective of a client, we can see that your role is to reduce this perceived risk and address any potential objections.

To ensure your testimonials achieve this, you want to make sure they touch on a few key points:

  • They need to be focused on communicating the business outcomes that your clients have experienced after working with you.
  • They need to anticipate and address objections that clients might have about working with you.
  • They need to reflect the actual language clients use to describe working with you.

Altogether, these elements reduce the risk that clients may feel about working with you, which can increase the likelihood that they actually will.

Now, testimonials like this — that communicate how you helped your clients or overcame objections that clients had in the past — don’t just come out by themselves.

You need to be intentional and specific about asking for these types of testimonials.

And more importantly, you have to be intentional about even asking for testimonials in the first place.

Why you should ask for testimonials

Unless prompted, clients will rarely volunteer a testimonial regarding your work together.

By implementing a simple, repeatable outreach process, you’ll be able to proactively:

  • Prompt clients for a testimonial at the right time.
  • Structure the information the client gives you for the testimonial.
  • Direct the testimonial process in a way that benefits you and your business.

You can use a script like this when building your outreach process:

“At the end of a project, we email a client to ask if they’re happy with their experience. If they are, we send them a short list of questions to answer for the testimonial.”

But when you approach a client for a testimonial the question remains: What and how should you ask?

What questions should you ask to get a testimonial from a client?

When you’re trying to get a testimonial from a client, you’re going to want to give them a structure to work with.

According to Sean D’Souza, author and business marketing consultant, the best testimonials should accomplish the following things for you:

  • They address the risk or obstacle a buyer might experience when considering purchasing your service.
  • They illustrate the outcome the buyer experiences from purchasing your service.
  • They highlight specific features of your service.
  • They highlight specific benefits of your service.
  • They give a recommendation for your service .

To solicit testimonials that contain these qualities, you want to ask your client or customer specific questions including:

  • What was the obstacle that would have prevented us from working together?
  • What did you find as a result of working together?
  • What specific feature did you like most about our work together?
  • What would be three other benefits about our work together?
  • Would you recommend this service? If so, why?
  • Is there anything you’d like to add?

(Questions sourced from Sean D’Souza’s excellent Copyblogger article).

Each of these questions matches up with the qualities we want in our testimonials.

Regardless of your format of choice, focusing in on these six questions will allow you to construct a killer testimonial.

How to ask for a testimonial

When you’re asking a client for a testimonial, there are a number of ways you can do it: email, phone call, Skype call, or in-person meeting.

I’m fond of a two-pronged approach.

First, in conversation, I’ll mention to the client that I’d like a testimonial from them for our work together.

I’ll mention any specific parts of our work that I’d like the client to highlight.

Then, I’ll let the client know I’ll be sending them an email with a few questions that will help direct their testimonial.

Here’s the flow I recommend to collect a great testimonial from a client:

1. Send an email that contains both the testimonial gathering questions from above, as well as a link to a feedback form on your website. This gives your client the choice between responding to the email with their answers (often easier for someone who wants to write up a quick reply), or filling out a feedback form on your website (a more official feeling process that some clients enjoy).

Link to a feedback form on your website. I like to use Wufoo, Gravity Forms, or Type Form. Then, on your testimonial gathering form, ask the questions listed above.

2. I then wait for the client to fill out the testimonial form or respond to the email. If they delay for a week, I’ll follow up with them over email and remind them about the testimonial form. (We’ll cover what to do if a client doesn’t respond to your requests for a testimonial below).

When are the best times to ask for client testimonials?

Without a doubt, it’s important to ask clients for testimonials, but it’s equally important to consider when it’s best to do so.

Here are a few times you can use your projects to solicit a testimonial from a client:

  • When you reach a project milestone; you’re working on a three-month project, and you reach the two-month milestone, with good progress to report.
  • When you have a major win; there’s an astounding mid-project success for the client that you want to highlight.
  • When you complete the project; you’ve finished the scope of work and delivered the project.
  • Some time after a project is complete; you’ve finish a project with a client, and want to follow-up with a testimonial on the project results.
  • At the start of a project; no matter when you decide to ask for a testimonial or what form you ask for it in, you’ll want to raise the topic of the testimonial with the client early on in your relationship, potentially even at during your initial conversation with the client.

