One of your best marketing weapons is the customer testimonial. Testimonials serve to substantiate what you’ve said all along – that you’re a great designer that produces an excellent product and delivers results that meet or exceed expectations. However, you saying all that is way different than a customer saying all that.
Recent studies have shown that nearly 9 out of 10 consumers refer to online reviews to determine the quality of a business. Testimonials contribute to what is called social proof, which is very simply the notion that when others do something, we assume what they’re doing is worthwhile, so we want to do the same thing. Thus, the power of the testimonial: If Sally hires you to design her website, her testimonial serves as social proof to others that hiring you is a good plan.
Most people can easily get their friends to talk about their business, but the problem for many web designers is figuring out how to go about getting those coveted testimonials from clients. In this post, we explore various methods of procuring testimonials from clients that you can then use to generate more business. We also highlight several methods for crafting the perfect testimonial.
It’s Feedback You Really Want
At the outset, it’s important to define what you’re really after. Clients can be legitimately scared to give a testimonial. The word “testimonial” tends to elicit a notion in clients’ minds that their face and name will be plastered on your website along with their glowing review of you set in giant type, praising the glories of your work. That can be too much of the spotlight for some people.
Giving a testimonial is also difficult for clients because they often don’t know what to say and we often don’t do a good job of helping them figure it out. It’s a process that is too open-ended, and the result is usually something you can’t use or something you have to re-write (with their permission) anyway, like:
“Gosh, he’s such a great designer!”
Although that’s a nice sentiment, it doesn’t say anything substantive about your talent or your ability to solve clients’ problems.
To avoid that situation, ask clients for feedback instead. The advantage here is that customers are much, much more likely to give feedback than they are a testimonial, even though the purpose for you remains the same.
Where asking, “Hey, would you be willing to provide me with a testimonial?” typically nets you something superficial like that quoted above, a short questionnaire or a survey can get you much better results. Getting feedback in this manner is something that you can structure and provide guidance for clients to complete. Asking them specific questions will get you results that are far more usable, and that will tick the necessary boxes for creating a good testimonial. A few questions to ask are:
- What factor influenced you the most in your decision to hire me?
- What is the most salient benefit you’ve experienced as a result of my work?
- If you recommended me to a friend, how would you describe the manner in which I worked with you?
There are an abundance of other great questions you can ask, but those listed above should give you an idea of how to craft a question such that the client’s answer is specific and highlights what you do well.
Timing is Everything
Asking for feedback at the right time is one of the biggest factors in getting the testimonial in the first place. Sure, you need to provide an awesome product or service, but an ill-timed request for feedback can be off-putting even to the most satisfied of clients.
The right time to ask for feedback depends on the product. In some instances, sooner is better so you can hit up your clients while their giddiness over what you’ve created for them is still fresh. If it’s something like graphic design services that are complete upon delivery, go ahead and include a request for feedback right along with your invoice.
If you’ve created something like a full website, you may need to wait a few weeks until the client has had a chance to reap the benefits of your design. Asking for feedback too soon in this instance may result in feedback that is superficial and doesn’t offer future clients much in the way of insight into your awesomeness. At the same time, waiting so long that the client forgets who you are and what you’ve done for them won’t benefit you either. It’s a delicate balance to strike!
The timing issue may also depend on the client. You will build incredible rapport with some clients right off the bat, so you may feel more comfortable asking for feedback sooner than you would for a client that has been more difficult to work with. But this doesn’t mean that you should only approach your favorite clients for feedback. Some of your best testimonials can come from the clients that challenged you, so don’t be afraid to ask!
Make it Easy for Them
No one wants to spend 30 minutes filling out a questionnaire, so how you structure your request for feedback is extremely important. Less is more here, so zero in on two or three topics on which you’d like to get feedback. Additionally, part of making it easy for clients to give you feedback is in your delivery of your feedback request.
Keep It Simple
Maybe for one client your questions revolve around your specific products or services and how they met your clients’ needs. Perhaps with another client your interest is in their experience working with you or your ability to communicate effectively. The point being, don’t bombard every client with every question you can possibly think of. Spread out the type of feedback you request of them, and they will be much more inclined to spread the love about you.
Send Them an E-Mail
E-mailing clients can work wonders, because it gives them a quick and easy manner in which to respond, while also giving them enough space to give you honest feedback (which you may not get if you call or ask for feedback in person). If e-mail is your method of choice, give something like this a shot:
Thanks again for hiring me for your website needs. I enjoyed working on the project, and I hope you enjoy the benefits of your new site design.
If you have a moment, I’d love to get some feedback from you, which, with your permission, I would use for marketing purposes. Feel free to answer the following questions and shoot them back to me via e-mail.
1. When did you realize that you’d made the right choice in hiring me?
2. How would you characterize the experience of working with me in terms of communication, meeting deadlines, and my ability to adapt to changing situations?
I look forward to hearing from you!
An e-mail like this serves the purpose of getting feedback discussed above. It’s easy for clients to do, gives you the ability to connect with them in a timely manner, and by including relatively closed-ended questions, you get the specific feedback you need for a good testimonial, while giving your client enough latitude to sing your praises.
