According to a study by Search Engine Land, 70% of consumers will provide customer testimonials for a brand’s products or services if asked.
But this stat is a bit misleading – for two reasons:
For one thing, it doesn’t take into account how the request was made in the first place.
As we’ll discuss throughout this article, there are a lot of variables here that could sway your customer’s decision to provide (or not to provide) feedback; it’s not as simple as “just making the ask.”
Secondly, the data from this study revolves around the modern consumers’ propensity to provide rather simple product or service reviews – which, as we discussed in our previous article, is one of the more basic types of testimonial options at your disposal.
In other words, it’s not exactly a stretch to assume that the number of individuals who would be willing to create a more in-depth testimonial would be much lower than the number of those who would gladly provide a simple one-sentence snippet.
The point, here, is that the process of generating customer testimonials depends largely on:
- Who you ask
- How you ask them
- What you ask them to do
In this article, we’re going to address these factors (and more) in order to help you not only increase the quantity of customer testimonials you gather – but the quality of them, as well.
Let’s dive in.
As we mentioned above, a lot factors into a customer’s decision to accept your request to provide a testimonial regarding the quality of their experience with your brand.
Of course, if even one of these factors is “off” in the eyes of your customer in any way, the probability of them going along with your request will be just that much lower than it would have been had you ensured everything was in place before you made the ask.
That said, let’s take a deeper look at everything you need to consider before you reach out to your customers with a request for a testimonial.
We talked about this a bit in the previous article, but let’s make it crystal clear, here:
When it comes to customer testimonials – be them simple quotes or reviews, or more in-depth case studies or videos – your featured customer is the star of the show.
Yes, they’ll be discussing your products or services throughout the testimonial – but they’ll be doing so in terms of their experiences with said product or service.
That said, you want to communicate to your potential “testifiers” the notion that the entire process truly is all about them.
Your first step, here, is to explain to your customer exactly what they have to gain by providing a testimonial.
(It’s important to note the difference between explaining what’s in it for them, and explaining how your company will benefit from their feedback.
To be blunt: consumers typically aren’t going to be swayed by the knowledge that they’re helping out your company – unless it also affects them in some way or another.)
Take a look at the following automated message Baremetrics sends its customers:
From the very beginning of the message, the company explains that it wants to showcase its customers’ successes with its product on the company website.
It’s not about “providing feedback to help us improve,” or “spreading the good word about our brand”; it’s about celebrating and showing off the customer’s accomplishments.
(Note: We’ll be coming back to this automated message a few times throughout the rest of this article.)
Now, there are a few nuances to consider with regard to this messaging, depending on if your company operates in the B2B or B2C realm:
For B2B companies, showcasing a client’s success story on your site can positively affect said client-company in a business sense.
On a surface level, the mere presence of the client-company’s name on your site means that your customers will be exposed to their brand.
On a deeper level, your client’s testimony on your site will serve as evidence that your client’s company has increased its efficiency in some way through the use of your services.
(Note how the leftmost quote specifically mentions that the customer is better able to help their clients using Lander’s software.)
Basically, such testimonials provide businesses the opportunity to showcase their value on a third-party site, completely free of charge.
Position your request that way, and your clients will almost certainly be willing to participate.
For B2C companies, while your customers won’t have anything to gain in monetary or business-related terms from being featured on your site, there’s certainly a ton of intrinsic value to be gained, here.
NerdFitness, an exercise program with a hilariously tongue-in-cheek name, dedicates an entire section of its website specifically to celebrating the accomplishments of its successful clients.
This gives individuals like Joe, here, the opportunity to tell their story, revel in their successes, and truly reflect on all the hard work they put into accomplishing their goals.
And, as an added bonus, they get to see their name, image, and story highlighted on the website of a brand they’ve come to have the utmost respect for.
This is what you need to focus on when soliciting testimonials from your customers. If they can’t see “what’s in it for them,” they’ll have little to no reason to get on board.
As we’ve alluded to, not all of your customers are going to want to participate in creating a testimonial for your brand.
Going a step further, of those who are willing to participate, not all of them will want to go as far as to create a longform or more in-depth testimonial.
And that is 100% okay.
That is, it’s 100% okay as long as you understand it and act accordingly.
What we mean, here, is that there are a number of factors to consider when asking a specific customer for a testimonial, such as:
- The product or service they utilized
- The customer segment they belong to (as well as their individual persona)
- Your marketing goals for soliciting the testimonial in the first place
To put this another way, the above factors (and a few more, to be discussed momentarily) should determine the format of a given testimonial – not the other way around.
On a certain level, you probably already know this; I mean, you’re probably not looking to create a five-minute video or three-page case study revolving around each and every one of your products, right?
