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We've now covered a lot of the high-level theory of customer testimonials in The Definitive Guide to Testimonials: what they are, why they are so powerful for your marketing, and who you should you should target. Now it's time to get into the nitty-gritty of how you turn these theories into an actionable plan for your business that will yield outsized results.

7 Signs to Look For

The ideal time to ask a customer for testimonial is when they are happy.   So the question really becomes how do you know when the customer is happy?   And what should be your approach when engaging a prospective testimonial subject?  You, of course, want to maximize the chance of a high impact, positive testimonial and it’s also best to have a plan in advance.

Here are seven tried and true ways to determine when is the best time to ask a customer for a testimonial.

Sign #1: Unprompted Signs of Customer Happiness

Any outpouring of customer love and positivity should be viewed as an opportunity to turn the customer into a testimonial.  These customers have raised their hand and told the world or at least someone at your company that they are happy.   That begs a response.  

Think about the customer touch points of your business.   Who interacts directly with customers?  Where do customers go to network with their peers?   Who in your organization has the relationships with the customers?  

Pro tip: Your team should systematically monitor all touch points daily and build relationships with the people who may ultimately receive these unprompted signs of customer love.  

Sign #2: Social Media Love

Starbucks Instagram

We will assume that your company monitors all the relevant social channels (Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, etc).    This includes following industry hashtags, joining industry Facebook and LinkedIn groups, along with monitoring brand mentions.   A customer who posts an unprompted recommendation of your brand or product in one of these forums can be a golden opportunity.  The post itself may be worth featuring as a standalone testimonial or customer proof point (and worth re-sharing as you see above).   However, even if it isn’t, look at the post as an invitation to start a conversation with a happy customer.  You should reach out to them and thank them for the positive endorsement.  

Pro tip: No one likes a pushy or direct ask, especially from someone who they’ve never met.  

As a result, a low risk approach is to engage the subject by asking them for genuine feedback about their experience with your product or service, both positive and negative.  Once you’ve gotten them talking, you can easily segue to ask them to contribute a testimonial based on the feedback that they’ve given you or be featured in a video describing their experience.  

Sign #3: Review Sites

Tens of thousands of customers leave their feedback on review sites, like G2 Crowd, Capterra, Yelp. TripAdvisor, and many others.   It may take more legwork and research to identify the actual customer who reviewed your product, but if you can, you should contact them in a similar fashion: thank them for their review and attempt to start a conversation to elicit feedback on their experience.   4 and 5 star reviews can make excellent prospects for even high-impact testimonials and videos.

Sign #4:  Intelligence from Support or Sales

Another great source of testimonial candidates is your front line facing employees who interact with customers on a daily basis.   These folks know who is happy and who isn’t at any given moment and are a great source of intel and introductions.   Plus, they are also the recipients of emails, texts, and phone calls from a customer thanking them for going the extra mile.   These communications themselves can be powerful when used in your marketing.   The customer is effusive because their problem has been solved and feels a sense of obligation to give back.   Building strong lines of communications with sales and customer success/support can ultimately yield an excellent pipeline of testimonial prospects.

Sign #5: High CSAT/NPS Feedback Scores

Many organizations send regular customer satisfaction surveys and these can be a great place to start when looking for which customers are truly happy and willing to be a reference.   There are two types of CSAT surveys: 1) relationship CSAT surveys (sent periodically to measure the overall customer satisfaction of a segment of customers) and 2) transactional CSAT surveys (sent after an interaction or event has occurred, like a support ticket has been closed).   Both can be good indicators, but particularly relationship surveys can offer leads on customers who are good candidates for testimonials.    Simply filter the customer feedback by the overall NPS score (9 and 10 are considered promoters and the best advocates) or by the number of star ratings (e.g. 4 or 5 stars), plus search the open text field for keywords relating to the types of testimonials you want to generate.  

Pro tip:  Adding a question at the end of your CSAT survey asking whether they would consider being a customer reference is a great way to focus your outreach efforts

Sign #6: Key Moments in the Customer Journey

Another lens to look at identifying when customers are happy and when to approach them is to apply the framework of the customer journey. The buyer's journey is the process that buyers go through to become aware of, consider and evaluate, and ultimately decide to purchase a new product or service.  It includes all the interactions and touch points that buyers have with your brand before the purchase.

The customer journey begins post-purchase.   It includes all the interactions and touch points with your post-sales, customer support, training, consulting and implementation teams, along with all customer marketing communications.   Think about what the journey is for your customers.   In complex B2B products, the journey may include lots of customer training and education, along with long implementation and customization cycles.   For SaaS, the user might go through a set of directed onboarding workflows and need to complete a variety of setup or pre-launch tasks before they realize value.   Oftentimes, free trials or freemium models allow users to move at their own pace through these necessary steps.   In ecommerce businesses, the customer journey can include the shipping, product unboxing, and any additional support or product return interactions that they might have with your company.   In any case, you don’t want to ask a customer for a testimonial until after they have experienced the value for which they bought your product or service.

As marketers, we must be mindful of the key milestones and Aha moments where a customer experiences value.   We should only solicit their feedback and ultimately request testimonials, until after value has been delivered and we can be relatively assured that they are satisfied.