Send Them a Message on Social Media
We live in a world driven by social media, so taking advantage of that to get feedback is absolutely essential. Not only does social media make it incredibly easy to contact past clients (and them you), it gives you further venues for promotion as well.
The power of the testimonial is only magnified on platforms like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, and the like. Imagine an amazing customer testimonial video on your YouTube Channel, or a shout out from a past client on Twitter. Facebook’s review feature for small businesses is also handy for compiling loads of testimonials for potential customers to see.
Converse and Listen
Many of the most compelling testimonials you could ever hope for actually come up in natural conversations with your clients. The “AHA!” moments when your client sees how your design will solve a problem for them, or the day when their new site goes live and they gush about what a stress-free experience it was to work with you are perfect examples of testimonials occurring on the fly.
The best part about this kind of naturally occurring feedback is that it is incredibly genuine. Your client doesn’t have to struggle to think of what to say, nor do you have to take a lot of time making requests for feedback. A simple, “Hey, can I use what you just said as a testimonial?” will usually suffice.
Set Up Alerts
Oftentimes your customers will talk about you and rave about your design skills but not think to include you in on the conversation. A passing comment here on Twitter or a blog post there about how much they love their new site design may go completely unnoticed by you if your clients don’t let you know that they’ve given you a shout out.
Setting up Google alerts will solve this problem. Just enter a string of terms that are applicable to you or your business, including your name, business name, and the word ‘review.’ Google will handle it from there, and email you whenever you or your business is mentioned. You can do the same on Social Mention, which scours social media for the terms you input.
Whenever you receive a notification from Google or Social Mention, you can contact the person that’s been mentioning you or your business and approach them for a testimonial. If they’ve already been offering up praise for you, they will be more inclined to give you more formal feedback that you can use in your marketing strategy.
Creating a Good Testimonial
If you’ve stuck with the process thus far, you’ve gotten some great feedback (or a lot, hopefully!) that provides specific information to your prospective clients about what it is you can do to help them out. Now comes the time to craft that feedback into awesome testimonials that will maximize the marketing value of what your clients have said about you. There are several ways to accomplish this.
Keep It Real
Unless your clients are all journalists, you’re going to get feedback that may not sound proper, and that’s okay. Part of the value of testimonials is their genuineness – if they sound too canned and perfect, customers will wonder if a client wrote it or if you wrote it yourself. Each testimonial should look, feel, and sound like the client that provided it to you, so resist the urge to fiddle with it and just leave it alone. The result will be much more impactful.
Up the Authenticity
Part of making your testimonials as good as they can be is including tidbits that make them more authentic. There is little that will make a testimonial more powerful than including the person’s photo with their feedback. Just seeing a face next to the quote will instantly make whatever the client has said more believable. Also ask your clients if you can include their Twitter handle or other social media information with their testimonial. If your client is a company, ask to include their business name, the city in which they are located, their business logo, or website address to add authenticity to their statements about you.
Tell a Story
As discussed above, don’t waste your time throwing around a bunch of blurbs like “He’s amazing!” on your website and assume that testimonials of that nature will get you anything in the way of respect, let alone additional business. Yes, shorter testimonials are necessary for a lot of your marketing – you can’t plaster your homepage with five or six paragraphs of feedback from clients.
However, some testimonials, perhaps those on a dedicated testimonials page, do need to go further in depth and tell a story. They need to draw your potential clients in, and explain to them (without being overly explain-y) exactly what benefits they will reap by hiring you, and do that without sounding like a huge sales pitch. This is where keeping it real and authentic really come in handy.
Just like when you write a story, there needs to be a beginning, middle and end. The beginning of the testimonial should highlight the client’s original problem – perhaps an outdated website, ineffective banner ads, or ugly icons and buttons. The middle of the testimonial needs to explain specifically what you did to address the client’s problem – an updated website, new branding, or improved SEO, for example. Then at the end of the testimonial, your client should explain what life is like now that you’ve delivered them a solution. Maybe their conversion rates are up or the number of online orders has doubled since the launch of their new site. A good story-like testimonial might go a bit like this:
“Before we hired Jonas our site was outdated and completely not user-friendly. We hired Jonas to build a new site, which Jonas did in a timely fashion, with excellent communication, and met all of our goals. In the six months since, we’ve seen traffic to our site quadruple.”
What Say You?
Getting customer testimonials is just one part of building your online brand the right way. What strategies do you employ to get customer feedback to build your brand? What tips would you offer to web designers who seek to increase the number of testimonials they have? Be sure to let us know by leaving a comment! Also check out our free monthly newsletter for more great tips on building a successful web design business.
Thumbs Up by Sarah Reid via Flickr Creative Commons
Station 9: Feedback by Deutsches Historisches via Flickr Creative Commons
Insomnia by Lauren Hammond via Flickr Creative Commons
Easy Button by GotCredit via Flickr Creative Commons
Y2.d7 by B Rosen via Flickr Creative Commons
Our Testimonials… by Dave Dugdale via Flickr Creative Commons