Yo. We need to talk about your testimonials.
Let’s start with an unpopular opinion:
What you’re selling actually matters WAY LESS than whether or not people like you.
It’s counterintuitive because, in the rest of our lives, it’s drummed into us that following the herd is for chumps, we should march by the beat of our own drummer, buck those trends!
But when someone is thinking about buying your course or service and money is involved – especially when it’s a lot of money – people really want to be part of a herd.
They want to know that someone else has already bought the thing and LOVED IT. No one wants to be the guinea pig.
Most people don’t really want to be that one generous soul who gave the brand new freelancer or the brand new course creator a chance. They want a sure thing. A thing that someone else has already test-driven.Your testimonials are the MOST important thing on your sales page. No one wants to be your guinea pig! Here's how to get killer testimonials from your customers.Click To Tweet
When you’re selling a course or a service, testimonials are the most important thing on your sales page.
Yeah, yeah, the details on what’s actually included IN the thing and your amazing sales copy are super important, but people will not just take your word for it that your offering is the bees knees, especially when it’s a big investment for them.
People are protective of their hard-earned cash and they want to see that Those Other People have made the plunge first and found your offering to be a good investment.
So we’re going to talk about how to get some stellar testimonials for your course or services.
But first, let’s address the most common question I get about testimonials:
“What if no one has actually bought my offer yet?”
If this is a brand new course or service and you don’t have any testimonials for this specific offering yet, don’t despair!
Two words: Beta Testers.
Round up a few friends, a few superfans from your list or who follow you on social media, and send a personal note asking if they’d like to test drive your course or service for a substantial discount (50% off or more) or completely FREE (even better) in exchange for their feedback and a glowing testimonial. You can also round up testimonials from previous clients that you’ve done a very similar thing for.
So now let’s get to the paydirt. Here’s how to get a great testimonial.
1. The THREE key elements of a great testimonial
To be super effective, testimonials need three elements:
- BEFORE – What was the problem they had before?
- DURING – What was it like taking your course or working with you?
- AFTER – How is their life improved?
These do not need to be complete, individual sentences or even be in this chronological order. People just want to know 1) what kind of problems you solve, 2) how you solve them, and 3) what the payoff is like after that.
Here’s a testimonial from one of my lovely former clients:
Here are the elements:
1. Before working with me: “I was new to digital products and I had heard horror stories.” (he was scared!)
2. During working with me: “She met every deadline with ease, communicated fast and consistently, and over delivered on the design” (I’m a f’ing dream, you guys!)
3. After working with me: “I’ll never go anywhere else!” (another satisfied customer!)
Here’s another example from one of my clients:
This one still hits all three elements, but in a slightly more roundabout way, which is FINE!
She made Phonewise more accessible, better looking and more awesome. People who had seen the original couldn’t believe how much better the course looks now.
These two sentences tick off two items: #1 BEFORE and #3 AFTER. We’re hearing that it is so much more awesome now, implying that it was not nearly so awesome before.
She’s very talented, provides excellent value, and is a clear and honest communicator. You will love working with her!
And here’s our #2 DURING statement, telling people what they should expect when they work with me.
If every single one of your testimonials don’t tick every single one of these boxes, that’s OK! But shoot for this whenever possible.
2. How long should testimonials be?
This one is simple. No more than three or four lines TOPS, as in that many lines of text deep on your website when viewed on a desktop browser. That’s two or three longish sentences, or four or five very short sentences, or about 50 words. Less is more.
Why? Because if they’re not short and punchy, no one will read them.
When clients write testimonials, their tendency is to write a LOT of backstory and superfluous details about themselves. We’ll talk more about how to get short, concise testimonials in step #5, but if you already have some long ones, you’re going to have to edit them down.
Yes, it is OK to edit client testimonials! As long as you’re not changing the fundamentals of what they’re saying, or ADDING things they did not say, it is perfectly fine to edit client testimonials for length, grammar, or to reword things (lightly) to make what they’ve said easier to understand.
When you do that:
- Emphasize results
- If you can, address a common concern or fear
- Nix virtually everything else.
