And make them work hard for your business
Hearing that a fellow freelancer or business owner doesn’t have any reviews always takes me by surprise. Even though customers are coming and going, they neglect to ask for feedback which means missing out on useful insights regarding their business.
If you’re sitting on the fence when it comes to asking for reviews, I’m here to tell you that it’s time to hop off that perch and join us review-collecting folk.
Testimonials let your clients share their first-hand experiences of your business. It can start a conversation about what they like and what needs improving. Plus, reviews are a great trust building tool when used in your marketing plan. They can encourage new people to look you up.
So, there are lots of big, juicy benefits to getting testimonials. But how exactly do you ask for them? And who should you ask?
As someone who is utterly shameless when it comes to requesting testimonials, I’ll offer up my thoughts on:
- Overcoming apprehension
- Which clients to get testimonials from
- How to ask for a review
- How to make the most of the feedback you get.
You also have the opportunity to download and read the testimonial request email I send to my clients. (Which, I think, has the best email subject line I’ve ever written.)
Dealing with nerves
Not everyone feels comfortable asking for feedback. Potentially getting negative comments and the worry you’re taking up people’s precious time, are reasons for feeling apprehensive. But I reckon it’s possible to overcome these fears.
If you’re nervous someone will say something bad, I suggest taking cues from any email exchanges or calls you’ve had. What language is your client using when they correspond with you? Does it sound positive? These can be great ways to get a sense of how a client feels about your business and service.
Don’t worry if your client does discuss any experiences of hurdles and bumps. Honest reviews are useful to you. Hearing about any challenges is an opportunity to follow up and ask more questions, which helps you learn and grow.
If you are worried about negative feedback, then think about where you ask your client to post their review. You don’t have to ask them to post straight to Google. And LinkedIn has an option to review testimonials before they go live. It’s perfectly fine to conduct it all over email so you can read the review and follow up with anything you’re unsure about before posting.
Note: I’m not condoning the coaching of clients so they say what you want them to. And I definitely don’t believe you should edit and change what they’re saying. That defeats the point. But if you’re feeling jittery I think it’s acceptable that you have the opportunity to read a review before it goes live.
In terms of the fear of taking up people’s time, try and shift your thinking to, “requesting a testimonial is just part of my process.” You can let clients know right from the start that project end is when work is signed off, invoice paid and testimonial request sent. That way they’ll expect it from the outset. I’ll chat a bit more about this later in the article.
Who should you ask for a testimonial?
Anyone you’re on good terms with. Past clients, former work colleagues, previous managers and bosses, people you’ve collaborated with. All of these people can say something about your work ethic and character at the very least.
I also think it’s important to speak to clients even if you know they’ve had a shitty experience. This is your chance to learn something about your business and address issues.
When I worked in house for a commerce store, we had a ‘please leave us a review’ request go out automatically. Honestly, the ones where something went wrong or someone wasn’t happy were more interesting than the ones that said the sun shone out of our arses.
This is because these testimonials gave us something to think about. And something to work on. And identified pain points. So, don’t shy away from asking for reviews from clients you know haven’t have the perfect experience. Just make sure you take the time to listen to, learn from and address their concerns.
When to send a testimonial request
Requests are usually best sent at the very end of a project or transaction. When all of the details have been wrapped up and final payments made. That said, if during your project, transaction or service someone offers up some nuggets of loveliness on a call or in an email, ask if you can use them.
I’ve done this during my last couple of projects. I had clients who we’re saying some really wonderful things about how the copy was making them feel or how they felt the service was going. But these were “off record” sent in back and forth email exchanges, mid-project.
It seemed a shame to let them go to waste. So, I started asking people, “Hey, I love what you said, do you mind if I stick this in a graphic and use it anonymously in my marketing?” They always say “yes.” Make the most of the praise you get.
Asking for reviews
There’s no space for modesty or shyness when it comes to asking for reviews. You’ve just got to take the bull by the horns and do it. If you are feeling a bit awkward, think about it this way: you earned it.
Getting to the point where you’ve completed a transaction or finished a project means you’ve done your job. All the planning, hours and management time you’ve put into this means your process has worked.
You’re at the end.
You have earned the right to ask for a review to understand how an outsider of your business found it all.
So how do you approach asking for a review? Well, I can only speak from my experience, but my method has two steps.
The first is to send a really casual email saying, “Hey [NAME], now we’re at the end of the project I wondered if you’d be up for giving me a review? I’ll use it on my website and in my marketing.”
I like to send this ahead of the official request, because it gives people a chance to opt out if they don’t want to do one.
Assuming they say, “yes” I then send them my templated email. This includes fill-in-the-blanks guidance for writing a testimonial, as well as links to where I want them to leave their review.
You can see the exact message I send out by signing up to my email list. Hell, you can even use it as inspiration for your own testimonial request email.
Think about where you want the review to go
Google, LinkedIn, your website, community profiles — there’s heaps of places where clients can leave a review. If there’s somewhere specific you want clients to leave a review, point them in that direction.
Until recently I only wanted testimonials for my website. To do this, I asked people to email me their review or complete a quick form and I’d mush their responses together.
My focus has changed though. I’m trying to do a better job of optimising my site and raising my profile on Google, so I want all reviews to go to Google My Business (GMB). The review link included in my email goes straight to my GMB page, making it as easy as possible for people to leave a review. Just like you, your clients are busy. Do what you can to make the process as smooth as possible.
Thank your client for their kind words
Someone has taken time out of their day to write you a review that helps your business. Acknowledge this with a quick thank you. Manners go a long way, so a simple message or call is often appreciated .
Using your testimonials to help your business
You’ve gone through all the trouble of getting hold of testimonials, so now you need to put them to work.
Reviews are only useful if other people see them. There are a couple of places I make sure I put my testimonials to maximise their value.
This is the first place I put them. Whether the review has been left on Google, LinkedIn or emailed to me, I take the copy and add it to my testimonials page. I’ll also try including them on relevant service pages. For example, if their review is about website copy, I’ll might put their testimonial on my website content writing page.
Share your wins and kind words on social media by peppering them among your other helpful content. As social is a visual medium, choose a short soundbite from the review and create a quick graphic using Canva. A sentence is usually enough.
The good thing about picking soundbites from longer reviews is that you can break them up and use different parts of the review for different posts, to demonstrate a different skill you have each time. So it’s a big help in terms of the never-ending battle of creating enough content for social media. One review could give you two or three separate posts.
Put your client’s language into your copy
Posting reviews in those key places is the first way testimonials help my business. The other is what they tell me about the words and language customers use when speaking about me and my business.
If you write your own copy for your business then start building up a client language document. From your reviews, pick out all the adjectives and phrases that your clients use to describe you, your business, your service, the worries and fears they had before finding you and how they felt afterwards. Thread these phrases into your marketing copy, because these are the words that will resonate with your audience.
Start requesting your reviews
Hopefully I’ve made a compelling case for why testimonials are so important to your business and given you enough tips so you can start requesting reviews.
Now is as good a time as any to get the ball rolling. Is there a past client, colleague or someone you collaborated with that you can contact today? Drop them a line. The worst they can do is say no. Or they could be over the moon to hear from you and help give your business a leg up.