(But, hey, if you can find the right journalistic angle, more power to you!)
At any rate, the point is to who to ask for a testimonial, and what type of testimonial to ask for.
But let’s back up a moment.
To be sure, you definitely should at least “plant the seed” in each of your customers’ minds at some point, as showcased by the Baremetrics example we discussed earlier.
The automated request is sent out to all of Baremetrics’ customers at some point (we’ll talk about timing in a bit), providing each of its customers the opportunity to provide a quick sentence or two with regard to their experiences with the service:
In some instances, the information a given customer provides may be more than enough for Baremetrics to use on its “Wall of Love.”
However, some comments may be intriguing enough to necessitate a deeper dive into the customer’s experience:
This customer clearly has a lot to say about the positive effect using Baremetrics had on his business.
This would be a perfect opportunity for the Baremetrics team to reach out to this customer to see if he’d like to participate in the creation of a more in-depth case study or video testimonial.
Now, if you’ve gone as far as to provide an automated response requesting additional information from all customers who submitted an initial “snippet” testimonial, you don’t have to be so picky when determining who to follow up with (since it’s done automatically).
However, you do want to manually assess the potential value to be gained by fleshing out each testimonial you receive.
Again, some of the short-form comments you receive might be all that needs be said on a specific issue – and digging deeper wouldn’t lead to much more than that.
So, before you dive into a commitment to create a more in-depth testimonial simply because a customer agreed to do so…make sure they have something more of value to say, first.
In the spirit of treating your “testifying” customers as the stars of the show, you want to make it as easy as possible for them to provide their testimony to you.
All kidding aside, if the process of providing a testimonial isn’t simple and straightforward – or is full of bumps along the way – your customers aren’t going to put up with it.
Best-case scenario? They end up not providing a testimonial at all. Worst-case scenario? Their frustrating experience leaves a bad taste in their mouth with regard to your brand.
Revisiting the Baremetrics example once more, you’ll notice that the process is laid out quite clearly for respondents:
First, they’re asked to provide some basic identifying information about their company.
Then, they’re provided a drop-down menu to help them answer the question, “What’s (their) favorite part of Baremetrics?”.
Finally, they’re prompted to provide 1-2 sentences regarding a specific feature of the service, as well as 1-2 sentences about their experiences with the brand overall.
(It’s also worth noting that providing this framework increases the chances that the feedback received will be useful and usable.
Had Baremetrics not provided this framework, chances are the company would receive a decent amount of generic feedback that wouldn’t be of much value.)
After the customer has completed these tasks, they simply need to click “Submit,” and can be on their merry way.
Backing up a bit, it’s also worth noting that Baremetrics provides an alternative method for communication for customers who don’t want to fill out the form:
Remember: Your customers are doing you a favor by providing testimonials of any length or intensity.
That said, you want to ensure that the process goes as smoothly for them as possible.
When it comes to asking a customer for a testimonial, the timing of your ask if incredibly important – for two main reasons.
For one thing, you’ll want to make the ask at a moment in which the customer’s propensity to say “yes” is highest.
Secondly, you want to be sure that when you do find a customer willing to participate, they have something of value to say about your brand.
Looking at this from a different perspective, you wouldn’t want to reach out to a new-ish customer before they’ve had time to formulate a valid opinion about your products or services; they’ll either have nothing much to say at all, or will provide inaccurate feedback based on their so-far incomplete experience with your brand.
In some cases, determining the optimum time to “make the ask” is rather straightforward; in others, it requires a bit of digging. Let’s take a deeper look at both cases.
For some companies, their customers’ activities remain visible pretty much at all times.
(Think SaaS companies in which activity is logged as a matter of course, or training programs in which customers actively log their results after each usage session.)
For these companies, the right time to ask for a testimonial is immediately after a customer has reached a specific milestone.
However, in the interest of collecting a variety of testimonials from a variety of customers, you don’t want to take a “one-size-fits-all” approach, here. Rather, you’ll want to consider factors such as:
- The profile of the customer in question
- The specific service(s) being used by the customer
- The aspect of the service(s) you hope to showcase in a given testimonial
For example, if your aim is to showcase the ease in which a “newbie” can get up to speed with the basic features of your program, you wouldn’t want to reach out to a “power user” to hear what they have to say about your onboarding process.
Similarly, you wouldn’t want to reach out to a beginner with questions regarding your program’s advanced features.
In either case, you’d want to reach out to both customers the moment they reach a milestone that applies to them. Otherwise, you’re probably not going to get all that much in the form of valuable information from either party.
For companies that don’t have much visibility in terms of how their customers’ use their products…well…they’ll need to do a bit of research.
Essentially, these companies need to figure out how long it typically takes for their customers to begin seeing results and getting value from the products they offer.
