I would have to sit and think for a very long time, in a quiet space, to imagine an organization that would not benefit from displaying testimonials on their website. Customer testimonials are effective because they are a third party opinion that validates our decision to purchase, act, or “convert”. They aren’t sales-y, and they show that someone else has not only walked the path before us, but come out better for it. We tend to trust them more than the pitch from the organization itself, because there is an assumption of subjectivity. But all testimonials are not created equal, so here are some tips on making sure the testimonials you gather will pack the most punch.

1. Ask for testimonials

Chances are, you know who your biggest fans are. Don’t be afraid to ask them for a testimonial. Mining existing or previous clients is a great way to get started gathering testimonials. If it is appropriate to your industry, you can make it your practice moving forward to solicit a testimonial at the time of service. It could be as simple as asking “If a friend of yours was considering using our product/service, what would you tell them about your experience with us?” This can be done digitally or old school with a printed questionnaire and an SASE.

2. Encourage specifics

As much as we like to hear “They did a great job!” or “This product is awesome!”, these compliments don’t do much to validate your marketing messages; in fact, they could be talking about anything. When mining for testimonials, we can guide our happy customers to comment on particular facets of our process, preferably whatever it is that we hang our hats on. If your major selling point is being affordable, ask if they can comment about how much they saved by selecting your product/service. If your customer service is what you wish to emphasize, ask them to describe the service they received from you. If the testimonial includes details about how their problem was solved, how their expectations were exceeded, or what made their experience something they would want to repeat, then it will be much more effective than vague accolades.

3. Authenticate the author

Depending on your industry, this will take different forms, but you will want it to be completely understood that a real actual person wrote the testimonial and that this person really did use your product/service. This will enable the reader to trust the testimonial as well as relate effectively to its author. A photo of the person always helps, especially if they are represented alongside your product/service, but if this is not possible you can authenticate in other ways. You should always get permission to publish their name, but listing a suitable detail about them along with their name will give the testimonial more clout. This could mean listing their company and job title if you’re attracting corporate clients, what type of vehicle the person has if you’re a mechanic or an auto dealer, how many kids the person has if you’re marketing to families, or simply how long they’ve been a client or which specific product/service they purchased. Choose a detail that will be relatable to prospective clients or will further emphasize the value of your offering.

4. Keep testimonials fresh and highly visible

Is there anywhere on your website that wouldn’t benefit from a testimonial? A testimonial that raves about a staff member could adorn your About Us page. A testimonial regarding price or product/service could presumably go anywhere. Once you’ve collected a few particularly sparkly gems, they should find a place on your homepage. Having a whole page on your site dedicated to testimonials might also make sense for your industry. Just make sure you keep them plentiful and fresh: don’t use one testimonial over and over again in every place, or folks will think you’ve only ever had one happy customer.

5. Work within the law

If you’re considering pulling positive comments from your Facebook page to populate a testimonials page on your website, resist the urge… unless you’ve gotten approval from the authors of those comments. You always need to get permission to use someone’s name, image, or quote in your marketing. You’ll also need to make sure any testimonials are not misrepresented or biased. Check out the succinct guidelines on using testimonials in marketing from the Small Business Administration, here.

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Written By Mallory Battista

Mallory has a bachelor’s degree in Business and over 10 years of experience in marketing, print and Web design, brand development, copywriting, and creative promotional campaign development. Whether designing Web pages, print campaigns, or a start-up’s branding identity, she connects clients with truly unique creative design and the materials and media to best garner results.