Gathering testimonials may seem intimidating, but it doesn’t have to be.
(If you're not sold yet on the idea that you need testimonials, take a look at my post Why Use Testimonials on Your Website? for some compelling data.)
When you ask a customer for a testimonial, you’re proving that his or her opinion matters to you, which can go a long way toward building a lasting relationship.
Collecting testimonials not only impacts your future business, but also affects your relationship with your current customers.
It's therefore important to think about how you request them, to improve how effective your request will be and how it will be perceived by your customers.
How to Get Testimonials, Delight Current Customers, and Attract New Ones
1. Use an Online Form
In our experience, the simplest way to collect testimonials is with an easy-to-use form on your website.
We often design websites with the testimonials page in the main menu, frequently with a “Submit a Testimonial” page as a sub-menu item.
You can also place a submission form on the main testimonials page, if your have a smaller number of testimonials. This may increase the form submissions you receive (because fewer steps are involved), and it also gives people examples to refer to as they write.
There are several great WordPress plugins that manage testimonials. We often use IQ Testimonials on WordPress websites; it will notify you when a new testimonial is submitted, allow you to approve them before publication, control how they are displayed, insert short codes to display groups of testimonials, and more.
What fields should you include in this form?
Keep it simple, and just ask for their name, comment, and possibly location, if that's relevant to your business.
You may want to request but not display contact information, so you can thank or reward them for their time and effort. If the plugin you're using allows photo or video uploads, by all means, enable that option.
2. Be Personal
The form is important, but it's just logistics – you still need to reach out to people.
Testimonials are a prime example of quality over quantity. Start by contacting specific customers who you know have had a good experience, either with your product/service or with your customer service team. Remember, you don’t need hundreds of testimonials – just 5-10 great ones will do the trick.
These emails should be highly personalized, not a blanket email blast to your customer list. If the customer worked with a particular staff member, send the email from that person’s account. Use the customer’s name, and wherever possible, mention their recent interaction with you.
3. Make It Easy
You’re more likely to get results if you make your request specific and easy. Keep the instructions basic and give people a simple path to fulfill your request, such as “just respond to this email,” or “click here to use our 3-question online form.”
Let people know that you’re asking for a short (“just a few sentences is fine!”), honest description of their experience, in their own words. You can even include a few testimonials in the email, or link them to the Testimonials page so they can see examples.
Basically, giving them examples is using social proof to build more social proof – your customers will be reassured when they see that other people have left testimonials, and in turn, these testimonials will encourage new visitors to take action and become customers themselves.
I recently left two product reviews for Loft after receiving an email from them along the lines of “Hey, are you enjoying that sweater and pair of shorts you bought last week? Leave a review and we’ll enter you to win a $500 gift card. We’ll even double your chances to win if you include a photo or video!”
Needless to say, it worked.
Incentives like gift cards are great, but they aren’t in the budget for every business. Sometimes, just seeing your name and opinion featured online can be incentive enough, so consider telling people where you’ll be publishing and sharing the testimonials.
5. Mine Social Media
Many people take to their favorite social media platforms to share their opinions about the products and businesses they like.
These comments are public and were meant to be shared, so it’s fine to use them as long as you’re clear about where they came from. For example, a simple “ – John S., via Facebook” after the testimonial gives readers context. For those of you concerned about duplicate content issues, I'll refer you to Google's Matt Cutts.
You can even embed tweets and certain other social media shares on website pages, which increases your reach by allowing more people to interact with the original post and share it through their profiles.
As long as we're talking about social media, you can include a review app on your Facebook business page to collect testimonials, which can then be used on your website and shared elsewhere. (Slightly unrelated, but helpful: you can also add a Facebook comments box to your blog posts to link the two)
If you receive reviews through consumer review sites, follow the same guidelines for social media - if you choose to include them on your website, be sure to attribute them to the original source.