Oh, and one additional time that you may want to ask for a testimonial is if your client wants a reduction in price or change in scope. You can use your request for a testimonial in exchange for a concession. This is a great opportunity to ask for a higher value testimonial, like a video testimonial or a larger case study about the results you were able to help them generate (we cover the different types of testimonials that you can ask for further on in the article).

Let your clients know that as part of working together, you’ll be asking for a testimonial. Why? Because testimonials are the ‘coin of the realm’ when consulting in your industry, and they’re also one of the highest compliments a client can pay you.

When having this conversation, let them know when you’ll be asking for the testimonial (if you have a specific time in mind, like at the end of the project). Tell them:

  • How they’ll give the testimonial; by answering a few questions about how the project is going and the benefits they’re experiencing.
  • How you'll use the testimonial; displayed on your website, used in your marketing assets, etc.

Additionally, let the client know that you’ll be taking their initial testimonial, refining it, and presenting it to them for their approval before using it.

This primes the client to expect that the testimonial process is a collaborative one. You have certain aspects of your business that you’d prefer to highlight, so you’ll be working with the client to highlight them.

This iterative collaboration will ensure you receive a strong testimonial from the client that drives results for your business.

What’s a strong testimonial? What’s a weak testimonial?

A strong testimonial has a set of particular qualities about it:

  • It focuses on the outcomes that you’ve helped your client achieve.
  • It relates to the expensive problem that you solve for your clients.
  • It highlights how your services are a fit for the industry that you service.
  • It focuses on the benefits the client experienced working with you and, if possible, includes a quantitative measure of your work together.

Alternatively, weak testimonials:

  • Focus on you and your business, not the client (“Kai was thorough and great to work with!”).
  • Talk about your work in platitudes (“We loved working with Kai! The project was great!”).
  • Don’t relate to your industry or mention the expensive problem that you solve.

Here’s an example of a weak testimonial. This testimonial is a real testimonial from one of my first long-term clients, a client that I worked with for 18 months.

Kai's advice on optimizing our website was an epic win for us — it permanently moved the needle on our growth.

That is a very weak testimonial.

It talks about me, but doesn’t mention the outcomes I helped the client achieve, highlight how my services help similar businesses, or focus on the benefits the client experienced working with me.

If I could approach this testimonial again, I’d want to generate something similar to this:

Our search traffic has grown 237 per cent, and we’ve been able to launch numerous digital marketing initiatives since we started working with Kai.

As a startup, it’s hard to find a consultant with a broad skill-set who can augment a small, nimble marketing department. With Kai, you get the best of both worlds; he speaks tech and marketing, and he can help you translate your largest marketing ideas into achievable, quickly implementable projects, and tangible outcomes.

When we needed eight microsites developed for a large launch in the span of three weeks, Kai worked directly with the Chief Marketing Office to develop the concept, outline the implementation, execute the project, and then track and monitor the results. With Kai’s help, the project was a success.

And best of all? If something would be cost-prohibitive or take a lot of time to implement, he clearly and concisely explained why we should try a different approach and what other methods we could explore to get a similar marketing result.

I sincerely recommend Kai for any other startups who have a marketing team that needs someone who can help them translate their projects from marketing to tech, and then execute on the project.

What’s better about this testimonial?

  • It focuses on the outcomes that I’ve helped my client achieve.
  • It relates to the expensive problem that I solved for the client.
  • It highlights how my services are a fit for the industry that I serviced at the time.
  • It focuses on the benefits the client experienced working with me, and included a quantitative measure of our work together.

This type of testimonial is what you can generate when you use this methodology. It’s the kind of endorsement that communicates the value a potential client could receive by working with you, while addressing any potential objections.

So how do you avoid weak testimonials and ensure you receive a strong one?

  • You want to give the client notice that you’ll be asking for a testimonial.
  • You want to tell the client how you’ll be using the testimonial (on your website, in a marketing asset, etc.).
  • You want to share an example of another testimonial from another client.
  • You want to give the client direction on the questions that you’ll be asking.
  • You want to ask the client open-ended questions.
  • You want to give the client an opportunity to leave feedback, both positive and negative, and then work to overcome the negative feedback or objections, and produce a better testimonial.

But what forms can a testimonial take? In my above example, I had a mini-text testimonial from the client (a single sentence). However, my ideal testimonial from the client was a long text testimonial (two-four paragraphs long).

Let’s examine your options in depth.

What forms can a testimonial take?

