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They’re the lifeblood of small and big businesses alike.

But unlike your Great Aunt Beryl’s vintage teapot collection, they don’t exist simply for the sake of admiration.

They need to be put to work.

Here’s why you need them, how (and when) to ask for them, and some of the most effective ways to use them.


Why they matter

We all get off on a good word from a happy customer.

But the beauty of a great testimonial is that it doesn’t just make you feel good, it makes your potential customers feel good too.

Think about it: how many times have you sat on the fence about a particular service provider or business, only to be tipped over the line by a well-placed glowing review?

More than once I’m guessing.

Now I’m not saying we’re all sheep – far from it.

But as much as we like to be responsible for making our own decisions, we look to other consumers and users to help us make purchasing decisions all the time.

Whether we’re considering eating at a new restaurant, buying workout clothes or hiring a plumber, we look for social proof that the decision we’re contemplating is a good one.

Knowing other people have made the same decision before us (and gotten great results) makes us feel safe, reassured and even excited about what we’re about to buy, hire, use or do.

It also makes us feel like we’re part of a community or, better yet, a group of people in the know. Although there’s nothing attractive about a smug, self-satisfied early adopter, we do like it when we catch onto something really cool, really early on.

So when it comes to converting interested customers into committed customers, testimonials are the final, gentle nudge you need to move them from consideration to conversion.


When to ask for them

Remember being told by your parents that ‘there’s a time and a place for everything’?

Although that usually corresponded to inappropriate behaviour in public places (and the admonishment that came along with it), it’s equally applicable to testimonials.

Ask too early and you’ll annoy or confuse people.

But ask too late and they either can’t be bothered, or have moved on.

The trick is to ask them when they’re so happy/relieved/excited about what you’ve done, delivered or produced that they can’t help but gush about it.

For some businesses, that point comes when the job’s about to, or has just finished (this is particularly appropriate when the customer or client has been able to watch the job progress from nothing to a sensational something).

For other businesses, it’s that sweet spot when a customer has received their goodies and enough time has passed for them to enjoy and admire them, but not so much that they’ve gotten bored with or apathetic about them.

To say it’s a delicate balancing act would be an underestimation.

Working out your timing is hard. But it’s totally worth it in the end, so persevere until your yeses outnumber your nos.


How to ask for them

Getting what you want often comes down to how you ask for it.

Make a demand and people turn off pretty bloody quickly.

Ask nicely and things are entirely different.

So, start by couching your request as a favour (and use that exact word).


Being asked for a favour reminds us that we’re being asked to do something we don’t have to do. Rather, we’re being asked to choose to do something to help someone out.

For most people, taking action under these circumstances feels more like a positive choice than an obligation. This is particularly so when genuine appreciation is expressed, along with the benefits for the party doing the asking.

You also need to make it easy for people to help you out.

So, make it as simple, quick and stress free as possible.

For me, that means sending my clients an email with a ‘fill in the gaps’ template. It looks like this:

‘I hired Shauna to help with my [insert project details here] because I [insert reason for needing a copywriter here – e.g. don’t have time to write on top of running a business].

Working with her was [insert adjective – easy/fun/exciting/stress-free etc] and I feel fantastic about the finished product because [insert how you feel now the job’s done – it sounds just like me and sends the perfect message to my dream clients].

I’d encourage other business owners to work with her because [insert reasons].’

Why does it work?

It’s quick, it’s easy and it removes any performance anxiety my clients might feel about having to write something for me. It’s also an appropriate format for the kind of business I’m running.

If your business is more visually inclined, you might ask people to tag you on Facebook or Instagram wearing, eating or using your stuff. Or you might send a link to a super quick, super easy survey. But whatever you do, remember they’re doing you a favour, so keep it quick and keep it simple.


How to use them

The beauty of a great testimonial lies in its versatility. As at home on your website as in your proposals and promotional material, their persuasive power can pack a punch across your entire business.

However, they’re a complementary marketing tool, so rather than making them prove a point on their own, use them to back up the assertions and statements you’re making about your business.

So rather than plopping them down on a single page on your website and forgetting about them, insert them on a slider on your home page, showcase them in break-out boxes on your printed material and splash them through your social media.

Most importantly, connect them to your marketing material in a meaningful way.

A testimonial about how easy your products are to use won’t support the assertion that your delivery times are the best in the city, so make sure you attach like testimonials with like statements and assertions.

They’re also a gold mine of useful intelligence you can use to write your marketing copy.

As consumers, we love to see our thoughts and opinions reflected back to us, so don’t be afraid to pepper your copy with the words and statements your customers use to describe your products, services or processes. Statements made by your dream customers are also statements for your dream customers, and might be just what they need to hear in order to commit to choosing you.

At the end of the day, we all want to feel like we’re making good purchasing decisions.

Testimonials are just one of the ways you can make your customers feel like choosing you is the right thing to do.