How to Solicit Testimonials Without Being Annoying

I mentioned yesterday how powerful customer testimonials can be as a method of establishing Web site trust and credibility. But how do you ask for them without sounding needy, annoying or flat out driving people away? The truth is, it’s really not that hard. Happy people like sharing their experiences. They like being part of something exciting and cool. Sometimes they just need to be reminded to say something. We’re the ones that typically make it awkward.

Customer testimonials help establish trust because they come from someone who has direct experience with your product. Thanks to the heavy hands of marketers, consumers place more trust in testimonials than they do in most other marketing messages. They believe that the average person is “like them” and isn’t offering the recommendation with an ulterior motive, which is what makes them incredibly powerful. Asking your customers to submit a testimonial to your Web site doesn’t have to be a painful process. In fact, you should be working several natural ways into everyday business.

  • Company Emailings: Chances are you have some kind of an email list developed. You may have a monthly newsletter that you send out, you require an email address for purchases, or you simply offer customers an opportunity to sign up for site alerts via email. However you are using those email addresses, create a natural way to solicit customer testimonials from inside company emailings. You never want to spam your customers, but if you’re sending a newsletter to someone who opted in to it, ask them to rate your company. Ask them what they like about you. Ask how their latest purchase went. Create a snippet at the bottom of your mailing that encourages and makes it easy for a customer to comment on your company. People want to talk to the companies they love. Give them that chance.
  • Order Confirmations/Follow Ups: When a customer purchases something from your Web site, you probably send them an order confirmation to let them know it’s been processed and that you appreciate their business. Seven to 14 days after that confirmation goes out, send them another email to follow up (there are auto responders that can help with this). Ask them how their experience was and whether or not they’d tell their friends about you. If the information they provide is valuable, ask them for permission to use it on your site to encourage other customers to make the same purchasing decision they did. Maybe even ask for a photo so that you can use to make their testimonial seem more real and credible.
  • Create an Event Around It: Not so long ago, Duct Tape Marketing’s John Jantsch had the idea to create an entire event around gathering testimonials. The idea was to invite your best or most enthused customers in for a networking happy hour and, while they are there, to take photos, videos and gather feedback that you can use later. It’s a fun, easy way to bring happy people into your store and get them talking to you and about you. It’s even easier to put together now thanks to the frequency of tweetups and meetups. Often, people are already meeting up on their own. Invite them to do it with you and throw a party!
  • Offer incentives at checkout: We’ve all been there – you purchased a shirt you’re really jazzed about and the sales girl tells you if you call this number and answer a few questions, you’ll be submitted into a drawing. Only you never call. No one does. Those don’t work because as soon as you leave the store, you’ve already moved on and forgot about the offer. Instead, hand them the comment card right at checkout. Have it pre-populated with questions to guide good, specific testimonials, and tell them they’ll receive a discount or special gift if they fill it out before leaving today. It’s a lot harder for someone to say no when you’re staring them in the face and their endorphins are flowing from a recent buying spree.
  • Challenge them to create their own: We’re living in the era of user-generated content, right? Hold a contest asking your customers to submit the best company testimonial they can — challenging them to use video, images, audio, whatever they can think of.  Not only will you get some incredible testimonials to use on your site, you’re also engaging the people who already love you and showing new customers how beloved you are in the community. You’re creating buzz around your brand.

When someone leaves a testimonial, thank them. Let them know how much it means to you that they’re open to helping your business grow. And always get their permission before using it on your site or in your company literature. Just because they said it to you, doesn’t mean they’re okay with having their name tied to your site. It’s always better to ask than assume.

When you get the testimonials, edit them if necessary, but don’t rewrite them. People can tell when testimonials are using real language or if they’ve been tweaked and manufactured by a marketing executive. Let customers use their own language…even if they’re not always the most eloquent when they do so.

Remember, asking for a customer testimonial doesn’t have to be taboo or a burden to them. People like talking about the companies they love. Make getting feedback part of your daily business life and encourage your customers to speak up about you. Chances are they’re already talking about you in places like Twitter and in blogs, anyway. Attract new customers by showing them how happy you’re current ones already are. Who wouldn’t want to join that party?

