Why You Need Testimonials to Build Your Personal Brand
If you say something nice about yourself, it might be true.
If someone else says something nice about you, it’s probably true
The bottom line, it’s always better having someone else selling your products and services.
In an era where family, friends, and colleagues are intrinsically connected via social media, testimonials, recommendations, and crowd-sourced suggestions have never been more critical to the process of building a personal brand.
According to Nielsen, 92 percent of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, and 70 percent will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t know.
Let that sink in.
We as consumers, shoppers, and business collaborators are more likely to choose a product or service that has been vetted and recommended by a stranger than going it alone when making a decision.
If you’re not gathering testimonials from your clients to incorporate into your personal brand building efforts, you are missing a valuable opportunity to validate your credentials, build trust, and help attract and land new clients
In this article, we’ll dive into several things: the benefits of client testimonials in building a personal brand, how to obtain quality testimonials from your clients after successful project completion, and how to fully maximize your testimonials in your marketing efforts.
Why You Need Testimonials to Build Your Personal Brand
A testimonial is an honest endorsement by a current or past client in which he or she testifies about a personal experience with a person, brand, product, or service. Whether you have just established your business or are working to grow from a six to seven figure personal brand, testimonials offer a variety of benefits relative to new client acquisition, cross-sell, up-sell, and retention.
Here are three reasons why:
- Testimonials Increase Conversion Rates of Visitors on Your Website. If your prospecting strategy includes soliciting new business via your website (and it should >> see examples of exceptional personal brand websites here), then it’s likely that many of your website visitors are strangers looking for your services. More specifically, prospects who find your website organically through an online search, likely have not met you in person or worked with you previously. Put yourself in the mindset of a hypothetical prospect. He is looking for someone he can trust, who has been vetted by others with similar needs and is proven successful in the industry. Is he simply to believe what your website claims you can accomplish? No matter how exceptionally persuasive your copywriting, testimonials help to add legitimacy to your claims and prove you have accomplished what your marketing materials describe. In this way, testimonials convert prospects into leads by giving a prospect the peace of mind to submit that vital “contact me” form that helps get the party started in your sales process.
- Consumers are Subject to Herd Mentality. One of the ways that business innovator and e-commerce leader Amazon has established itself as a reputable online marketplace is through its ratings and reviews feature. Ratings and recommendations feed the herd mentality that attracts us all. Also known as social proof, this concept is a psychological phenomenon in which people conform to the actions of others under the assumption that those actions are reflective of the correct behavior.
Seeing that others have purchased and experienced a product and it worked as advertised gives us comfort in opening our wallets to buy a product we cannot see or touch in person. Purchasing services is not dissimilar. Whether you are selling consulting, marketing, design, project management, coaching, or any other intangible business service that a prospect cannot hold in their hand before writing a check, knowing that others experienced your work and you performed as advertised gives the comfort needed to sign on the dotted line.
- Testimonials Validate and Humanize Your Value Proposition. You’ve worked hard to craft a value proposition that explicitly conveys the problem your services solve and whom you can help. What better way to validate that statement than to allow a client to confirm it in his or her own words. If, for example, your value proposition is “To collaborate with homeowners to design and execute high-end remodels of beachfront properties,” then your prospects will want proof that you’ve done it. Pair your value proposition with a testimonial from a client who gushes about your exceptional attention to detail and the innovative creativity you demonstrated when remodeling their seven-bedroom coastal beach home in Key West, and you are one step closer to your next sale.
Best Practices: How to Get High-Quality Testimonials to Build Your Personal Brand
Before you begin requesting and sharing testimonials from your current or past clients, review our best practices below to ensure you are capturing the details that will be most valuable to prospects in a way that is ethical, sustainable, and repeatable.
- Do Not Write Fake Testimonials. Please. Just don’t.If you are getting started with your business and are tempted to use what you tell yourself are “placeholder” testimonials on your personal brand website and in other marketing pieces, know that such an approach is not only unethical and dishonest, but it is likely to backfire. Anyone who offers you a testimonial should be a referenceable former, or current, client. If a prospective client asks to speak to the referenced individual to learn more about your work with him, you should be able to turn over a name, phone number, and email address (with permission). If you have to tell a prospect that you fabricated the testimonial, then you can expect trust to be lost before it is won and contract negotiations to end before they begin.
