We’ve discussed the need for testimonials that focus on the primary benefit of your product or service.  Remember that you also need testimonials about your product’s less prominent benefits … just as the star of a show needs a supporting cast, and vice-versa.

Once you feel confident that your brand statement is true to both your audience research and your product’s benefits, it’s time to start asking for testimonials. How you go about asking will make all the difference. Here are three ways to ensure you get it right:

1) Do you have one or a few customers whose opinion(s) are likely to have a strong impact on other customers or prospects? If so, work first on getting this customer(s) to discuss a primary benefit of your product in his/her testimonial. Getting this high-profile endorsement early can help you persuade other (usually smaller) customers to give their testimonials, which could help you build a large collection of testimonials sooner.

Useful Tip:

If you find out that Ms. Big was or is less impressed with your company than you had hoped, stop asking her for a testimonial.

Instead, try to address her concerns ASAP, so that when you do finally ask for the testimonial, you’ll be in a stronger position.

2) Are you sure your product will get a positive review from each of the customers you plan to ask? Like a job seeker hoping for positive recommendations from former employers or co-workers, this is not the place to make casual assumptions. Before you ask for a testimonial, “put out some feelers” to try to confirm your likelihood of getting a strong thumbs up.

In a B2B setting your best bet is to talk to the assistant of “Ms. Big,” the well known client from whom you’d like a testimonial. Ask her assistant to ask Ms. Big if she is willing to give a testimonial about your company or product. And be sure to use the tip in the gray box at right.

3) Ask your customer in writing for their testimonial: Yes, it’s fine to use a phone call to make the initial ask for the endorsement. Just remember, everyone is busy, and you are asking for a favor, so follow up with an e-mail to make it as easy as possible for your customer. If you don’t, chances are you won’t even get a testimonial.

Besides, you want the customer to focus on a specific benefit of your product in his/her testimonial, so you need to reinforce that point in writing.Your e-mail should:

Start by thanking the customer for her willingness to help build your business (that’s literally what they are doing).

  • Explain that this testimonial can also help build her business as you plan to feature it prominently on the following marketing communications (list them). Also very important: emphasize that you will show the testimonial to the customer before you use it, so she can have final-edit privileges. Do this even if the customer doesn’t ask you to: it will increase her trust in you.
  • Ask that she begin her testimonial by focusing on the benefit(s) you specify. Don’t tell the customer what to say (unless asked!), just ask him to write as factually as possible about how that benefit(s) helped his or her organization achieve a key goal. If you can, also have the customer explain why that goal is (or was) so important to her or to the organization.
  • If it’s a B2B testimonial, ask the customer to confirm her current job title, so you can use it in your marketing pieces. If it’s a personal (non-B2B) testimonial, confirm the customer’s city and state of residence, and ask for permission to feature both her first and last name.
  • Be sure to hand-write a thank you note to the customer after you receive his/her final OK on the text of the testimonial. They deserve this.

These are the best practices that came to mind first when I started thinking about how to ask for a testimonial. I’m sure there are many others which have been or are being used successfully today. Please log in and share any that you know of or, better yet, have used.