There is only one thing in life worse than being talked about, and that is not being talked about – Oscar Wilde
Same goes for sales.
Salespeople want buzz around them, their products, service and company.
Customer testimonials are one of the most effective tools to create buzz. Two out of three organizations use testimonials and referrals in their strategies to attract and impress customers, according to the Koyne State of Customer Marketing Benchmark Report.
Stories and honest words from your customers can turn more prospects into buyers.
For you, it’s a matter of optimizing customer testimonials.
Sure, you can likely back up your sales and marketing claims of superiority with data and awards. But nothing resonates with prospects like the raw emotions of customers who share positive experiences they’ve had with you, your product or service.
Prospects can more easily connect to the struggles, triumphs and emotions revealed in testimonials. Customer testimonials increase interest (online and offline) and conversion rates, researchers at Bazaarvoice found.
Here’s your guide on types of testimonials, how to write them, where to place them, plus six examples to help you build better testimonials.
7 effective types of customer testimonials
You might think customer testimonials write themselves. After all, they’re supposed to be customers’ words. But their thoughts don’t always easily translate into perfect copy – whether it’s a one-sentence quote on your website or social media or a full-blown case study.
Customer testimonials take some finessing. And because there are several forms of testimonials, each might take a slightly different twist. Try these types:
Quotes are the shortest, most precise way to connect with prospects. They’re often set apart from regular copy – or artwork in themselves with an image of the highly satisfied customer – and make one, specific positive point.
Quotes might be what experts at Groove call “sugar” or “energy.”
Sugar quotes aren’t ideal, generally sweet and full of empty calories: They don’t provide much substance because they’re too vague or border on fake.
Examples: “It’s fantastic!” “It’s the best thing that ever happened to me!”
Energy quotes are far more effective. They’re engaging, authentic and specific.
Example: “We love the insight. It gives us the ability to look at what we’ve done in the last six weeks, identify areas for adjustments and even see the probable outcomes of making those changes. Now we can set benchmarks and keep raising the bar.”
Customer interviews are ideally executed in one way – a one-on-one conversation – but can be implemented in several ways. Ask willing customers about specifics on your relationship with them, how they use your products and services, what they love and the successes they’ve achieved.
You can create podcasts with the interviews. Turn them into Q&A sections on your website. Use them in their entirety or create outtakes for YouTube videos. Add parts to a blog or use quotes in social media. You can do interviews in front of a camera or behind a microphone (more on those next.)
Videos are easier than ever to create as customer testimonials. Use cell phones to capture video of your customers in action with your products or services. Get them onscreen explaining how they use your products or services and why.
If you have camera-shy customers – or you just prefer to use sound in testimonials – rely on recording software, a microphone and questions that evoke practicality, lively images and emotion from customers.
Social media is probably already capturing customer testimonials for you.
You can’t pick and choose which customer quotes reside in social (it’s bad practice to take down negative comments. It’s better practice to resolve those issues and let customers who are satisfied with your response speak for your integrity). But you can pick and choose the customer quotes generated in social media that live beyond that.
For instance, pull social quotes and add them to your website. You can also reach out to those evangelists and ask for more feedback.
Case studies are more in-depth than any form of testimonial. In fact, you might incorporate other forms of testimonials into your case studies. Customers’ positive experiences can be backed up by facts, statistics, comparisons and observations.
You’ll still want to add direct, full-impact quotes as outtakes on the otherwise in-depth copy. And avoid the common case study pitfall of using stilted language and jargon just because you have the space. Keep the language simple, the content concise and theme of customer success on target.
Some customer testimonials can come from sources outside your influence or prompting: third-party reviews sites such as Yelp, Angie’s List, Better Business Bureau, Manta and Foursquare.
You can screen shot reviews from those sites and post them on your website or in your social media platforms. You can embed the urls into your website and email messages so prospects can get the full picture, too.
These might be the most difficult customer testimonials to get. Try to ask people who have some influence over your ideal customers – because of their expertise, celebrity or earned authority – to say good things about you and even promote your products or services.
You might reach out to media outlets, online personalities and industry authorities with offers to try your solutions and hopefully get their feedback that turns into powerful testimonials.
How to write customer testimonials
While customer testimonials come in many forms, they can all benefit from some tried-and-true guidelines for writing them. These tips will make them feel genuine, relatable and influential.
Go get them
Start with you super fans – customers who are your most loyal, vocal, frequent and satisfied. You know they have good things to say, but you don’t want to influence what they say.
So just ask – via email, text, call or personal visits – if they’d help you out by writing a short testimonial. For anything that’s posted online, offer to link their comments back to their site. Some sales and marketing pros even offer to write a short quote for their customers, who then can give that a “yay” or “nay” to run with their names.
You might ask those eager to give feedback to do a more in-depth interview for audio, video or case study testimonials.
Just don’t ever run testimonials without customers’ permission.
Wait for testimonials
You don’t have to solicit all testimonials. Ask customer service, customer success and salespeople to forward positive feedback they receive in email, social or snail mail – or hear on the phone or in person.
Respond immediately. Follow up with a request to use the kind words in some form of testimonial.
Ask at the right time
Ask for testimonials at a prime time, and you’ll more likely get them. Three of the best times:
- Shortly after they’ve signed on. Ask new customers why they decided to do business with you. Their testimonials will be useful to start meaningful conversations, cite problems they might have had with your competitors and build a bank of quotes to use in the early stages of trying to convert other prospects.
- After they’ve boasted on you. You might find positive feedback on Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook (if you’re following your customers – and you should be). Reach out after they’ve posted.