- Don’t Just Ask for a Testimonial. No, we’re not trying to trick you. Making a general request for a testimonial may result in a vaguely complimentary statement, such as, “Sarah was a great asset to our team. I valued her insights and the quality of her work.” Instead, create a structure and ask product, or service-specific questions that will encourage your client to answer what your prospects want to know: How your product or service solved a problem, what ROI your services produced, or to describe the outcome of your partnership. Instead, you’ll end up with an impressive testimonial that says something like, “Sarah’s marketing plan was detailed and effective. Through her social media marketing efforts, we grew our social followers 125 percent in three months, which helped us sell 45 percent more products and meet our quarterly sales goals.” Now that is an impactful endorsement.
- Ask at the End of a Successful Project. You will obtain more enthusiastic, complementary, and valuable testimonials if you ask for them after a successful project ends when your client is still thrilled with the outcome of your work. If you wait too long, they may inadvertently forget to include some of the vital details that could be most influential in helping to sell your services, like the way you came through with a critical deliverable right when it was needed. If you do not have any testimonials today but want to compile them from former clients, it is still worth reaching out, even if you completed their work a year or two ago. Any (positive) feedback is better than no (positive) feedback. However, plan to build into your project management process to request a testimonial from every client at project completion on a go-forward.
- Make it Easy for Prospects to Submit Their Feedback. Your clients are busy, and no matter how much they enjoyed working with you, if you ask them in passing to email you a testimonial, the request may slip their mind, and you may lose the opportunity to capture their enthusiasm. A few days after completing your project, email to ask for a brief (keyword: brief) testimonial. If the request seems like it will be time-consuming, your client may put it off for “when they have more time,” but we all know that may never happen.Include in your email a link to a simple online form that asks for a brief (100 words or less) statement about your work and their experience partnering with you. Online forms are easy and less intimidating than asking someone to sit down in front of a blank canvas and write a testimonial, and as a result, will help you aggregate a more extensive collection of client feedback for your marketing efforts.As an alternative to a form submission, and for additional third-party credibility, you can also ask clients to submit reviews via a third-party tool such as Google Reviews or Trustpilot. Be sure, however, to screen each one to make sure a legitimate client submitted it and not a competitor trying to pull down your average rating (because haters gonna hate).
- Obtain Relevant Client Information. When sharing your testimonials, you will want to, at a minimum, include your client’s title, industry, and size of their company if relevant to your marketing efforts. Be sure to ask permission to use the client’s name and company, but depending on your industry, understand that your client may not want to provide such personal, identifiable information. For example, if you are an executive coach, your client may not want to be identified as someone who needed coaching services. In such cases, using your client’s title, such as “CEO,” or “President,” or “Senior HR Director,” can be just as valuable. If your client is comfortable, you may also ask to use her headshot. Headshots further reinforce the validity of the testimonial, and that you’re not fakin’ it ‘til you’re makin’ it.
- Get Testimonials in Video Format. For those cases when a client has a compelling story to tell about your collaborative efforts ask if you can document his experience via video. Video is one of the most impactful and successful tools to leverage in your marketing efforts. According to Larry Kim, CEO of MobileMonkey, after viewing a video, 64 percent of viewers are more likely to make an online purchase. Again you will want to keep it brief (since most of us have the attention span of a flea), but don’t feel like you have to skip this step if you can’t hire George Lucas to direct and edit the video. As long as you shoot the video in a well-lit space, without a distracting or noisy background, most modern smartphones are capable of filming a high enough quality video that your prospects won’t know you obtained it on a low (or no) budget. Video testimonials are very hard to fake, which helps build trust and credibility even more than written testimonials.Pro Tip: Getting testimonials in video format allows you to transcribe the video testimonial into a written testimonial.
- Capture a Variety of Experiences. Make an effort to obtain a variety of testimonials that showcase a broad range of your capabilities. If, for example, you are an event planner, try not only to get quotes from your wedding event clients. Obtain testimonials from wedding clients as well as testimonials about corporate events, retreats, non-profit fundraisers, and other such events. You never know what type of work a prospective client is searching for, so make sure to showcase all your skills and accomplishments.
- Include Location if Relevant and Impactful. If you only serve clients in New York City, then you don’t need to include the location of your client in his testimonial, however, if you are working on expanding your service offering, show your regional, national, or international experience. Also, if service location is a differentiator, be sure to incorporate it. For example, if you are looking to grow your personal brand as a stylist to the stars, be sure to include that your client “Stacey” lives in Beverly Hills.