In some cases, customers may be able to provide accurate feedback almost immediately:
In other cases, it may be a few weeks, months, or even years before your customers can provide an accurate and dependable testimonial:
As we said in the previous section, the timing of your ask largely depends on who your target customer is, how they use your product or service, and the aspect of your product or service you wish your “testifier” to focus on.
In the example above, the focus of the testimonial is on the product’s durability; obviously, it wouldn’t be possible for the customer to provide this same testimonial had they only owned the product for a few weeks.
The takeaway, here, is that you need to have a true understanding of your customer’s post-purchase journey with your product – both timewise and experiential-wise – in order to send them a request for a testimonial at the most opportune moment.
While you probably won’t be able to nail down an exact moment (as those in the previous section are able to do), you certainly want to at least be in the ballpark.
Now, there are certain occasions in which you’ll want to immediately ask your customers for a testimonial.
Specifically, you’ll want to make such a request after you’ve provided any kind of customer service or support to an individual – and after they’ve acknowledged that said service has been rendered in full.
(Note: These testimonials, of course, should focus on the quality of the specific service that had just been provided.)
In the simplest of terms, once a customer says anything along the lines of “Thanks so much for your help!”, your immediate response should be something like “Not a problem at all! Hey, while I have you…”.
Reason being, your customer’s memory of the experience will never be as great as it is at that current moment.
Additionally, as you’ll have just finished helping them overcome some sort of barrier, their opinion of you will likely be rather high at the present moment; needless to say, this is the perfect time to grab a testimonial from them.
You also may want to consider asking for a testimonial after mitigating a problem a customer has had with one of your products or services.
Yes, you’ll inherently be calling attention to a shortcoming on your company’s part – but this shortcoming will be overshadowed when prospective customers read about how you were willing to go the extra mile to fix the issue for customer in question.
While you definitely want to collect numerous customer testimonials regarding the actual products or services you provide, you should also remember to collect feedback and commentary revolving around your support services and the like.
It may very well be that the quality of these ancillary services will be what gets prospective customers to come on board.
Here’s a question from our old friend, Morpheus:
As we spoke about in our last article, you might already have a ton of customer testimonials at your disposal – even if you don’t realize it. The trick, of course, is to recognize such content for what it is.
Think about it:
- Do your customers leave reviews on your Yelp page?
- Do your followers ever mention your brand on social media?
- Do your fans create user-generated content focused on your brand?
- Do you often hear the same compliments about your services in candid conversations with your users?
I’d be willing to bet your answer to at least one of those questions is “yes.” If so, well…you’re already on your way to generating some majorly-valuable customer testimonials.
You’ll still need to put in some legwork, here.
If you come across any sort of positive comments regarding your brand, your first order of business should be to connect with the person behind the comment. At this point, you’ll want to go through the following process:
- Ask for permission to use their words on your testimonial page and/or overall website
- Use their comments as a springboard to dive into a more in-depth conversation regarding their experiences with your brand
- See if they’d be interested in and willing to create a more intensive testimonial (such as a case study or video interview)*
(*Again, only take this third step if the situation warrants.)
Now, even if a customer has proactively spread the good word about your brand on their own terms, this doesn’t necessarily guarantee that they’ll be willing to submit to your requests.
Perhaps they simply don’t have the time (or want to put in the effort) needed to create a more robust piece of content; or maybe they don’t want to have their name published on your site.
Whatever the case may be: Don’t push the issue.
For one thing, you certainly don’t want to turn a positive experience into a negative one.
If your once-happy customer feels like you’re forcing them to do something they’re not comfortable with, they’ll probably think twice about re-engaging with your brand in the future.
Not only that, but they may even go as far as to scrub their original content from the web entirely – and possibly replace it with a few negative words regarding their recent experience.
Secondly, if a customer refuses to allow you to use their words as a testimonial, you can still use their comments as feedback that can help you improve your services moving forward.
Sure, being able to use this positive feedback in your marketing content is optimal – but you don’t want to overlook the value of the comments the customer made in the first place.
At any rate, this is probably a rather unlikely scenario, anyway; chances are, if a customer was willing to proactively say some positive things about your brand, they’ll probably have no problem engaging further with you on the topic.
But, on the off chance they deny your request, it’s best to just move on.
In a world in which consumers trust the words of their peers above pretty much any other entity (at least when it comes to making purchases), we cannot overstate the importance of generating high-quality customer testimonials.
But, as we’ve said, actually getting your customers to provide such testimony isn’t as simple as just making the ask.
Rather, you need to know exactly who to ask, and when to ask them.
Furthermore, you need to make it easy for them to provide their testimony once they accept your request.