20 Years of Getting Great Customer Testimonials

Where is the one place you can control what others say about your business? Social media is the prevailing answer, but there are too many horror stories for me to consider that the right answer. In truth, there is really only one correct answer to the question: your website.

Let your customers speak

Make the decision

Jimdo is a global DIY website builder, whose users have built over 10 million websites. We have long recommended to our user base to get customer testimonials for their websites as an impactful best practice. But we weren’t always practicing what we preached. Until recently, we had zero customer testimonials on our own website. We decided to change that.

Since I’m a very outgoing person, and it’s something I’ve been doing for twenty years at various tech startups, I decided to reach out to our users and ask for their testimonials. I want to share my process with you so that you can also get great testimonials for your business.

You have to ask

Before offering my personal perspective on getting great testimonials, I want to add that in preparation for this post, I did extensive research on the subject. I found dozens of blog posts. Some were to-do lists; others were lists of questions to ask your customers. A few concentrated on repurposing customer social media posts as testimonials. One was just a set of links to ten other blog posts with no original thought. In all of this research, I did, however, find one recurring theme: you have to ask.

As intuitive as it seems, the core message was that you need to ask a customer for a testimonial if you want one. It is as simple as that.

Listening is the key

In reading other posts, I found myself disagreeing with most of the advice from a “how” perspective. You have to ask, but it’s not the lead-in. That’s too aggressive and off-putting. Always remember: the best daters and sales people are great listeners.

But it’s not just sales and dates. All great communicators, whether in business or personal settings, are engaged. At their core, the most engaged communicators are simply great listeners. It’s also exponentially more helpful to be genuine, positive, and empathetic. It’s that kind of honesty that resonates with people and allows them to open up to you.

It’s about your customer and their business

Whenever I’ve set out to get customer testimonials, I’ve always used best business practices. I introduce myself, ask if it’s a good time to talk—even if the time was arranged in advance—and then I get right to the point about why I’m calling. The key is that I don’t frame my request as simply a request for a testimonial. Instead, I talk about my company wanting to feature some our most successful users and ask if they’re interested in being profiled.

This isn’t some great trick either. It’s just how I feel about business. In all my years, it’s never been about my company or our product. Everything is about the customer’s success. For Jimdo, our main goal is not to help customers build a great website, but to provide a tool that helps them succeed both online and in their business.

First create a bond

On these calls, I break the ice by getting the customer to talk about themselves. Where are you from? What’s your background? How did you get into your line of work? Then, I ask them about their business. What are your challenges, your differentiators, your goals, your obstacles, and your successes?

I truly make an effort to understand their business. More often than not, I get really excited for them. I congratulate them on their triumphs. I’ll even offer advice on their business when I feel I can add value.

Frame the question

It is not until I feel a sufficient bond has been created with the customer that I will ask about the selection process they went through to pick Jimdo. I frame this as a before and after question: how has our product or service helped you remove obstacles, lower costs, free up time, or increase customer acquisition? Without asking directly, their answers are inevitably the testimonials I was looking for in the first place.

If you do this right, your customers will speak honestly in their own words. They will speak in a story format, which is a very powerful form of testimonial. Their passion for their business will come through. It’s honest. It’s believable. It’s trustworthy. What’s the best part of all of this? Trust.

It’s not just important that current customers trust you, but also your prospective clients. You want current customer testimonials in order to prove to new ones that you’re the right choice. At the end of the day, your prospective customers want to alleviate their concerns and fears about taking the plunge to hit the buy button. Nothing in the world will improve those odds more than trust.

My three step plan

Let’s break this down into three simple steps:

1. Ask your customers for testimonials. They are one of the most powerful influencers to convert new potential customers into actual customers.
2. Listen. Be an engaged, empathetic, and enthusiastic listener, both personally and professionally.
3. Let them speak. Once you’ve gained their trust, allow them to speak honestly about your business or product offering.

If you remember nothing else about this post, remember this: it’s always about your customer and their business. Understanding them and making them happy are the keys to your success.

 

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Stephen Belomy
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Stephen Belomy

U.S. CEO at Jimdo
Stephen joined Jimdo in June 2013 to help expand Jimdo in the US and spread the word about our awesome website builder. Stephen has spent 20 years as an executive of Silicon Valley technology companies. He is a black diamond snow skier, an avid chess player, and a rabid fan of the San Francisco Giants and FC St. Pauli. He loves to enjoy great food and wine with his wife and five children.
Stephen Belomy
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6 Comments

  1. Stephen

    Whilst I agree with your post, I would suggest an addendum to the third point in the Three Step Plan. Under the principle of trust building its wise to seek their agreement before you post their words in a testimonial. Sometimes you have to edit their contribution for brevity or grammar or context, in this case, it is better that they agree with your changes before they enter the public domain. It’s no more than common courtesy, but it means they will always defend the statement you display if asked.

    Regards

    Rob

    Reply
    • Rob:

      You are spot on with everything you say. I (we) do exactly as you suggest regarding request, editing, and final customer approval. I left if out for brevity of post, but after reading your comments, I should have included them.

      Thanks for this value-add comment.

      Stephen

      Reply
  2. Excellent post. Keep writing such kind of info on your
    page. Im really impressed by it.
    Hey there, You’ve performed a fantastic job. I’ll certainly digg it and in my view recommend to my friends.
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    Reply
  3. Great points, especially for B2B. We’re B2C, running classes for children, which magnifies the points you make about listening and genuinely caring etc.

    We see our customers every week, often for years, chatting in person and building strong, genuine relationships. The downside of such close relationships is potential embarrassment in asking for a testimonial! I imagine that’s a similar scenario to many Jimdo users as your product serves small, independent businesses very well.

    In these circumstances, some suggestions I’d add are:

    Think of testimonials as an ongoing activity stream that happens naturally, not an “annual project”. Let them arise from conversations.

    Time it right. Ask for a testimonial when a customer is at their happiest and chatting about what’s going well, how you’ve helped etc.

    Keep it WHOLLY genuine. No “favours” or manipulations. It would seem disingenuous to be seen to exploit your personal relationship in order to mislead others.

    Focus on how hearing a long-term customer’s perspective helps others to decide whether or not your product/service would be right for them.

    Use an imminent website update as a prompt for giving a deadline so you can chase without awkwardness if they forget to get back to you. (They don’t know how easy it is to update a Jimdo site at drop of a hat!) :-)

    Hope that helps a few others at the grassroots!

    Reply
    • Hi Connie – thanks for adding these great tips! Especially like the one about getting the timing right and making sure you gather testimonials on an ongoing basis. We’re really impressed by the testimonials you’ve gathered on your site!

      Reply
      • Thanks Jimdo. It’s a hugely value-added page without having the chore of writing any content at all!
        We generally find that customers are quite flattered to be asked and keen to help, and it’s a lovely affirmation for staff to read too.

        Reply

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