You’ll need multiple testimonials to get the overall impact you need.

You don’t want your testimonials to all sound the same, so it’s best to plan out an entire set of them all at once.

Sure, customer testimonials are everywhere . . . but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t use them on your web site or in other marketing communications. Do testimonials right and they still can help lift your product or service above your competitors.

And that means doing certain things before you ever ask someone to give their opinion of your product (we’ll say product only from here on, but the advice applies equally to services).

Your planning should be guided by a brand statement for your product. Make it as concise as possible: just a paragraph or two describing who your product is intended for, the one or two primary benefits that it provides, and the ultimate desired result that it produces or helps to produce.

This brand statement should be supported by bullet points, some of which “prove” the claims made in the statement, and others that briefly explain additional, less-important benefits of the product. Use this brand statement to define the focus of each testimonial you’d like to have.

Testimonial #1 should focus on one of your product’s primary benefits, and #2 should emphasize a different primary benefit.

Additional testimonials can focus on the support points in your brand statement, but should also refer (at least briefly) to one of your primary benefits.  Focusing like this helps in two ways:

  • First, it makes it much easier to ask for and receive a testimonial from your customer.  “Pat, I appreciate your business, and I was hoping you could give me a testimonial about [benefit #1] for our marketing materials” is a specific request that your customer can respond to fairly easily.  On the other hand, “Pat, could you give me a testimonial?” is too broad.  Don’t make Pat (or anyone) figure out what to focus on when crafting their testimonial.
  • Second, because the focus ensures that the testimonial will be about something, it’s more likely that the testimonial will have a real impact on the reader.
  • Finally, it also ensures each testimonial will be different enough to be worth reading.
  • Important: Don’t tell your customer exactly what to say. Assume they are capable of some original thought, and let them express their thoughts in their own words. No matter how good an original testimonial is, it almost always needs at least minor editing.

Key question, however: If your customer says, “Oh, I’m too busy . . . just write up something for me, e-mail it to me and I’ll let you know if it’s OK to use,” are you really getting a valid testimonial from that customer?