Step-by-Step Method for Getting Testimonials

Well, this seems to be a Jeanne Jennings inspired week for me. Here’s another great piece of wisdom I got from one of her columns for ClickZ–a straightforward approach to getting good testimonials to use on your web, in your e-mail campaign, and in other communication efforts. (

The customer testimonial is the classic example of word-of-mouth marketing. While we all know testimonials can be beneficial to have, I have worked more than a few projects where we wanted to use them but had no good material to work with.

Well, no more excuses! This process couldn’t be more straightforward.

Jeanne Jennings’ Tried-and-True Method for Getting Great Testimonials

To secure benefit-oriented testimonials from customers, set the stage and structure the discussion.

  1. Determine the key benefits or selling points to focus on. What are your product’s unique selling points? Which types of companies are the best candidates for your service? What problems does your product solve for customers? What are the top reasons people buy from you rather than from a competitor? What key objections do you have to overcome, and how do you address them, to make the sale?By identifying these benefits and target audiences, you have the basis for the testimonials you need to successfully market your product or service.
  2. Identify clients in these target audiences who recognize these benefits. Obviously you want to talk to customers who like you. But past that, be a little picky. If you’re targeting certain industries, identify customers who would be willing to share their experiences. If your message is cost savings, identify a company that tremendously reduced expenditures by using your product.For each key benefit or selling point, identify one to three companies as role models. Rather than thinking about who might be willing to give you a testimonial, focus on which clients can provide the testimonials that best match your marketing message.
  3. Set up a time to speak with the client. Some marketers are uncomfortable speaking directly with clients. Get over it. The only way you’ll get the testimonial you want is to have a conversation. It’s not as hard as it sounds. Have a set list of open-ended questions to ask (most beginning with “how” or “why”; they shouldn’t be answerable with a “yes” or “no”); these should be leading questions that help focus the reader on the benefit or key selling point you want them to discuss.
  4. Transcribe the session. Transcription isn’t expensive. Just tape your discussion with the client, then have it typed. Your goal is to create great quotes; it’s easier to do this if you can see it in writing. Trying to work directly from a tape or from memory or notes is much more difficult.
  5. Massage the conversation into quotes. Sometimes a customer says a phrase that’s perfect — it’s effective at summing up the key point you wanted to make. That’s great. Other times, fragments of the perfect quote are scattered throughout a conversation. This is where the massaging comes in. Take a look at what was said and figure out the best way to condense it, keeping the intent, into a succinct sound bite that represents a benefit or key point.
  6. Get the approval. Always run the final testimonial past the customer for approval. Be sure to include the person’s name, title, and company so you can be sure you have these exactly correct. Your legal department should provide some boilerplate language for the agreement, which gives your organization permission to use the quote as you wish. This legal language must be conversational in tone, so your clients aren’t scared to sign it, and should be as short as possible. The legal document should include the quote, attribution, and legal language. You’ll want your customers to sign the bottom to signal their approval.

Invest the time it takes to follow these steps and you will have great material that will transform your messages from corporate-speak to people-speak. Very powerful.