The best customer testimonials will come from people who share authentic, credible stories reactively and proactively.
From our experience: There are two types of people who are sought out by others for testimonials (references and referrals).
1. The “resource librarians” who know a lot about a particular topic, company, product or service category and have insider information that others seek out. These people are extremely credible, but their personality type is more introverted and they tend not to proactively communicate what they know. They react when someone seeks them out and asks them for a recommendation or referral.
In the technology business, we called them “smart friends”, people that consumers went to to advice on what TV to get, what phone to get, what laptop to get.
Know this: These “smart friends” weren’t the “early adopters” who were on the bleeding edge, trying anything new. Recommendations from early adopters tend not to be credible to the majority of people who don’t want to take a risk by being first to buy or try something. Instead these smart friends had the equivalent of good “bedside manner”, meaning they understood the technical jargon and could translate that in a relevant way to a “regular person” who just wanted to know what laptop to buy. Most industries have these type of people.
2. The brand fans or vocal customer “evangelists” – These are the people who actively and regularly share what they like, along with what they don’t. These are the people on Twitter and who are most vocal on social media. They now have a microphone to get more visibility for their views.
You want customer testimonials from customers who are profitable. You want to attract more people like them.
Know this: In this age of social media that turbo charges word-of-mouth, it’s very important to identify and establish “brand fans” who proactively and reactively (when asked) share positive information and make recommendations and referrals.
Malcolm Gladwell’s book The Tipping Point described three personality types: Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople
- Connectors are people who have lots of varied connections to different types of people and act as human bridges to help others make connections and “cross-pollinate” information and ideas. They don’t get paid to do this. They just do this for free. It’s how they operate.
- Mavens are people who like to be seen as experts and help other people make informed decisions. They’re the “go to” people and “smart friends” and “experts” who people seek out.
- Salesmen are people who are persuasive in selling, inducing others’ to do or buy something. In social media, these “salesmen” (and women) do this for free. They’re like a free sales force if you can harness them to recommend and advocate your product, company or services.
TIP: These are the people you want as customers! These are the vocal people who are most likely to spread word-of-mouth, help you make connections and give you referrals. They’re the ones you want giving testimonials!
Real people, real words, real stories
It’s very easy to spot and negate “fake” or “canned” customer testimonials that have clearly been written by the ad agency or someone working at the company. So, when you are looking for customer testimonials, use the actual words that your customers use! Get them on video or quote them verbatim.
Who to ask to give customer testimonials?
1. People who are credible within your industry and their peer group
Those people are generally leaders of trade associations, larger companies, professors or elected officials.
2. People who genuinely are “brand fans” of your company, product and service
You do not want to recruit a customer to do a testimonial and then learn that behind your back they are not echoing what they said on your video or in the article they were quoted in that you’re using as a testimonial.
TIP: There are a lot of easy to use and inexpensive and free tools and services to monitor what people are saying online on places like Twitter, blogs and open forums. You should do some checking to see who are your “brand fans” online and recruit these people for testimonials.
Know this: If you’re asking a customer to do a testimonial for you, you should first check what they have said publicly about your company, products/services and your competitors. You also should check their reputation because you’ll be aligning your reputation with theirs.
Some easy ways to get customer testimonials
- Online forms – ask “what do you think about (company, products or services)? or “What do you tell people about (company, products or services)?”
- Customer satisfaction surveys
- LinkedIn makes asking for recommendations easy and those are posted with your profile. Know that if you ask for a recommendation, the other person may expect a reciprocal recommendation.
- Ask your customer service and support team
- Ask for customer stories on your website and Facebook company pages
- HARO – Help a Reporter Out – This is a free tool/service for reporters and people who want to get publicity. You can post a request.
Know this: You need to get someone’s written permission to use their name and company name in a customer testimonial. Many large companies have policies that don’t allow their employees to give testimonials.