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Lisa Barone Lisa Barone is Vice President of Strategy at Overit, an Albany Web design and development firm where she serves on the senior staff overseeing the company’s marketing consulting, social media, and content divisions.

25 Reactions
  1. Lisa, another great article. I love the “wine and dine” idea to get testimonials.

  2. Really good ideas Lisa. I think it’s really important to make sure the process is easy, quick and painless. Nothing deters people more than being asked to give opinions only to find out it’s a 5 page process.

  3. The flip side to gaining testimonials is that you will also discover areas of improvement. If you ask enough people how they liked their experience soon enough you’ll get an honest soul that will point out something they weren’t so excited about. Of course you’re not going to publish this info, but use the feedback to improve. Then you’ll get even more positive testimonials.

  4. Good advice Lisa!

    I think the important point about this is to be proactive. Too many small business owners and independent professionals simply passively wait for their happy clients to say something nice about them.

    Go ahead and put a simple, quick, easy and painless process in place (as Amanda advises).

    One other thing to consider is that when you get it set up, you can leverage the system to generate referrals as well. It can be as easy as making it a basic expectation of doing business with you… “Hey, we’re excited to be working with you to help you with your challenges. And you’re going to be so pleased with the work we do that we’ll expect to earn a testimonial and an introduction to a couple of your contacts.”

    Plus, that will raise the bar on providing your product/service.

    Thanks for the simple, but powerful small business advice.

    All my Best!

  5. Shirley @ Solo Business Marketing

    This is a great, timeless topic.

    I learned in 1996 that if I waited for someone to write a testimonial that I’d be waiting for a long time, not because it wasn’t deserved but because the writer often needs support.

    My method is to ask for a testimonial and to send two or three pre-written paragraphs that focus around our interaction during the project.

    I also encourage the client to edit the text in whatever manner he/she wishes, which is rarely done.

    The client stops stressing about how to word the testimonial, and I get the agreed-upon feedback.

  6. Lisa, this is so good. I have at least 3 customers who struggle with this on an ongoing basis and I’ve said it should not be so hard. Your piece gives me something to help them wrap their hands around it. Thanks. I’ve pointed them to this link. Lots of practical ideas.

  7. Me. I don’t want to. LOL! 😀

    Just kidding Lisa! You know what I love the way you wrote this article. I was learning and enjoying while reading it. Asking for testimonials or even comments on your blog post is quiet an “oh-oh, kinda” task for me. And this post of yours just lifted up that spirit and says “Hey, it’s not that hard!” So, thanks a lot! 😉

  8. Martin Lindeskog


    Great tips! This will be a good list to go through at the kick-off of a new business venture that I am involved in. We want to have fun and interactive testimonials. I like John Jantsch’s meetup event idea.

  9. An excellent read! Wonderful!

  10. Lisa, a thought just came to me related to that BakerTweet item I mentioned a while back. All of these point of sales places could create a Twitter connection (with a device like BakerTweet) that a consumer could vote, on the spot at POS, and click Tweet and send a message to that Retail site’s Twitter profile with some relevant result.

    If that’s too much, then they could just have a device that a customer could vote and be entered on the spot without having to check the customer checkboxes on a card and fill in their name. Lots of great possibilities at the point of sale if done right.

  11. RedHotFranchises

    Testimonials are often seen in most Business sites today especially in those “Get Rich Quick” Schemes and Pyramid Schemes, testimonials that were likely to have come from the same organization. Here’s a list of sketchy testimonials from Matt Cutts.

  12. I’ve read it somewhere but I forgot that Web 2.0 is really about user generated content. Then, your last tip just perfectly fit the era we are in right now. What do you think, Lisa?

  13. Really helpful tips Lisa. This task is really challenging. As we all know, time is very precious for them so we just have to make sure we’ll not be wasting their precious time.

  14. When a client says something nice; I ask them if I could use it as a testimonial. I say that I’ll write the draft for you and you can then fix it up.

    I usually get those back.

  15. Great point Robert. Feedback for improvement is golden.

  16. I use an online to to gather my customers’ testimonials. They automatically ask my clients for testimonials and they keep them up-to-date. You can find more info at :


  17. Great tips. I especially like the tips about following up after purchase. Thanks for sharing ideas on these techniques.