This article was originally published by Forbes.
Like many entrepreneurs, I rely heavily on word of mouth and strong references to get new clients for my business. Positive client feedback helps demonstrate credibility and strong results.
While it’d be great if all of my clients shared glowing, perfectly crafted Yelp-style reviews unprompted, it’s not exactly the norm. Instead, if a client has had a positive experience, it’s usually my responsibility to request a testimonial.
Below are three steps to politely ask for testimonials along with the template emails I use to make it easy.
1. Offer to Draft It for Them or Provide a Framework
If my client has said nice things, I ask, “Would it be helpful if I jot down a few of the things I heard you share?” I have never had a client say no.
People are busy. Doing this part yourself makes the testimonial easy for the client to write and ensures it’s useful to you.
I typically keep the testimonials themselves short and sweet. A strong sentence or two is usually all there’s room for on a website or collateral material.
In my draft testimonial, I often leave blanks for adjectives or specifics, which allow the client to participate without having to exert too much mental energy.
Here’s my template email:
Thank you for your offer to write a testimonial! As promised, here's what I remember from what you said: [What they said.]
Does this sound right? Please fill in the blanks and, of course, feel free to adjust as you see fit.
Alternatively, if you don’t feel like you’ve gotten enough specific feedback from the client, it’s helpful to give them a framework on how to approach the testimonial.
Here’s my template email:
Thanks for your offer to write a testimonial! If you're debating how to approach it, consider what was different before and after working together. Here are a few questions that may be helpful.
- How did working together change the way you approach [topic at hand]?
- In what specific ways was working together a good investment?
- How did working together impact [specific deliverable]?
Or feel free to write something “stream of consciousness”-style, I’m happy to tighten it up if that’s helpful.
2. Offer to Edit
Even if they don’t think they’re sending you word vomit, clients often write back paragraph-long responses that aren’t particularly viable for website copy.
I’ve had clients say “Feel free to wordsmith,” which opens the door to making edits easily. If they don’t, because I’ve already established a good rapport with the client, I usually feel comfortable asking something like,
Are you comfortable with me tightening it up a bit and sending it back to you for review?
Once I have the client’s raw material and a green light to edit, I try to break it up into one to three really strong sentences that could work in isolation or together. Then I underline all of my edits and send it back to the client for feedback.
At this point, I’m often pretty informal. Here’s my template email:
Would you take a peek at the testimonial below? I’ve Frankensteined your quotes a bit, so please edit as you see fit. I’ve underlined anything I’ve changed. I want to ensure it sounds like you and you’re 100% comfortable with the content. Let me know what you think!
3. Say Thank You
Finally, I’m a huge proponent of the handwritten thank you note, since it’s generally an excellent practice to drop clients a line to say how much you enjoyed working with them.
Silver lining: sometimes it’s difficult to fill the entire note card, but now you’ve got a whole additional sentence already written, “Thanks for the testimonial!”
Self promotion can be difficult, but there are many strategies that can help make it less painful.
When it comes to testimonials, at first, it may feel a little awkward or disingenuous to walk the client through the process using the templates described above. In my experience, though, clients are actually grateful that you’ve made the process as easy as possible for them.
After a little bit of back and forth, I had one client write, “Thank you for making me sound so smart ;).”
A version of this piece was originally published by Forbes.