Word-of-mouth is one of the most effective ways to gain new customers and users. Testimonials can help you gain credibility, but only if they're from genuine, authentic sources. Think of Oprah endorsing her latest, favorite book. Part of the enticement is the thought that Oprah has really read the book, and is genuinely moved enough by the book to recommend it to a larger audience.

What a Bad Testimonial Looks Like

Bad testimonials aren't necessarily dismissive of your product or service. They just might not be effective in the way that you need them to be. "I like your product" is hardly a ringing endorsement, but at the same time "I can't live without your product because it's so amazing it's a miracle product, OMG I love you" smacks of someone who's trolling you. Bad testimonials don't tell your audience anything about your product, they don't endorse or highlight specific details of your product (they should), and they aren't enthusiastic about your product in a way that's genuine.

If you haven't been able to attract usable testimonials, you may need to re-think your strategy on getting testimonials.

Back to the Drawing Board

Directly asking for testimonials is perfectly acceptable. Just waiting for them to come in likely won't happen.

But, how you phrase questions when asking for a testimonial can be the difference between a lukewarm testimonial and one that increases your sales.

Make it as easy as possible to give you a great testimonial.

  • Ask for specifics, and exclude generalities. "You rock" is a great compliment, but doesn't tell you or potential new customers anything about your product or business.
  • Ask for examples. Encourage your customers to give you examples of how your product was used, and what it did better than other similar products.
  • If you can, ask to use their real names in the testimonial. Testimonials from real people, who are willing to attach their real name to a product (and even better, their photo), will come off as more authentic. Plus, it means that your customer cares enough about your product to brag about it!

Please Don't Fake It

If you're unable to elicit any useful testimonials that can attest to the efficacy of your product, or really sell others on your business, don't give into the temptation to fake testimonials. For one thing, it's terribly easy to tell the difference between a real one, and a fake one. For another, if you're found out, you're guaranteed to make both current and potential customers angry. Your product or business will have less credibility, and you'll stand to lose more than you gain.

Instead, focus on actually making your product good enough that your customers are more than willing to put in a good word for you.

A good testimonial can sell your product better than you can. A great testimonial will influence others to purchase your product, to give your business a second look, or to give it a chance at all.