What questions should you ask to get a testimonial from a client?

When you’re trying to get a testimonial from a client, you’re going to want to give them a structure to work with to get effective feedback.

Sean D’Souza, author and business marketing consultant, says the best testimonials should accomplish the following things for you:

  • They address the risk or obstacle a buyer might experience when considering purchasing your service.
  • They illustrate the outcome the buyer experiences from purchasing your service.
  • They highlight a specific feature of your service with some richness of detail.
  • They highlight specific benefits clients saw from your service.
  • They give a recommendation for your service .

To solicit testimonials that contain these qualities, you want to ask your client or customer specific questions including:

  • What was the obstacle that would have prevented us from working together? (Alternatively: What hesitation did you have to engaging me?)
  • What did you find as a result of working together?
  • What specific aspect did you like most about our work together?
  • What would be two or three other benefits about our work together?
  • Would you recommend this service? If so, why?
  • Is there anything you’d like to add?

(Questions based on the ones featured in Sean D’Souza’s insightful book The Brain Audit and in this excellent Copyblogger article he wrote on the subject.)

Each of these questions matches up with the qualities we want in our testimonials.

Focusing in on these six questions will allow you to construct a killer testimonial. A couple extra questions you can consider adding in to reveal additional details include:

  • What was the challenge you faced that led you to engage me? (This prompts the client to describe the painful or expensive problem your work focused on.)
  • What made you choose to work with me instead of other options available to you? (This may reveal some compelling advantages to working with you over alternative solutions.)

If you want to present an explicit opportunity for the client to also give feedback on what could go better, you can ask the following question:

  • What could have been improved or gone better, even with the benefit of hindsight?

So now you know which questions to ask, but how should ask these questions?

How should you ask these questions? (Interview vs. survey)

There are two main ways you can collect feedback for a testimonial: through an interview (phone or in-person) or in writing (sending the questions in an email or through an online form).

Each of these can work – we’ve seen people use both methods successfully and there’s pros and cons to each. Which one will work for you really depends on you and your clients. Here are some factors you’ll want to consider to decide.

1/ Interview option

There are several advantages to doing an interview.

End up on the calendar, not their to-do list: Having a scheduled time means your less likely to get pushed down on the to-do list. It also reduces the likelihood you’ll need to keep following up to see when the client has an opportunity to fill in the answers to your questions.

More natural, less formal language & more information: Your client may write in more formal language, but be far more natural when they speak. There’s a lot of strength in a conversational tone – it’s more compelling and more convincing. It’s tough for some people to convey their thoughts in a natural, informal way when they write. Doing an interview format allows you to probe for more if you feel there’s still good information to uncover. Sometimes it just takes a rephrasing of a question or digging deeper to get a client to reveal what could have prevented them from buying or what the real business outcomes of the project were.

Can be easier for the client: For some people, a short phone call can be less burdensome/time-consuming than sitting down to write out the answers to questions (writer’s block is tough!).

Allows more options to use the material: Doing an interview is a must if you want an audio or a video testimonial.

You might want to consider collecting the feedback through an interview if one of more of the following factors are in play:

  • You’re doing a higher-touch, higher-value engagement.
  • Your client is typically very busy.
  • It’s critical or extremely valuable for you to get a testimonial from this particular client.

2/ In writing (survey option)

While an interview is a great option, there are also advantages to doing a survey option.

Easier to do at scale: Doing an interview means you either have to be a very good notetaker or will need to transcribe your client’s responses later. You also will need to spend a bit more time constructing the testimonial as people sometimes tend to meander in giving their responses verbally. Collecting the client’s responses in a written format eliminates both these barriers.

Less awkward: It can be awkward to directly give feedback to the person you’re talking about (both positive and negative). A survey is a way to remove that awkwardness.

You might want to consider this approach if:

  • The engagement is on the smaller side and you have a higher volume of clients.
  • Using this approach will make it more likely for you to ask for a testimonial.
  • It’s not critical to get a testimonial from one particular client.

If you go this route, it’s best to include the questions directly in an email. It’s a good move to include link to a feedback form with the questions (using Wufoo, Gravity Forms, or Type Form). This gives your client the choice between responding to the email with their answers (often easier for someone who wants to write up a quick reply), or filling out a feedback form on your website (a more official feeling process that some clients enjoy).

(Need help getting the structure in place or prefer to completely hand off turning the feedback into testimonials? Meg’s got a service for that.)

3/ Hire a third party to interview/construct the testimonial

If you want all the advantages of doing an interview without the time and emotional energy it takes to handle it yourself, you can hire a third-party to do an interview and put together the testimonial. (Meg has a whole service around this.)

Engaging a third-party to handle the process makes it less awkward and takes it off your plate completely, freeing up your time and emotional energy.

Regardless of the approach you take, what do you do if the client expressed interest or enthusiasm in providing a testimonial for you, but now you can’t reach them?

Want help getting testimonials from your clients (without the awkwardness)?

Meg has done-for-you testimonial services available to make it easier for you to get powerful testimonials. Check them out here.

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