Most testimonials are sugary sweet.
They go on and on, and on about the wonders of the product or service. And amazingly, these testimonials work. They still continue to sell products or services, no matter where you look.
And yet there are harder-working testimonials.
Testimonials that stop the reader in their tracks. Testimonials that command attention. And you have to ask: Why do they have this inordinate power compared with the average doodah testimonials?
These testimonials have three core elements.
Element 1: Before (The client's hesitation before the purchase)
Element 2: After (The client's ‘discovery' after the purchase)
Element 3: The Experience (The emotional response).
So now that we know the three core elements, let's jump right into this testimonial soup with an example that contains a before, after and experience.
Example 1: An objection to attending a 2-day workshop
I have heard all these workshop promised before. They promise the moon and give you stale cheese. Starting a business is a complex activity. I have so much to learn as this is my first business. How could I possibly learn it all in 2 days?
I learned I don’t need to know it all! I just need to focus on the critical elements, make the needed decisions and move on to the next phase. I also learned I am not alone. I now have a community to help me as I move through the building a business process.
I am no longer in the state of continual overwhelm. This workshop has taken such a load off my mind. No more scrambling to read and learn every possible thing about starting a business. Now I can relax and know building a business will take time, but now I know I can do it a piece at a time. I don’t need to know it all today—I just need to know what I need now. When I am ready for the next step, I have resources who will help me through that phase.
Seems pretty straightforward, doesn't it?
First you read the before, then the after, but why the experience? The experience is important because it builds on the story. A before-after is already a sequence (and hence story-like). But often the client can get so caught up in the features and benefits of your product or service that they forget to bring out the emotion.
So what was the emotion in that third paragraph?
It was the scramble. The frustration. And how that scramble doesn't exist any longer and how it's been replaced with a sense of relaxation. That emotion is important in a testimonial.
As human beings we are cued to listen for details but are moved by emotion. And when you slide in that emotion, you are loading the testimonial with primal cues that locks the reader in. The more emotions your testimonial contains, the more it's likely to show your product or service in a powerful light.
Example 2: Article Writing Course experience
Before the Article Writing Course, I had a system, but I knew that the words weren’t flowing well. The articles that I wrote, didn’t really draw me in, but I couldn’t put my finger on why.
Half-way through the course, my articles felt like they were beginning to be well crafted. There was a flow to the copy, and I was beginning to control that flow. The articles had structure and a certain amount of drama
And having completed the course, I know that what I have learnt is embedded in my sub-conscious. I know that I am pushing boundaries that I never knew existed before the course started. And I know that I am looking forward to being able to create great content quickly on a regular basis. And I don’t see myself stopping doing this.
This feels great to me. I can wake up in the morning and not feel the dread of writing. I know all I have to do is follow a system, and I'll be able to turn out great content on a consistent basis.
So the emotion does help, but is it critical?
Nothing is utterly critical. But it helps to create far greater depth in your testimonial.
And the way to get the emotion is to simply ask the most obvious question of all: How did the experience with this product or service make you feel? The moment you say the word ‘feel', the client will be more than likely to delve into their emotional side and give you exactly what you're looking for.
So there you have it: The three-part sequence
3) The experience.
Put them together and you get an intoxicating testimonial that gets instant attention—and keeps that attention!
Try it. It's super-powerful. And non-sugary too!
Testimonials have super powers if you use the three core elements. Now it's your turn— Click here to share what you learned from this article?
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bill zangwill says
Great discussion of testimonials. BUT HOW DO YOU GET A PERSON TO FOLLOW THAT STRUCTURE. IF YOU REQUEST A PERSON PROVIDE A TESTIMONIAL, THEY ARE LIKELY TO WRITE DOWN WHATEVER THEY THINK AND IT WILL NOT FOLLOW THE THREE STEP STRUCTURE. HOW DO YOU GET THEM TO FOLLOW THAT STRUCTURE? WHAT DO YOU SAY TO THEM?
Sean D'Souza says
Bill, the key is always to speak to people. Speaking is easier on the person, because they speak at three words a second. That’s 180 words per minute and 1800 words in just ten minutes. For a person to write an 1800 word testimonial would take ages.
So it’s advantageous for the client to speak to you because:
1) You actually make contact.
2) You are able to get more detailed content.
3) It saves the client the energy required to sit down and think of the answer.
4) You can control the testimonial if it’s going haywire and bring it back on track.
Irene Gutmann says
Before – I would ask my clients for a written testimonial after they gave me good verbal feedback. They would say yes, and procrastinate on sending it. I understand it. Writing testimonials are difficult. You want to do well for the person you are writing it for without looking too vulnerable in the process.
After – Now I will give them this format to use in thier own businesses and to format one for my work with them.
Feelings – I am relieved to be able to make this an easy-to-follow formula for my clients. I am excited about the new business it is likely to bring in. Thank you!!!
Sean D'Souza says
You’re welcome, Irene. 🙂
And read the post above as well on why spoken testimonials are often better than written 🙂
Sean D'Souza says
And you have another advantage. A spoken testimonial can be used in video, audio and text. So it’s a big advantage.
bill zangwill says
If I understood you Sean: You speak with the customer, and ask them questions. THEN YOU WRITE THEIR TESTIMONIAL. Then you check with them for approval.
Of course, you are using the three points. But since they are unlikely to write it up in the nice Sean format, you do it for them, but get their approval.
ntathu allen says
Thanks Sean – I receive so many emails yet always read yours as I know the info helps to build my confidence and business building skills. And your post on testimonials as usual hit the right button. I know testimonials are crucial part of building trust but I never knew what to say or how to ask clients students for them without feeling pushy and invading their privacy/time. After reading your post, I now know what I am looking for and have a framework to ask students for a testimonial…”how did you feel …….” small but powerful words and I feel excited and look forward to trying it out. Thanks for the clarity and structure.
Sean D'Souza says
Good to know. Hope you get great testimonials.
Debra Torres says
So, guess what I was doing today? Getting testimonials for a client’s website! Thanks for your insight. I especially liked the idea of adding the question: “How did your experience with our service make you feel?” I’ve incorporated this into my question list. Saving your other notes for bigger projects. And yes, I agree that calling or a face-to-face interview beats a written testimonial every time.
Sean D'Souza says
Good day’s work 😉
Lanny Udell says
Sean, thanks for clarifying and simplifying the testimonial process. I’ve always been bothered by the “she’s so great” type of testimonials, they just don’t feel/sound authentic. But your approach — problem/solution/emotion — feels more real. Sometimes clients will say – just write something for me and I’ll sign it. I will never do that! It has to come from them, not from me. But, I can guide them by providing your 3-step structure, then everybody’s happy.
Sean D'Souza says
You’re welcome 🙂