This is a real testimonial that someone wrote for one of my clients, who is an equestrian coach and trainer:
I have been riding horses most of my life. After taking a two year break from consistent lessons and jumping, I started riding with Katherin. This was the best decision I made for myself. I started taking private lessons once a week riding one of her horses she had in training. When lessoning with Katherin she kept in mind how rusty I was and did not set me loose to jump a whole course. I started cantering a single line with two ground poles and progressed to a whole course of ground poles. Katherin patiently guided me through the exercise with positive, informative feedback. This proactive instruction helped me avoid making mistakes. At the end of the lesson I came to the conclusion I had just completed a course without jumping a single jump. Even though I was not jumping, I was practicing all the same concepts needed to complete a jumping course. This exercise really sharpened my rusty brain and gave me confidence once I started jumping. Katherin’s logical, back to basics, solid training helped improve my riding. She is my go to trainer. She always has a vibrant, outgoing, energetic personality that adds some fun and spunk to each of my lessons.
Isn’t that lovely? So many juicy details and so much glowing praise! Unfortunately, it’s so long (204 words!) that no one will ever read it.
Here’s how I would edit this testimonial down. Notice that it still hits the BEFORE, DURING, and AFTER:
Katherin knew I was a rusty rider, so she patiently guided me through exercises with positive, informative feedback. This gave me the confidence I needed once I was ready to start jumping again. Her logical, solid training helped me to improve my riding – she is my go-to trainer!
- I edited out the personal details that weren’t necessary
- I edited out the superfluous or repetitive language
- I addressed a concern – rusty riders who are out of practice
- I focused on the results – confidence and improved skills
Short, sweet and gets the job done!
3. Include relevant titles!
In my business, where I work with OTHER online businesses, I usually attribute testimonials by name and their website, with a link.
– Lagertha Lothbrok // Kattegat.com
You can also use a professional title or a snippet of their life situation. For example, in a course that teaches professional skills, we might say:
– Lagertha Lothbrok // Director of Marketing, Kattegat Corporation
Or for a course that teaches household or family skills, we might say:
– Lagertha Lothbrok // Busy mom of two kids
This gets a little trickier If you’re in a field where clients expect confidentiality and they don’t want their testimonials attributed by name, but we still want to include as many specific details as we can so these people feel REAL. In these situations, we might say something like:
– Director of Marketing for a Fortune 500 company
– Professional life coach and author
– Busy mom of two kids in Chicago, Illinois
4. Whenever possible, include photos of your clients’ smiling faces.
Most sales pages include a LOT of information. Often way too much information, but that’s a conversation for a different post. The point is that, many times, I see testimonials that are nothing but text, and they get completely lost on your sales page.
Always, always, ALWAYS include a photo with your testimonials to set it apart visually from the rest of your content.
I prefer to crop mine to a circle of about 200 x 200 pixels.
The simplest thing to do here is snatch a photo from their website or social media profiles. Make sure you ask their permission to post their photo. You can also ask them to include their preferred headshot when they give you their testimonial.
5. Ok, but how do I actually ASK clients for testimonials?
I’m so glad you asked!
First, let me show you the wrong way:
Under no circumstances should you send your clients or course students an open-ended request for a testimonial!
At best, you will receive a meandering page full of nonsense. And at worst, it will feel like too much work and they just won’t do it.How do you ask your clients for testimonials + make sure they write something you can actually USE on your sales page? It's actually pretty simple - details here!Click To Tweet
The key to getting a great testimonial is to ask very specific guiding questions, keeping in mind those three essential elements that I described earlier.
This is the email I use to request testimonials from my clients:
It’s been so great working with you and I’d love to include your testimonial on my website!
Client testimonials help me connect with future clients just like you, so I can stay in business and keep the lights on. Truly, they are invaluable in keeping my business running, and I’d appreciate it so much if you could answer these questions for me.
(No need to write a novel. Who has time for that? A sentence or two for each of these answers is great!)
1. BEFORE: What was the struggle or business need that brought you to me?
2. DURING: What was it like to work with me?
3. AFTER: What results have you seen after our work together?
Easy peasy. Again, thanks so much!
I send this as an email, but you can also do it with a form on your website or a Google form, if that’s easier for you!
Note that I’m giving them very specific direction on what to include, and even telling them that each item should be one sentence long.
This isn’t just because I need these elements for a stellar testimonial. It also makes this process feel so much simpler for them, and they’re more likely to actually do it. You’re not micromanaging – it is helpful to your clients if you tell them exactly what to write!
So that’s the skinny on testimonials. Go ask your clients for some words of glowing praise!