How to Collect Tons of Testimonials
with the Secret “SPURF” System

Testimonial

In the world of selling, you can use testimonials – among other techniques – to take advantage of the principle of “Social Proof.” According to this principle, all of us look to others to help us decide how to act. The more people doing it, the more correct it seems.

I illustrated this idea recently in part 1 of this series, Testimonials and Teenagers Whizzing in the Bushes: The Power of Social Proof.

Few people, however, make an effort to collect testimonials and keep them on file. So let’s look at a simple system I’ve developed to gather testimonials from your customers.

Just remember four letters: S.P.R.F. (pronounced “spurf”). It’s short for Schedule, Phone, Release, and File.

Using The “Spurf” Testimonial System

Testimonials work best when they are believable, specific, and enthusiastic. How do you achieve this ideal? You use real testimonials from real people.

I know that some people believe you should write your own faux testimonials. But that’s a slippery slope. The whole idea of testimonials is that they are objective endorsements of your product or service. So if you write them yourself, you don’t have anything like objectivity. What you have is a lie. And if you’re willing to lie about testimonials today, what will you be willing to lie about tomorrow?

What about writing testimonials and getting real people to sign off on them? I don’t have an ethical problem with that. Often, people don’t express themselves well in writing. Penning your own certainly lets you say what you want to say.

However, using the real words of real customers is the best long-term approach. Your customers will say things you could never dream up on your own. Their comments are often quirky and have a ring of truth that few copywriters can match.

Plus, real testimonials are a source of creative inspiration and a valuable peek into the opinions and motivations of the most important people in the world: your satisfied customers.

Here are the four steps in the Spurf system:

1. SCHEDULE. Make a commitment to bring in testimonials once a month, once a quarter, twice a year, or on whatever schedule you choose. You may even want to set quotas – 2 new testimonials a month or 10 testimonials for each promotion you do. The specifics are less important than your commitment to the routine. Just make sure your schedule is realistic and productive.

2. PHONE. Call a portion of your customer list according to your schedule. If you operate solely online and don’t have phone numbers, contact people by e-mail. You can even use snail mail if you have addresses.

Start by saying something flattering, such as, “The president of our company has personally asked for your opinion. Would you mind telling me what you think about our widget?”

Ask a few easy questions to elicit responses that are either positive or neutral in tone: When did you receive your widget? Did your widget arrive in good condition? Have you used it (tried it, tasted it, read it, worn it) yet?

Then ease into the real questions: What is your opinion of your widget? Why did you buy your widget? What is the one feature you like most? How has your widget saved you time (or money, or trouble, or embarrassment, or whatever)?

Keep it short. Write down (or electronically record) every word, even the bad comments. Get dates, numbers, names, and other facts that make testimonials sparkle with specifics.

3. RELEASE. When you get a good comment, write it up and send it to your customer. Include a message that says something like, “I was so impressed with your comment, I just had to write and say, ‘thank you.’ In fact, your kind words were so valuable, I’d like to quote you in our advertising. Do you mind?”

Ask the customer to sign a formal release (if you have one) or give you written permission to use the testimonial without limitation forever. If you like, you could send a small gift as a token of your appreciation. This assures you will get more “yes” replies to your request.

4. FILE. Organize and store your testimonials in a central location. You can print them and put them in a file folder or store them on your computer. The latter idea is best. Once you get a lot of testimonials, you’ll be able to do key word searches when you’re looking for a particular comment or subject. You can quickly cut and paste testimonials when it comes time to write copy.

Of course, no matter how aggressive you are in getting testimonials, you should also provide a way for people to share their thoughts with you at other times as well. And you should be prepared to record and file any unsolicited testimonials whenever they come in.

On your website or blog, provide an interactive form or e-mail link for feedback. Often the only unsolicited comments you’ll get are complaints, so don’t be shy about asking for testimonials outright.

Once you have a system in place, you’ll find that getting testimonials is easier than you thought. You may even come to enjoy it. But the real payoff comes when it’s time to create a promotion and you have a pile of powerful testimonials ready to go.

Still to Come…

In the next installment in this series, you’ll discover how to use testimonials once you have them and how to go beyond the standard testimonial to put the principle of Social Proof to work in many other ways.

About the Author: Dean Rieck is a leading direct marketing copywriter. For more copywriting and selling tips, sign up for Dean’s FREE direct response newsletter or subscribe to the Direct Creative Blog.

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Comments

  1. Very nice. Testimonials are easily one of those things that one only thinks of all too late. Luckily, with most projects, it’s not too hard to acquire them a bit late.

    Thanks for the tips.

  2. As important as testimonials are, I’m surprised more WordPress bloggers have not created separate Testimonial pages where the comments section to that page can act as a central storage location for later use.

    Buck

  3. Buck, that’s a good idea.

  4. note to self: testimonial page addition to wordpress project….What a great idea, Buck…isn’t this sort of like a press page, or the blurbs on a book jacket?

  5. Dean,

    Thanks for making the point that real customer testimonials are much stronger than words you put in a customer’s mouth and get them to approve. I constantly struggle with getting companies to actually ask customers versus making them up. There’s a huge difference, and it gives you true insight into the customer’s mind.

