Testimonials: 3 Steps to Boost Credibility

The best tool to bridge the “credibility gulf” is the customer testimonial. But not all testimonials are equal, and most lack the most important attribute: credibility itself.

The internet is swimming in phony testimonials signed by “a longtime customer” or “Ben C.,” which say, “Does a great job” or “We love that company.” However, they are exactly what they appear to be, nothing more than a thinly veiled fake.

Even though some testimonials may be genuine, they’re often dull, boring and lack impact. In other words, they’re ineffective. Let’s face it, most people who are asked to provide a testimonial don’t know what to say or how to say it. So, unintentionally, they botch the job.

For testimonials to enhance your business’ integrity, they must tell a compelling story in a few carefully crafted words—not make a sales pitch. Follow these three steps to obtain testimonials that are both believable and enhance your credibility:

1) Select the right candidates. Forget about your sister-in-law or your best friend. Be selective about who you ask for testimonials. Choose situations where you’ve made a difference or saved the day. These are the testimonials that will resonate with prospects.

The right moment to ask for a testimonial is not when you want it, but when you have demonstrated your competence—it’s your performance that makes testimonials compelling and believable.

For example, during a review of a commercial prospect’s insurance program, a broker discovered several gaps in coverage that could do serious financial damage to the company. When the prospect awarded the agent the account, the agent asked for a testimonial and, needless to say, the new client readily agreed.

Powerfully written testimonials come from using a problem-solution-results (PSR) format, where the client presents problem, followed by your solution and then drives the message home with the result. Also, whether it’s a testimonial or a case history, always identify people with their full name, business and location. Otherwise, it isn’t credible.

2) Obtain testimonials with value. Asking someone to write a testimonial can sometimes be a major mistake because the chances are you won’t get what you expected—or wanted. It’s likely to be something weak, cobbled together and unimpressive. For example: “We’ve been doing business with The Zoomfast Company for 12 years and they always do a good job. Their people are friendly and know what they’re doing.”

Most people want to be helpful, but they don’t know what to say or how to say it. So they fall back on trite words and bland phrases that fail to convey a meaningful message. Or, they tell the person asking them, “Just give me what you want and I’ll sign it.” Either way, the results are normally less than inspiring.

A more successful approach is to interview a client to get them talking and then write up a concise and compelling narrative. Afterward, have the person interviewed review it and make any changes.

3) Put your testimonials to work. There is nothing more persuasive than having a customer tell your story. So once you have a portfolio of several testimonials, it time to decide what are you going to do with them.

Here are a few places to share your testimonials:

  • Newsletters
  • Websites
  • Videos
  • Sales letters
  • Handouts at meetings and events
  • Social media
  • Banners at trade shows
  • Seminar presentations

The last step is obtaining permission. The best way to complete the final hurdle is to tell the client you’ve interviewed that you’re going to send them the proposed wording for their approval,  along with a testimonial release form. Do not use a testimonial until you have a signed release form in hand.

Testimonials can be one of the most powerful tools available to marketers and salespeople. But to use them effectively takes thought, planning and expertise.

John Graham of GrahamComm is a marketing and sales strategy consultant and business writer.