Lisa Speer panned for gold, not in a riverbed or deep within a cave walls’ veins. Instead, she targeted a much more valuable and easily accessed resource: her satisfied clients.

In the March 20th, one hour Zoom education session hosted by Meeting Professionals International’s Small Business Owners (MPI SBO) community council, the founder of Speerhead Solutions, a strategic branding business, said that “Testimonials are gold. But simply asking for one doesn’t ensure it will be strong and effective.”

Lisa provided the anatomy of a powerful testimonial:

  • The before – their challenges, the situation they were facing, or their need.
  • The after – the results that were created, the experience, feelings.
  • What was most valuable to them – stands out.
  • What it was like working with you – their experience.
  • What would be helpful for someone else to know – more details.

“Make it easy on them to write a testimonial,” she said, noting that some people aren’t comfortable writing. She eases the pressure by providing questions, like those above, that prompt responses.

Here are some of the testimonial prompts she uses, which are customized to the project and client.

  • What are the challenges in your brand, causing you to reach out to hire a company?
  • What are you looking to achieve?
  • What part of the process became the most valuable?
  • How was it to work with me?
  • How would you describe the service to someone else?

Testimonials are solicited at the end of a project and/or after the client has expressed appreciation for a project well done.

Later on, she will be able to craft a testimonial based on their answers, either getting them to write the testimonial themselves or with her assistance. She recommended keeping paragraphs brief.

Speer explained testimonials should include questions and responses that differentiate your business/services from others, the value and experience of who hired you, their resulting peace of mind, and definitely if the results exceeded expectations. Make sure the company name and any specific service or promotional package that has a title is mentioned outright.

“Pay attention to what they say while working together in case you can use a key response or sentence as part of their testimonial in your promotional materials. Less can be more. Keep testimonials brief, readable and relevant.” She added, “Be intentional. Match the testimonial to the location used (social media, website, brochure) and the goals of the client, or you for the prospective clients you want to attract.”

She also noted, “It is never too late to ask.” When you request a testimonial, you can recap what you accomplished together to refresh their memory.

As businesses often alter direction in services or the clients sought, feature testmonials that align with the new path.

Speer said not all written testimonials will be 100% positive. If the answers are 50% negative, search within yourself for what you can do to improve. If there’s just an off-sentence that mars that overall impact, ask the client for permission to delete it. Preventively, you can set up early expectations that you will be editing the testimonials for length, which they will see before it is released publicly.

If the client struggles with writing the testimonial, Speer has taken their responses and written up a testimonial that is truthful but portrays the information she wants publicized. Of course, the client then must sign off on the testimonial that will include the name, title, and business. When working with multiple businesses in different fields, Speer advised to mention names, and to include a headshot, title, company name and field of business. A prospective client will be more trusting when they spot a client from a similar field who has achieved success working with you.

So, now you have collected powerful testimonials. Where do you use them?

Certainly, testimonials may be used on your website, social media, marketing materials, and in proposals and your pitch deck.

LinkedIn and Google Business Review are additional locatonis for testimonials, but your clients control these, not you. She said she requests a testimonial first from the client and pastes it into the official LinkedIn Recommendation request and Google Business Review  (via email). One must have a business profile already established on Google Business review before requesting a testimonial.

“I don’t use more than three testimonials on a page. Better for people with short attention spans.”

If she wants to show more than three on a web page, she’ll use the carousel feature. For some materials, especially when a client might not return to that location, she doesn’t worry about updating them. She said a business changing directions or expanding services might want to highlight testimonials more akin with the new focus.

Speer has a Brand Essential Checklist and newsletter, which is free.

She also offers her Branding BFF®, a one-hour fee-based branding session.

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Karen Kuzsel is a writer-editor based in the Orlando area who specializes in the hospitality, entertainment, meetings & events industries.  She is an active member of International Live Events Association and Meeting Professionals International and is now serving on the 2023-2024 MPI Community Council for Small Business Owners. She is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists. Karen writes about food & wine, spas, destinations, venues, meetings & events in her blog, Hotel Happenings & Program Promotions. A career journalist, she has owned magazines, written for newspapers, trade publications, radio and TV. As her alter-ego, Natasha, The Psychic Lady, she is a featured entertainer for corporate and social events.;;; She is also active with Experience Kissimmee CVB and Wedding Venue Map.