    Casey

  6. Thanks. The way I see it; might as well let WordPress do all the work. Besides that, offline affiliate material can have the testimonial page link on it, which people can research (and once they do, not only do they see the testimonial, they see the site of the commenter, and once they visit the commenter’s site, their testimonial will have even more weight and credibility behind it.)

  7. Oops. I meant to say “offline marketing material”

  8. I’m starting to use a variation of this method. I’m getting clients to write a nice little letter of recommendation. In my industry it matters, and I’m putting the letters into pdf format for my website, so that other attorneys can see which attorneys I’ve done work for. It helps if you can get a marque firm to write a letter.

  9. Yep. Thanks again. This is just a killer blog.

  10. Thanks for the tips on getting testimonials. The idea of doing is on a schedule seems to make it much more manageable than scrambling to get them all before some kind of marketing push.

  11. This is terrific, Dean. I get a little squirrely about asking for testimonials, but this is a system I can follow without feeling squeamish.

    Highly useful, thank you!

  12. Dean,

    Great article. Glad to see that there are others that believe in the power of great testimonials. I wouldn’t dream of putting together a site that sells a product or service without testimonials to support it.

  13. You know, it used to be a pain for me to ask for testimonials, and I think it’s because I was going about it the wrong way. I appreciate directness, so I would email past clients and basically say, “Hi, can you write me a testimonial?” Honest, certainly, but not exactly persuasive. But ever since I’ve changed the way I asked to a more client-centric question, I’ve been getting much more enthusiastic responses. Here is how I asked for the last one, for a project that I’ve just wrapped up and will be showcasing on my site soon:

    “… I’m also very interested in your feedback on how you perceive the value you received from my services to you. If you don’t mind, I’d like to share your feedback on my website with other potential customers, so they can make an informed decision about your dealings with me. Would you be able to help me with it?”

    I know the language is a bit stiff in that one, but you get my drift. The client replied back that they were flattered and would love to give their opinion for public viewing. :)

  14. Testimonials are very important, but I have to admit I am lazy about getting them. Of course, if in the regular course of business I get a testimonial I save it and find a place to use it.

    I think I’m going to take your advice and make this an active part of my business plan… since testimonials are very important.

    Thanks for reminding me that the things that are important need to put into my schedule.

  15. Excellent advice, Dean. I look forward to your follow-up article on how to use the testimonials that you collect.

  16. Thanks for this. Amazingly we’ve never asked our clients for testimonials but it’s one of the things that I check for on websites that I’m buying from.

    Thanks for opening my eyes!

  17. I am thrilled to see you contiune to expand on this topic.

    I am working on a site for a client and have created a section just for testimonials. I think these a very important in converting new customers.

  18. Thanks for the tips. I’d like to get a few audio testimonials. Any suggestion, Dean?

    In my ecourse, I ask the participants near the end of the module about what they think (and the result) the course has brought to them.

    I provide a live email so they can press the reply button, type and press the send button. I encourage them to ask question(s).

    When I see something good, I ask for permission to use it. Works like charm. I collect the testimonials in my notetaking program, OneNote in a separate section.

  19. I have just about started asking for testimonials from my clients but I’m focusing on the newer clients because the experience of working with me is still fresh in their minds (and hopefully they have had a pleasant experience :-) ).

    Most of the time I offer to write the testimonials myself and then ask for their approval and they too find it more convenient because as being my clients they anyway find it difficult to write down their thoughts. The clients who have just launched their websites find the prospect of publishing the testimonial on my website more appealing because this gives them an incoming link. Thanks for this great blog post because recently it had slipped out of my mind that I should continuously ask for testimonials from eager clients.

  20. Don’t know if this would work for all markets but I ask clients to email or text as soon as they have watched our films through so we have their go-ahead to archive their film. I also explain that we are keen to know their views – which is totally true.

    The bonus has been that most couples email while they are really excited about their wedding film … and we have a testimonial to copy and paste straight away to our testimonials page, with a still image of the couple taken from their film! I’ve even used complimentary text messages in the same way – all with their permission, of course.

  21. Timing has a lot to do with whether or not you’ll receive a testimonial. Most everyone you ask will usually say yes, but not everyone will deliver.

    I’ve found it best to ask for a testimonial is shortly before you finish the work. When the work is nearly finished your client or customer usually sees you in the best light. They can see the light at the end of the tunnel in regards to the project, which naturally makes them happy.

    But since the project is not quite finished they are much more inclined to respond to your request. They know the project is nearing completion, but they do still want you to finish.

    Once the work is done your chances of getting a testimonial fall off significantly. People will tell you they’ll send one, but out of sight out of mind.

    The above is based on my experience. Your mileage may vary.

  22. I love your work! It’s some of the most invaluable reading I’ve done on the internet. You provide a very valuable service to folks like me. Thanks again! I’m off to get some testimonials from my members right now for the revamp of our website.

  23. the “secret” word it’s a non-sense in the headline.. you promised to much and delivered some basic/dumb tips

  24. I need a honest website builder in Denver Co Help ?

  25. Thank you. This article reminded me that I do not have testimonials in website today.

    jef menguin
    inspirational speaker, Philippines