When you make online purchases, would you buy anything sight unseen without ever reading a customer review or seeing a high star rating? Neither would I, and neither would most of your potential client base. Testimonials are pretty much the same thing as a product’s rating or a customer review.

You can talk as much as you like about how amazing of a job you’ll do, or how professional you are on your site – but nothing really hits home like a previous client saying it for you. Testimonials give future clients access to past clients; Neutral third parties that can corroborate your story that you’ll do an excellent job. It’s basically a list of references, just like you would add to your resume when applying to a job. A resume is nearly worthless if a potential new employer can’t verify the facts with past references. Testimonials are your past references that new clients can check and verify your claims.

We can all agree that testimonials are important to attracting new clients, but how do you get them?

If you have never asked a client for a testimonial before, never fear. It is actually pretty easy, as most clients are more than willing to oblige.  There are many ways of asking for testimonials, and I am going to share with you a few of my favorite ways of not only getting testimonials, but of getting the right kind that hits on all the important points, making you look like the rock star designer you are.

Why “just asking” isn’t usually enough

The first and most obvious method is to be direct and simply ask for one.  However, this comes with a drawback. If you just come out and ask a client, giving them no direction, the resulting testimonial runs the risk of being poorly worded, or weak. This isn’t necessarily your client’s fault, as many of them aren’t writers or simply don’t understand what goes into a really persuasive testimonial. For this reason, it’s generally better to offer a bit more direction when asking a client for a testimonial.

Tactic 1: Feedback Surveys

One of my favorite ways is to ask your client fill out a feedback survey as soon as the project is complete, while it’s still fresh in their minds. When you ask them, tell them it’s going to help you moving forward, and that you really value their comments and opinion (which hopefully, is true.)

Asking them to fill out a survey and telling them that their opinion matters is usually very well received; many clients even consider it flattering. This is going to make it much more likely for them to want to help you in taking the time to fill out the survey.

It’s important to ask for this while “the iron is hot,” for a number of reasons. First off, if you wait too long, your clients are less likely to remember the details of the project and how great of a job you did. This isn’t because they don’t remember or realize that you did a wonderful job, but more likely because they’ve simply moved on emotionally. After all, they are buy people, and have new projects they’re working on at that point. But if you did a great job and ask them right when it’s still fresh in their minds, they are much more likely to still be riding the emotional high of a successful project outcome. That emotion will give you all the ingredients you need for a great testimonial.

When using a feedback survey, the trick is to ask specific questions that are designed to get positive responses about various aspects of your work. If you ask something generic like ‘How did I do?’ you’re going to get a generic answer back, like ‘You did a good job’. This isn’t very useful, and doesn’t make for a strong, provocative testimonial. Asking very specific questions is your way around getting a weak, generic response from your client. What questions should you ask?

“What were your existing frustrations with your website, logo, project, etc. before coming to me?”

This is a great question for clients because it gives them a good baseline for them to talk about how and why they weren’t happy with what they had before they came to you. This helps create an introduction or a beginning of the story.

“How happy were you with the finished product? Did it meet or exceed your expectations?”

This is another great question as it asks them how happy they are with your work and with what they obtained from you. They often will easily speak directly about how happy you made them, giving your testimonial some emotional punch.

“How would you describe your experience working with me?”

In this case, hopefully it will prompt them to say something about how easy it was to work with you, or how much they enjoyed the process. This is powerful because everyone wants to work with people that are a pleasure to be around. If your testimonial says how easy you were to work with, it makes the decision of hiring you much easier.

These three questions when used together really tell a well-rounded story about the entire process. It tells about why they came to you in the beginning and how frustrated they were at the start, how easy and enjoyable it was to work with you, and how happy they were with the finished product. This makes for a really great testimonial. There is a fourth question you can ask as well, though it’s one that has to be asked a bit further down the road:

“How has your new logo/website/etc. impacted your business thus far?”

This obviously can’t be included in the initial survey, because if you just wrapped up your work they really can’t tell you how it’s impacted their business just yet. If you ask them to answer this question in a month or two and come back to them for the answer, by then (hopefully) they’ll be able to add another dimension to the testimonial. This makes the testimonial a lot more impactful and vibrant, as it tells other future clients about how your work directly impacted someone’s business.

Now once you have your answers or survey back, you need to ask your client if they mind if you use their answers as a testimonial. They usually won’t mind – in fact, most will be flattered that you value their answers enough to publicize them. Still, if they learn later that you’re using what they said in a public forum without their knowledge, they might get upset that you didn’t tell them the whole story. The principle here is: Just ask, but ask AFTER you get the survey back.

Once you have their permission, you’re going to want to trim down their answers and take the best parts to craft a shorter, powerful testimonial. This generally involves combining their answers together into a paragraph. However, it’s also important not to edit too much, or get deceptive with your editing and take things out of context. Make sure everything in the testimonial comes across just as your client intended it. But the best testimonials are edited and short, because once again most people skim more than they read online; so don’t make these testimonials overly long.

Tactic 2: Email Excerpts

Another tactic for getting strong testimonials is to just use snippets from positive emails you got from clients. This works well if you have a very busy client who may not have time to fill out a feedback survey. If you get a great email from a client that says something really positive, about how happy they are and how great it’s been working with you, you can edit something like this down to make a strong testimonial as well. Many times, an email that’s sent by the client is going to be the strongest testimonial of all, as they are sent without being prompted and often are written in the moment. However, just like with the survey, always get permission first, and edit it so that it makes sense as a testimonial. You don’t need to post the entire email and its context to get a great testimonial out of it.

Tactic 3: LinkedIn

If you’re on LinkedIn, you can actually recommend someone else’s skills or work, or be recommended yourself. When you recommend someone, you can actually write a small paragraph about how and why you recommend them and how you enjoyed working with them. If you happen to have a few recommendations from clients on LinkedIn, by all means repurpose these as testimonials – because a LinkedIn ‘recommendation’ is basically the same thing.

Furthermore, LinkedIn actually makes it very easy to ask for a recommendation. They give you a prebuilt email to ask people you’re connected with. However, I wouldn’t recommend using the generic template email that LinkedIn provides if you’re looking for a recommendation. Instead, customize it for who you’re sending it to; you’re much more likely to get a positive response if it looks like you have put in the time to personalize the request. This can be a great tool for obtaining testimonials from clients, and you can ask them right in the request if they mind you using it on your website.

No matter which method you use to obtain your client testimonials, I recommend asking your subjects if they could provide you with a photo of themselves. Photos of your past clients can really add another dimension of credibility. Using a testimonial with a picture of the person next to makes it seem much more genuine and real. And if you want to make it really easy for your clients to say yes to this request, simply ask them if they mind if you use their LinkedIn profile photo. In general, the easier you make it on them, the more likely they are to say yes. However, not everyone will agree to it, as some people are camera shy or don’t want their images online, but it never hurts to ask. This can be a powerful tool to complement a well written testimonial, as it creates that much more connection with anyone who reads it.

Author Bio: Wes McDowell is a web designer in Los Angeles. In addition to client work, he has authored several books for freelance designers and co-hosts a popular graphic design podcast called “The Deeply Graphic DesignCast.” Follow Wes on Google+

header image courtesy of theilluminated