We typically think of testimonials as a single line of text or a short paragraph, but there are a number of different forms that a client testimonial can take. And some are much more valuable to your business than others.

1. A mini text testimonial

A mini text testimonial is typically one sentence long, and the short testimonial you’re used to seeing around the web:

“We love Bob’s iOS Burger App!” — Someone

They aren’t very powerful, but they’re easy to gather and better than nothing.

2. A short text testimonial

A short text testimonial is a short piece of text (two to four sentences long) that highlights some feature of the service. The folks at Podcast Motor use this testimonial on their homepage:

client testimonials: podcastmotor, short testimonial

3. A long text testimonial

A longer text testimonial is typically two to four paragraphs long. It will be on the smaller side of the testimonial, generated with the gathering questions I recommend above.

You can see an example of a long text testimonial on the sales page for my Audience Powerup. It’s service where I act on behalf of my client, building relationships with influencers in their target market, and helping them reach their target audience to promote their product and increase sales.

client testimonials: brennan dunn, long testimonial

4. A mini case study

A mini case study testimonial is four to six paragraphs long. It will be on the longer side of the testimonials generated with the gathering questions I recommend above.

You can see an example of a mini case study testimonial on the informational page of my Business Coaching for Freelancers service, where I work with freelancers and consultants to improve their freelancing business fundamentals.

5. An audio testimonial

An audio testimonial is a short, spoken word testimonial from a client or customer. An audio testimonial can be anywhere from a few seconds long to multiple minutes long.

6. A video testimonial

A video testimonial is a short, recorded video testimonial from a client or customer. A video testimonial can be anywhere from a few seconds long to multiple minutes long.

The folks at LessFilms create great testimonial videos for their clients. Their testimonial video for Double Your Freelancing, the Double Your Freelancing Conference, and MicroConf are all wonderful examples of testimonial videos that help convince a potential customer to buy a conference ticket.

7. A third party endorsement

Finally, one of the most powerful testimonial forms is a third party endorsement or a client endorsement. A third party endorsement can range from a short text testimonial, to a longer ase study testimonial, or a video testimonial posted on their website.

A third party or client endorsing your service on their site is a very powerful and persuasive technique.

When a prospect contacts you, you can point to the third party endorsement as a sign of the quality of your work.

“Look,” you can say. “This other party feels so strongly about the quality of my work that they’ve chosen to write about it. You can trust they’re truly presenting their opinions on the quality of my work!”

These types of testimonials are a much bigger ask, but are incredibly valuable and can often be achieved with long-term relationships.

You can ask a client for any type of testimonial, including any of the above, or any others that might come to mind. What’s important is that you go through the proactive process of asking for them, and then following up with the client to get the testimonial.

But what if during your communication, the client goes silent? Initially, they expressed interest or enthusiasm in writing a testimonial for you, but now you can't reach them.

What to do if a client goes non-responsive

Often it can be difficult for a client to come up with something. They have the best of intentions in returning a testimonial to you, but even when you provide them with specific questions to answer, you’re left in the dark.

In these types of situations, I recommend that you follow-up with two emails.

In the first email, share an example testimonial from another client and give two to three points about your work together that you’d love them to focus on. Emphasize to them that their draft doesn’t need to be perfect and that you’ll review it, edit it for clarity, and return it to them for their approval.

If that doesn’t help accelerate the process, then I recommend following up with the client again and sharing your draft of a testimonial with them. Answer the above testimonial gathering questions based on your knowledge of the client, and share the draft with them.

Tell the client that you drafted this only to give them an idea of the type of testimonial you’re looking for. However, if they find the testimonial you wrote to be fitting for your work together, all they need to do is quickly respond with a “Looks good!” and you’ll move forward with this testimonial.

What if I’m looking for a more impressive type of testimonial, like a video testimonial?

In the case where you’re asking for a higher commitment testimonial, like a video testimonial, the above strategy won’t work.

In these cases I recommend re-stating your ask for a testimonial, but asking for a lower commitment option from the client, like a text testimonial.

By switching our ask from a higher commitment or higher effort testimonial, to one that requires less time invested by the client, we make it easier for them to fulfill the request. And we can always return to the client later, and make an ask for a higher commitment testimonial.

Unless otherwise directed…

The 'unless otherwise directed' tactic is, in my mind, the nuclear option for testimonials.

You don’t want to use this tactic frequently, but in a situation where a testimonial from a client is essential for your business, this tactic can work wonders.

