Well, if I’m going to blog about it, I guess I’d better get started doing it myself! Look for a “Testimonials” tab coming soon!
Overview: Why have testimonials? Testimonials should be a part of every website. The purpose of a testimonial is a public demonstration of two things: your professional expertise and professional behavior.
The goal of each project you undertake should be to ask for a testimonial at the project’s completion.
A smart businessperson controls all messages pertaining to his or her business, so it will behoove you not only to cherry pick the person who will give the testimonial but to actually write the testimonial yourself and ask for the client/customer’s approval prior to posting.
There are three components of a worthwhile testimonial:
- Specifying the tasks you performed for the client/customer
- Describing how you/your team behaved
- Choosing the words that will make the testimonial vivid, compelling, and relatable
Step 1: Selecting the customers/clients. Review your last six months to a year’s worth of business, and select four to six clients/customers for whom you did outstanding, but varied, work. I would also suggest that, if possible, you select projects that were came in at different price points.
Give priority to clients that come with their own built-in credibility, like a chamber of commerce, a bank, a hospital, a church or nonprofit, or a well-known business or organization.
Step 2: Scope of the job. List one to three notable aspects of each project that demonstrate your expertise, whether they be the tasks themselves, a particular challenge that the project presented, or an unusual aspect of the project that makes it stand out. Write as many as two sentences here.
Step 3: Say something good about yourself and the way you behaved. Saying that you were prompt, you were careful, your crew kept the jobsite tidy, you were accurate, and so on will do much to give potential customers/clients confidence in you and your services. Write one sentence here.
Once you have Steps 2 and 3 on paper, go to Step 4.
Step 4: Choose your words carefully. Sprinkle one or two vivid, powerful, and compelling words into your testimonial. Words like outstanding, state-of-the-art, exemplary, and innovative are the types of words you should be able to use to describe your product or services. A good editor will give you a list of appropriate words to pair with the statements you’ve made. Limit yourself to one, at most two, of these words.
Always be positive and assertive. Instead of would, use will. Instead of anyone, use everyone.
For example, not:
I would recommend you to anyone.
Too tepid! Big deal!
I will recommend you to everyone.
What a difference!
Step 5. The endorsement. Always conclude with an endorsement:
I will recommend you to everyone.
I recommend you highly.
I will tell my friends and family about you.
A friend told me about you, and I will tell all my friends as well.
Step 6. Edit. Condense. Re-write. Sharpen. Tweak. Tweak again.
Step 7. The ask. After you’ve been paid, but before the dust settles, do this:
“Hi Mr./Mrs./Miss/so-and-so, I was hoping you’d be willing to give me a testimonial about the project we just did together/the work I just did for you. I wrote this up and I’d like to show it to you to see if it would be okay for me to use on my website.”
Most of the time, if you have been accurate, your clients will be happy to sign off on the exact message that you’d like to see on your website and marketing materials.
Other issues about testimonials.
Using names. You’ll have a better chance to get their approval if you do not use customers’ first and last names, though that is ideal. Use first name plus last initial, and specify the city/town where the service took place or the product was sold. Drop the name down to another line, and put a dash (not a hyphen!) in front of the name.
Font use. When adding the testimonial to your site, I’d suggest using the italicized version of the site font to visually separate the testimonial from the rest of the text. If the testimonials follow one another, alternate the italicized testimonial with one in the regular font.
The time frame. Be vague about the date the transaction took place. Phrases like “recently,” “last year,” or “not too long ago” give currency to the testimonial, but also give it a long shelf life.
Quotation marks. It is not necessary to enclose the testimonial with quotation marks if it is set off from the other text; if it is “in” the text, however, use double quotes for the entire testimonial. If you incorporate a direct quote from the person, use double quotes if you haven’t used them before, but use single quotes if there are already double quotes, like in the example below.
When the same speaker speaks into a second paragraph, do not use quotation marks to start the next paragraph. (Grammarly.com is so wrong about this issue!)
“My family recently purchased a dog from Canine Companions. We wanted a guard dog, but we also needed a dog who could be a playmate for our children. Francis McNair, owner of Canine Companions, listened to our concerns and then used his 36 years of experience to carefully select and train a wonderful Belgian Malinois, Marshal, for us. My son calls Marshal his ‘new best friend,’ the girls adore him, and my husband and I have tremendous peace of mind knowing that Marshal is now part of our family.
I trust Canine Companions, and will recommend its service to all my friends, and especially to my friends with young children.”
—Lauren B., Sarasota
Someone like this would be unlikely to provide you with a photo of her happy children playing with “Marshal,” but certainly a website like this would be stuffed with photos of handsome Belgian Malinois, German Shepherds, Dobermans, etc.
Use photos to accompany your testimonials whenever possible.
It goes without saying, which is why it’s worth saying, that each testimonial should be impeccably edited to a fare thee well. A misplaced semicolon or a misspelled word is death to credibility and will make you look like a jackass.
Don’t forget: a business or organization is a singular noun. A business is never a them or a who; a business is always an it and a that.
Writing is rarely “finished.” I suggest that you continue to update, tweak, and otherwise perfect what you write. I know I do.