7 Secrets to Powerful Customer Testimonials

Andrew Hindes
Andrew Hindes

As a PR professional you’re probably aware that client testimonials are an extremely powerful marketing tool. The reason they can be so effective is simple: While it’s fine for a business to tell customers and prospects how great its products or services are, it’s much more persuasive when people who have used those products or services sing the company’s praises.

Testimonials can be used—and reused—in all kinds of publicity and marketing materials, from press kits to websites to brochures to annual reports.

All testimonials are not created equal, however. Here are seven tips for getting the most compelling customer endorsements.

1. Write them yourself. A client who has had a positive experience with your company may be happy to provide you with a testimonial—but that doesn’t mean he or she actually will. If the client is a busy company executive, writing a laudatory quote will not be at the top their to-do list.

Writing doesn’t come easily to many people and self-consciousness about their writing skills may keep them from delivering a testimonial.

Rather than wait until it becomes a potentially awkward situation, offer to draft a quote that the client can edit or approve.

2. Tell a story. An effective testimonial is not simply a breathless string of superlatives. Instead, it should be a brief narrative that describes the customer’s experience with your organization.

Think of it as a two- or three-sentence case study that specifies what product or service they used, why they used it, and how it benefited them.

3. Show how you solved the client’s problem. Consumers and businesses are more motivated to spend money when they face a challenge.

If your business is one that offers solutions—whether it’s fixing leaky roofs or perking up sluggish sales through publicity campaigns—the testimonial should describe the problem and how you solved it.

To wit, “We had hired three other roofers to stop the leak in our living room with no success before a friend finally recommended calling ABC Roofing. They showed up when they said they would, were courteous and professional, and our roof has been water-tight ever since. I highly recommend ABC Roofing.”

4. Include a short, strong standalone phrase. In certain situations, a short blurb is all you need or make room for. Make sure the testimonial includes at least one punchy phrase—such as the last line in the preceding example—that you can excerpt and use on its own.

5. Avoid industry-specific jargon and corporate-speak. This is a good rule of thumb for all PR and marketing writing, but it’s particularly important for testimonials.

Testimonials are most effective when they feel heartfelt and sincere, which is hard to do when you’re throwing around the latest MBA buzzwords.

What’s more, if a company serves customers in more than one industry, writing in plain English will make it relatable to a broader audience.

6. Include a full attribution whenever possible. I don’t know about you, but when I see a testimonial attributed to “Steve S., Tempe, Arizona” my BS detector goes off. It’s much more convincing when the person’s whole name, title and company name are listed.

In certain instances, however, sensitivity surrounding a company’s services (plastic surgery or restaurant extermination, for instance) may make it difficult to elicit anything but anonymous customer testimonials.

Some companies have policies against employees endorsing vendors.

7. Make an effort to write in the client’s voice. When drafting a testimonial to be attributed to a customer, try to write it as closely as possible to the way he or she would say it.

To do this, first think about his or her temperament and speaking style. Is the person effusive and warm or formal and reserved?

Is the person highly educated and eloquent or more down to earth and plainspoken? Matching the client’s voice serves two purposes. It will make him or her feel more comfortable approving the quote you’ve written if the person can picture herself saying it.

Also, it will lend variety to the testimonials so they don’t sound as if they were all written by the same person—even if they were. PRN


Andrew Hindes is president of L.A.-based copywriting and training firm The In-House Writer, which provides writing workshops for public relations firms and corporate communications departments. He can be reached at andrew@theinhousewriter.com. You can follow him on Twitter @inhousewriter.

This article appeared in the June 24 issue of PR News. Subscribe to PR News today to receive weekly comprehensive coverage of the most fundamental PR topics from visual storytelling to crisis management to media training.