- No Website? No Problem. If you are currently reliant on a Facebook page as the foundation of your digital presence, ask for ratings and reviews via Facebook’s integrated rating tool. You will still benefit from every visitor to your page seeing how many average stars your services have earned, and reading the detailed comments
- Communicate Clearly with Clients how You Intend to Use their Words. You have worked hard to build trust with your clients, so continue to be honest and transparent by clearly communicating how you intend to use their testimonial, and ensure you have their permission to not only post it on your website but share in email marketing efforts, on printed collateral, and social media (more on all the ways to use testimonials coming up).
- Keep Testimonials Fresh. If you have been in business for years, you may start to find that your oldest testimonials have become outdated, especially if you are in a tech field. For example, if you are a web designer and are still using a quote in which a client praises your knowledge of HTML, even though you have moved on to building templated websites through WordPress, the older testimonial won’t do enough to sell prospects on your current services. By continuing to compile testimonials, you continue to show how you are evolving your skills and remain relevant in the marketplace.
7 Ways to Use Testimonials in Your Personal Brand Marketing Efforts
Now that you’ve captured a handful of detailed, varied, and impactful testimonials from your current and past clients, what can you do with them? Answer: What can’t you do with them? Below are just some of the many ways you can use your testimonials to help you grow your personal brand.
1) Share on Your Website.
This strategy is a must, so start here when looking for a home for your client testimonials. You can either dedicate a single page for client testimonials or add a single quote to the bottom or sidebar on every product or service page. Make sure, however, that visitors can easily spot them. If a prospect is on your website, they have identified you as someone who can potentially solve a problem or fulfill a need, which means you need to optimize your website for conversions, and effective testimonials can be the catalyst for that conversion.When thinking about where to place testimonials on your website, keep in mind that they can often be most impactful at friction points—places where prospects need to make a decision relative to a conversion. For example, if you have a three-tiered service pricing plan, consider incorporating a testimonial about the ROI received from your most expensive plan option on that page. It may help swing a prospective client into choosing your more expensive, but comprehensive, service offering. When in doubt, place testimonials near your calls to action.
2) Post to Social Media.
When you receive a succinct and high-praise testimonial from a client, share it to your personal brand social media accounts. Not only may it help to gain the attention of followers who are not current clients, but it may also motivate a repeat purchase, cross-sell, or upsell from a current or past relationship. If you filmed a video testimonial, share that it in a post too. According to NewsCred, social media posts with videos attract three times as many inbound links as plain text posts.
3) Include in Your Email Marketing.
According to the 2013 B2B Content Marketing Trends Report, customer testimonials and case studies are considered by 89 percent of business-to-business (B2B) marketers to be the most effective content marketing tactic. Whether your email marketing efforts are more basic (think a quarterly newsletter) or advanced (think a lead nurturing campaign), make sure to incorporate testimonials from recent projects. Consider adding in snippets of comments in your subject lines, in headlines, in hero graphics, and near calls to action to grab the reader’s attention. If you have filmed a video testimonial, include it on your email marketing efforts as well, and add the word “video” in the subject line. According to HubSpot, Using the word “video” in an email subject line boosts open rates by 19 percent, click-through rates by 65 percent and reduces unsubscribes by 26 percent.
4) Use Testimonials on Your Landing Pages.
If you are executing a marketing campaign that directs online prospects to a dedicated landing page, include a testimonial. Again, text will be impactful, but video will be better. According to eyeviewdigital.com, videos on landing pages increase conversions by 86 percent.
5) Use Testimonials on Your Checkout Pages.
The most important page for your entire business is the page that people actually give you money! There isn’t a better place to feature your most powerful testimonials, than right there on the page where they are making their final buying decision, entering their information, and clicking the “Buy Now” button.
6) Print Marketing Materials.
There should still be a place for print materials in your marketing arsenal. Just remember that pieces such as brochures and sell sheets have a longer shelf-life than their digital cousins, so choose testimonials that aren’t likely to become outdated anytime soon.
7) Use In Your Sales Pitch or Speech.
Testimonials are great ways to handle objections. You can use testimonials strategically in your sales pitch or presentation to use someone else’s story to overcome a common objection.
Final Advice: Too often what holds people back from asking for testimonials is a feeling of insecurity. If you worry that you’re bothering your client or you’re nervous about what they may write, remind yourself that you worked hard for your client’s trust and admiration and that you have earned a few kind words of thanks and praise. Every business relationship of value is a partnership. For everything you’ve done for your clients and their business, they will no doubt be happy for the chance to help you grow yours as well. Remember: nothing comes from nothing. So, to start cultivating a collection of testimonials today, ask, and ye shall receive.
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