- Once they’re successful with your product or service. When you know customers have hit goals using your solution, ask about it. You might be able to turn the success story into an entire case study. Ask about their early challenges and how your solution helped them save time, increase revenue, become more efficient – or whatever metric equated success for them.
Ask questions to get the answers you want
To get great testimonials you’ll have to do more than just ask for positive feedback. More likely, you’ll have to pry it out of customers.
Ask questions geared right to the answers you want to hear. Visualize the quote you want for your testimonial, and ask specific questions to get them to say something close to what you imagine.
Pose questions like these to customers (or yourself, if you’re writing and getting approval for a testimonial):
- What caused you the most trouble before you signed?
- What was your breaking point – the thing that drove you to us?
- Can you tell me about the time when you realized this solution had done its job?
- What specific feature has been the biggest benefit and why?
- What is better now that you made the change?
- How did our solution help you solve the issue?
- How much money did our product save you?
- What’s the biggest benefit you’ve seen from using our product?
- How much time does our product save you each day/week/month?
Key elements of well-written testimonials
Regardless of the format, powerful testimonials are:
- Concise. Use short sentences and simple language that roll off the tongue.
- Specific. Choose reviews that highlight specific elements of your products or services, exact results and/or distinct emotion.
- Direct. Let customers call you out: “You made it so easy to …” “Your service was the best …” And then let customers get personal: “I was able to …” “Now I can …”
- Authentic. Use customers’ language. If they say, “wow,” use all caps or several exclamation points, keep them in there. But if a quote seems a little corny and extreme to you, pass on it. It will come across as way too corny and extreme to prospects!
- Cited. Include customers’ names, titles, company name and a photo. Even better: Include the company’s logo or an individual’s blog or social media handle. Anything less – and most especially something signed with just initials or “anonymous” – will look fake.
- Visual. Choose reviews and quotes with descriptive language that help create an image of what using your product or service will do for prospects. You can also add actual visuals – social media clips, images, videos.
Where to put customer testimonials
Great testimonials deserve a great place to rest. But don’t let them rest any one place too long.
Get fresh quotes often. Move testimonials to different channels and marketing content often, too.
Look for and retire testimonials that are:
- misaligned with your current sales and marketing initiatives
- outdated for your current line of products or services, or
- come from a customer base that’s not similarly situated as your ideal prospects.
Scatter testimonials on your website
Prospects land on your homepage most often, so add your most powerful quote there – big, bold and above the fold.
Beyond that, include testimonials specific to products and services on their individual pages. Add different quotes to landing pages, contact pages and pages with forms – places where prospects are still wondering if they should trust you.
Add testimonials to posts
Whether you post on your website, in a stand-alone blog, on LinkedIn or an online community, add a customer testimonial. It can be added as a quote – like you see in a news story – or build it up as a pull quote, which is bigger, off-set and relevant to the other copy that’s around it.
Put testimonials to work in social media
You can pull positive feedback from social and make it mean more. With social media testimonials, anyone can click through and see the person who wrote those raving reviews is an actual person who experienced your product or service.
Share and re-post what customers have said in social. Embed tweets and Instagram posts from customers on your website to highlight specific experiences. Or encourage customers to post photos of themselves using your products on Instagram or Pinterest.
Build a testimonial library
Keep all your recorded (audio and video) testimonials in one place – on YouTube, in an app and/or your website – where they can be accessed according to product, service, position in the sales funnel, etc. You can link customers to this testimonial resting place through other demand generation tactics.
Put testimonials in print
Customers need to see testimonials in more places than online. Add them to all your lead generation collateral – white papers, case studies, print advertising, tip sheets, ebooks, guides, SlideShare.
Customer testimonial examples
Here are six testimonials that are everything they should be – concise, visual, specific. Yours won’t be exactly like these, but you’ll get an idea of the kind of questions to ask to get customers to give you solid testimonials.
‘Simple to use from the start’
“GenZWorks was simple to use from the start. Within two weeks, we had the analytics we needed to function. Two weeks after that, we were light years ahead of where we’d been – we saw and understood things we never had. With our old system, we couldn’t do half as much in twice the amount of time.”
– Dwayne Simmons, VP Marketing, Apex Co., Burlington, VT
‘We’ve already cut operational costs by 10%’
“You helped us build a plan that might have seemed impossible a short time ago. Now we have the service up and running and we’ve already cut operational costs by 10%. We couldn’t have done it without you. You’re the best, Smith Services!”
– Sylvia Moore, Customer Experience Coordinator, ValueProof Inc., DuBois, PA
‘A real pleasure to work with’
“KnowMore is FANTASTIC!! It has streamlined our billing, receiving and payroll processes. A real pleasure to work with.”
– Brian Anderson, Controller, Green Health Council, Coeur d’Alene, ID
‘This changed my mind completely’
“The One Start Mower gave me control over my yard! I thought yard work had to be hard. This changed my mind completely. I used to dread mowing. Now I look forward to it.”
– Ira Schwartz, @tiredofgreengrass, Illinois
‘No down time. No transition period’
“I planned for the worst, and didn’t even come close to realizing it! Barely any training. No down time. No transition period. It was more like a natural adoption of the platform. My people saw the benefit from Transition Software immediately.”
– Anita Jones, IT and Development, Waverly Enterprises, Tallahassee, FL
‘Wished I started using it years ago’
“It sounds cliché, but once I started using Vanity Bar, I wished I’d started using it years ago. The results are exactly what they promise – fewer wrinkles, smoother skin, clean glow.”
– Jenny Abramson, @beautyboaster, New Jersey