Examples of these milestones vary by the type of product or service and the business model.   Here’s a couple ideas that hopefully will stimulate thoughts of what they may be for your product or service:

  • Close of sale
  • Completed installation and setup of product or service
  • Receipt of goods / product unboxing (e.g. in ecommerce)
  • Certain levels of activity (e.g. number of surveys sent)
  • Realized trackable business value by the product or service (measured by ROI or cost savings, or incremental revenue)
  • Loyal customer as evidenced by multiple subscription renewals or duration of customer usage

Particularly in SaaS, eCommerce, and other technology businesses, you may be acutely aware when a customer reaches one of these milestones.   These milestones may be tracked in your CRM or marketing automation system or in your SaaS application itself.   Regardless, you will increase your hit rate of finding great candidates for testimonials by aligning your ask with these key customer journey milestones.

Sign #7: Personal Rapport and Long Standing Relationship with a Customer

You should also take an inventory of all the longstanding relationships that your executive, sales, and customer success teams have with key customers.   Strong personal relationships with your customer dramatically influence the probability of success when you ask for a testimonial.   You and your organization have built incredible social capital with your customers by doing right by them.   Hopefully, your product or service has saved them countless hours of heartache or accelerated their career by giving them a big win.   Using sales, support, or executive teams to reach out and leverage their social capital and relationships with key customers is a longstanding way to successfully get customers on the record.

Five Ways to Ask Customers for Testimonials

Now, that we’ve covered all the signs when it is the right time to ask for a testimonial.   Let’s delve into the techniques and approaches so that you can maximize your success in appealing for a testimonial when you do ask.  

Your customers are human beings.   They have career aspirations.   Many want to build a personal brand to improve their employment prospects.   Plus, they feel social obligations to people with whom they have relationships.  As a result, the lessons and learnings from the field of social psychology and social influence are highly applicable when asking for a testimonial.   Here are five proven approaches to increase your chance of success when asking for a testimonial. Use each approach individually or combine them.

Strategy #1: Be Direct, but Not Pushy.  

You can ask a customer after a recent purchase or some other key milestone in their customer journey for a testimonial.   That’s it.  Simple and straightforward.    File this under the principle: “It never hurts to ask; worst case they say no.”   Here’s an example of how you might approach a recent customer purchase.  Bonus points: this is an automated email set to come from the CEO of the business, triggered by a purchase.


Strategy #2: Make Them a Star / Build their Personal Brand.  

When approaching a customer for a testimonial, offer to make them the centerpiece of your marketing campaign and website.   Who doesn’t want to see their name up in lights?   As we said prior, the best marketers feature their customers prominently in their marketing.   Customers want to be seen as thought leaders and experts in their chosen profession.  Many customers are motivated to build their personal brand among their peers.   A strong personal brand raises their professional profile and increases their future job prospects.   In social psychology, this dynamic is referred to as the principle of self-promotion.  Being featured in your marketing and promoted aggressively raises their professional profile, while adding credibility and authenticity to your marketing.   Double win!.

Pro tip: Make sure to describe your marketing plan around their testimonial or how it fits within a broader campaign that your company plans to execute.

Strategy #3: Make a Personal or Authoritative Appeal

Ideally, your best chance to receive a testimonial is when someone who knows the customer from your company directly asks the customer to provide a testimonial.   In most organizations, sales and customer success individuals are in the best position to ask a customer for a testimonial.   These individuals form strong personal relationships with the testimonial subjects.   As marketers, our goal is to make it super easy for the people with these customer relationships to frictionlessly make the request.   Similarly, you can choose to have the request come from an executive at your company, (e.g the CEO or a well known VP).  This option can work as well, but the personal appeal is preferred.  

Pro Tip:  Draft a personal email request template for an executive, sales, or customer professional to send.   Alternatively, if you have a marketing automation or email marketing tool, you can send a templated request that appears to come from the individual directly.   If you go this way, make sure the individual is aware a request is being sent on their behalf.

Strategy #4: Utilize Reciprocity.  

In social psychology, the principle of reciprocity defines the human need and tendency to want to give something back when something is received.  By using this principle, you can appeal to customers on the basis that your company, product, or service has delivered for them and their business and now they can return the favor by providing a testimonial.   In B2B, remember, in many cases, customers have risked their personal reputations and careers on the decision to purchase your product or service.  In B2C, consumers’ self image is bolstered by owning the product.   In both cases, your brand has delivered something of value to them.  

Pro tip: A subtle suggestion to “help us out” or “return the favor” can be effective to prompt someone to provide a testimonial.

Strategy #5: Ask for Honest Feedback.  

Everyone wants their thoughts and opinions heard.    Customers are accustomed to responding and giving feedback through customer satisfaction surveys.  As a result, asking them to provide both positive and negative feedback can get a customer to provide testimonial worthy responses.   Earlier in this guide, we also talked about how authentic feedback can be some of the most powerful social proof that you can collect.  Customer reviews are a perfect case in point.   The best customer reviews speak to not only what you like about a product or service, but also what you don’t like.   The best customer reviews highlight strong positives and minimize any potential negatives.  

Pro tip:  Asking customers to provide their feedback through a survey or through a tool, like Vocal Video, can be a great way to get authentic testimonials.

How to Use Incentives When Requesting a Testimonial


Finally, incentives can be a powerful way to accelerate the collection of testimonials, particularly for building out the breadth and depth of this customer proof. Drawings, gift cards, and the potential to unlock features or capabilities of your product can move your customer over the finish line in terms of providing their testimonial.

Objectives:

  • Evaluate the different ways that your customers share their appreciation for your product or service. Systematize a way to catch this love, and respond quickly.

Key Results:

  • Accelerated creation of high-impact customer testimonials