Curious about whether you should work with a particular professional?
Instead of asking a friend or family member to give us the scoop on them, these days, we usually just check with the interwebs.
So when your potential client searches for reviews of your business, what will they find?
Testimonials from clients delighted with your service, hopefully!
When you take the time to gather testimonials that address the concerns of potential clients with affirmations from your past and current ones, you give yourself a head start on the conversation!
Always ask for testimonials. Sooner than you think.
You know that feeling when you have an awesome relationship with a client, and they become a huge part of your life?
You’re swapping work stories, sharing photos of your pets, sending each other singing telegrams – you’re besties.
(Or maybe they’re just really good clients. Whatever.)
Point is, it’s easy to think that they’ll be in your life forever. But in reality, there’s always a chance they’ll go back to their regular routine until they work with you again, and may be too busy to respond to emails and calls with their usual promptness.
That’s why you should ask them for a testimonial at the close of your project – not necessarily weeks or months later.
Ask them AFTER you’ve delivered the final work, of course, but make it part of your formal winding-things-up process. (Asking them before you’ve completely finished the project could make them feel like you’re taking their project hostage – and how could they attest to your awesomeness before you deliver, anyway?)
Perhaps at the end of a project you usually send a thank-you email reminding them that you’re available to answer any follow-up questions. That would be a perfect opportunity to mention how much you’d appreciate a quote or two!
If they say yes, make it easy
Depending on the type of business you run, you may want written testimonials and a photo, or even a video testimonial.
If your clients are media and tech-savvy with an online presence of their own, for example, a video testimonial could be a real asset. Otherwise, it isn’t essential.
Regardless of the format, though, make sure to give simple directions:
- How long should their testimonial be? (i.e. 3-4 sentences, a 30-second video, etc.)
- For video, do you want a file or a YouTube link? If a file is too large to send via email, do you recommend a free file transfer service, or use Dropbox or Google Drive?
- When do you need it by? Giving your client a deadline is helpful because if they want to help you, they know when to make room in their schedule. Make the deadline reasonable and forgivable – after all, they are doing you a favor – but a little direction can make their lives simpler.
If you’re asking for video, let them know if you will edit.
If they’re giving you a written testimonial, seek permission to edit for grammar, spelling, and clarity if needed. (And if they want final approval after you do, that’s totally okay.)
Best editing practices are to stay true to their voice and intent, and to send them a link to the testimonial when live so they can take a look if they want.
If you want them to give you a photo, ask them for a specific one if you can—i.e. a LinkedIn profile photo. That avoids having your client sending you a random photo that is an odd size, and takes the pressure off them to choose just the right one.
Help your testimonials tell a story
You’ve likely heard that in order to reach your ideal clients, you need to speak to them in their voice, with a clear understanding of their problems and concerns.
Getting great testimonials isn’t much different! But instead of addressing the fears and concerns of potential clients in your words, you want to address them using the words of your best clients.
Imagine a Q&A put together by your clients, before and after working with you.
Q: “Is the price worth it?”
A: “The finished product paid for itself in a few months and I’ll be using it for years.”
Now that’s an endorsement!
So, how do you get your clients to say all the right things?
In addition to giving clear directions when requesting a testimonial, give clear questions for your client to answer.
First, ask your client to describe the problem they came to you to solve.
“I came to [your business] because I wanted to grow an indoor garden in my city apartment, even though I’ve never been able to keep a houseplant alive for more than a month.”
Second, ask them how you solved that problem.
“[Your business] helped me choose plants that didn’t need a lot of maintenance, and told me exactly where in my apartment had the best type of light for each. They even texted me reminders of when to water, and when my African violet looked a bit droopy, they sent me a nutrient pack that perked it right up, free of charge.”
Okay, this made-up business is starting to sound kind of great. (RIP, our indoor ficus.)
But don’t just ask them those two questions: tailor your questions to the client.
This shouldn’t take a lot of your time, because the most satisfying clients to work with are often those you get to know the best.
Think back in the process to what their biggest anxieties were, and any compliments they gave you about things that surprised or delighted them.
Maybe you worked with someone who wanted an indoor garden, and they told you that whenever they went into a greenhouse with questions, they were treated like they were stupid and sent away with tools no one told them how to use. Or that your sense of humor meant that it was okay for them to admit they actually hate orchids.
That’s the stuff that makes up the STORY of how you worked together.
To pull it out of them, you can do a couple of things:
Ask them if there were any particular tools you used in the process that were especially helpful – and ask them why those tools were helpful. You can then offer examples that help bring out their story (i.e. your app for watering reminders, or your how-to-videos on garden tools).
You can also bring up a particular story or memory, and ask them to talk about it:
“Remember that time you told me you hated orchids? That was really funny. I’d love for you to share that story in your testimonial.”
It might feel a little awkward at first – who’s comfortable asking for compliments – but seriously satisfied clients and customers generally understand where you’re coming from!
Collect a variety of testimonials
When you tailor your testimonial requests to individual clients, you can make sure you have a variety of quotes that cover all of the things you do best, and all of the ways in which you do them.
Do you have a system in place to encourage your clients to rave about you?
Any “secret weapon” sorts of questions that always score stellar responses?
Let us know in the comments below!