The tactic assumes that in your contract or statement of work you’ve included language that allows you to share the outcomes of your project, or share a testimonial from the client.

If you’ve asked the client for a testimonial, and after following up multiple times haven’t progressed towards receiving one, you can use this tactic to move the process forward and get a testimonial. However, it does carry the risk of being seen as forward.

With this tactic, you’d draft a testimonial in the voice of the client covering your work together. Then, you’d send the client a simple email saying something like:

Name,

It’s been fantastic to work on this project together. I’m excited to share the positive outcomes we’ve experienced together in the form of a testimonial, as per our contract and working agreement.

You’re a busy person, and I respect that. To make this process as quick as possible for you, I’ve taken the liberty of drafting up a testimonial covering our work together, written in your voice, and included below.

Unless otherwise directed, I’ll move forward and use this testimonial in my marketing, starting on [Date].

If there are any changes you’d like me to make to the testimonial, please feel free to write back and let me know. I’m more than happy to have this be a collaborative process.

Here is the testimonial for your review. Unless otherwise directed, I’ll start using this testimonial in my marketing, on [Date].

[Testimonial]

Thanks,

[Your Name]

The 'Unless otherwise directed' tactic is aggressive, and I recommend it with caution. This tactic can have the unintentional effect of polarizing a client against you, or being seen as too pushy.

However, if the value of a testimonial from this client is high enough, and you have authorization through your contract or working agreement, this is a tactic you can use to move the conversation forward.

How do you get the best possible — results focused — testimonial?

Testimonials are, ideally, part of a conversation between you and the client.

  • You ask the client for a testimonial.
  • You share specific questions the client can answer in order to generate a high-value testimonial.
  • The client answers the questions, sharing a draft of the testimonial with you.
  • You review the client’s testimonial draft and note any opportunities to make the testimonial more specific, highlight quantitative results, or defeat a potential objection.
  • You share your feedback with the client, noting why you’re requesting a change and sharing a revised draft of the testimonial with them.
  • Together, the two of you iterate on the testimonial, finding a happy middle-ground that reflects the client’s experience working with you.

If you’re working with a client on a testimonial and they don’t touch on a specific aspect of your work together, mention that to them, and suggest a way for them to include that aspect of your work in their endorsement.

The client may not have realized how important a specific feature of your work together was, or even how they can highlight it in their testimonial. By making the writing process a conversation between you and your client, you’ll be able to maximize the impact that your testimonial has on your business.

Is it ever too late to solicit a testimonial from a past client?

Most often, it isn’t. If you’re able to demonstrate the quantitative or qualitative results you had working with a client, it’s worth following-up with them and asking them for a testimonial (I talk about how to maximize the effectiveness of your follow-up in my Free Outreach Course).

How do you leverage your testimonials in your work?

Once you have a testimonial, what then? How can you get the most impact and value out of it?

Here are a few suggestions for places where you can use your testimonial to maximize their impact.

1. Marketing materials

Use your testimonials in your marketing materials. Are you creating a pamphlet to give to potential clients? Are you working on a mailer for your business? Are you designing an ad for a magazine or for Facebook? Try integrating your testimonial into these to add a great element of social proof, or to defeat a common objection that people have to your service.

2. Sales pages

If you write sales pages for your services, you can integrate your testimonials into sales pages directly. Using your testimonials on these pages communicates to prospects, “Hey, this is a service that I can trust, that’s used and recommended by people like me.”

There are a number of consultants who do this extremely well:

  • Website Rescues by Kurt Elster beautifully integrates testimonials into the sales page, highlighting who the ideal customer for this service is, and the outcomes that a customer can expect.
  • Draft: Revise by Nick Disabato features testimonials from past, happy clients, highlighting their experience with his A/B testing service for ecommerce stores and Software-as-a-Service companies.
  • Master Facebook Marketing, a weekly video series on mastering Facebook marketing by Mojca Mars, uses testimonials to highlight the outcomes that she has helped deliver to clients and customers (including me!).
  • Remarq.io, a service that lets you create a beautiful book, document, or report for your clients from Markdown by Jeremy Green, uses testimonials to help communicate who the ideal customer is for Remarq’s services (a consultant or professional blogger), and the benefit that a customer will experience if they use the service.

By integrating testimonials into your sales page, you can better highlight who your ideal client is, the trigger for someone wanting to work with you, the outcomes that your service delivers, and the benefits clients have experienced.

3. Proposals

You should also use your testimonials in proposals. When you’re writing a proposal, you can integrate testimonials into the content to serve as either an element of social proof or an objection buster.

Let’s say that you’re writing a proposal, and offer your client a ‘choice of yeses’ between three different options.

On the page where you list the prices, you can include a testimonial that highlights the return on investment a client experienced by working with you.

By taking this opportunity to highlight the return that another client had, you can defeat a potential objection (“They cost too much!”), right when the client first thinks it.

Likewise, if you’re offering your client a choice between multiple options in a proposal, and you want to direct them towards a particular option, you could include a testimonial on the options page that highlights the experience another client had with a particular option.

4. Private conversations

Use testimonials when you’re having a conversation with a prospect. Sometimes a client raises an objection in a face-to-face meeting, on a call, or over email. In those cases, if you have a testimonial that addresses that objection, you can strengthen your response by sharing an experience from another client that addresses that concern.

Let’s say you’re in conversation with a prospect, and they mention that they’ve worked with consultants before, but have found them to be slow and non-responsive.

If you have a testimonial that specifically addresses and counters this objection, you can include the testimonial in your response.

What are your next steps?

I’ve talked a lot about how to use testimonials in your work, but action is always more valuable than theory.

You need to take a specific plan of action to get high quality, valuable testimonials from your clients for your business.

Here’s a specific plan of action — a roadmap — that you can follow to get high-quality, valuable testimonials from your clients that will help your business.

1. Make a list of every client you’ve worked with over the last three months. Just write down their company name, to start.

2. Go through the list and note any clients where you’ve already received a testimonial. Go through the list and make an X, or cross-out any clients who have given you a testimonial.

3. Now you have your list of clients to contact for testimonials. Go through this list of people to contact, and write down:

  • The name of your contact at the company (the owner or the person you worked with).
  • Their email address.
  • The business problem that you worked on helping them address.

4. Any results, qualitative or quantitative, from the project, that you’ve identified and can highlight for them.

Take this information and do a two-step ask for a testimonial. You want to send two emails to them, to get a testimonial.

In your first email, highlight the impact your work together had on their business and explain that you’d like to feature a testimonial from them in your marketing material, highlighting how their business has grown. End the email with a simple call to action like:

“Just hit reply to this email, and say “Let’s do it!” Once I hear back from you, I’ll send you a short list of five questions to answer, to help direct your testimonial.”

This separates clients who will contribute a testimonial from clients who won’t. We want to focus on initial energy on the low-hanging fruit, the clients who are happy to contribute a testimonial. We can save the clients who don’t respond for a round of follow-ups down the line.

5. For everyone that responded yes, send them this testimonial generating email (inspired by the wonderful testimonial email that Sean D’Souza sends out) .

As you know, it's always great to get testimonials from clients, and I would love one from you. I'd love you to tell me what you learned, and if you implemented parts of what you learned, and of course any results are great too.

Here are a few questions that you can answer:

  • What was the obstacle that would have prevented you from working with me?
  • What did you find as a result of working with me?
  • What specific aspect did you like most about our work together?
  • What would be three other benefits of our work together?
  • Would you recommend this to others? If so, why? (If not, please let me know how I could improve! :)
  • Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just hit reply to this email or send me your answers at [Your Email Address].

Can you please answer these questions right away? You can send back a long answer if you’d like. There are no restrictions on the length and detail of your answers.

Thanks again,

[Your Name]

Now you have your next steps:

  • You know how to identify past clients to approach for a testimonial.
  • You know the specific questions to ask to generate a strong testimonial.
  • You know how to work with your client to generate a testimonial that highlights the most important areas of your work together.
  • You know how to follow-up with a client who has gone non-responsive while writing the testimonial.
  • You know how to maximize the impact of your testimonials and use them throughout your business.

If you’re looking to jumpstart your testimonial gathering process, I’ve put together all the resources mentioned in this article, into a quick, easy guide for you to follow at GetClientTestimonials.com.

Thanks for reading. Have any questions? Leave them in the comments section below, and I’ll answer them!

About the Author

Kai Davis helps freelancers and consultants work with better clients and build a more sustainable business. He's author of The Outreach Blueprint, The Traffic Manual, and co-author of The Independent Consulting Manual.

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