3 Ways to Get Authentic, Powerful Customer Testimonials

Great customer testimonials can grow your business faster than practically any other kind of content.

You can dial in your messaging and implement smart strategies all you want, but ultimately people won’t buy from you if they don’t trust you.

You’ve got to point to someone outside your business who can vouch for you. When you do, the following magical things will happen:

• You’ll create trust. If prospects can see that other people are succeeding with this product or service, they’ll figure they’re likely to have the same experience.

• You’ll establish your authority. By showcasing the customers you’ve helped, prospects see you as a skilled and knowledgeable business with a history of success.

• You’ll qualify potential customers. When you do it right, prospective customers will identify with the customers in your testimonials and know your product or service was designed with them in mind.

Sounds good, right?

Believe me: there are customers out there right now whose lives have changed because of your business. You’ve just got to find their story and get it out there.

Well, the problem comes when it’s time to feature customer testimonials in our marketing material. Most of us either have nothing or can only find vague exclamations like “I love it!”

Believe me: there are customers out there right now whose lives have changed because of your business. You’ve just got to find their story and get it out there.

When you do, I know your marketing will improve. In fact, customer testimonials are the most effective kind of content marketing.

Here are five keys to get those great customer testimonials and make your marketing more trustworthy and effective:

Ask specific questions

If you only do one thing from this list, this is the one to focus on.

You’ve got to ask specific questions when you reach out to customers and ask for testimonials.

That’s because not all testimonials are created equal.

Say you own a hair salon. Which customer feedback would you rather feature?

“I love my new haircut, thanks!”


“I have felt frumpy and self-conscious about my hair for years. But then I found Julie here at Ooh La La. OMG. She totally gets how to make me look my best, and I get compliments all the time! But the best thing is that I feel absolutely gorgeous every day. THANK YOU!

The key to these emotionally rich and detailed testimonials is simply to ask specific questions.

If a customer gives you a short, positive review or offers to share a testimonial, dig deeper.

Here is a list of questions that get at a larger story (and actually follow our StoryBrand framework!). Customize these to suit your brand:

1. What was your absolute biggest challenge prior to purchasing / joining / attending?
2. How did that challenge make you feel?
3. What changed after purchasing/joining/attending?
4. What specific results can you share?
5. What would you say to somebody on the fence about purchasing / joining / attending?
6. Anything else to add?
7. Do you grant permission for us to feature your company and this testimonial in our marketing materials?

Also: don’t forget to ask for contact information, company name, and any demographic information that can help you find dialed-in testimonials for particular segments of your audience (just women age 23-35, for example). It’s also nice to ask for a headshot, although you can always reach out and get that later.

The key is to focus on how the customer has changed — both in concrete and emotional ways. This allows you to tell a compelling story of their transformation.

To show you what this looks like, let me share a customer testimonial we received recently from a motivational speaker named Brian Fleming. Brian responded to an email we sent asking our StoryBrand Live Workshop attendees to share the results of their experiences. It’s not only a testimonial. It’s a story of transformation:

What was your absolute biggest challenge prior to attending?
I wasn’t absolutely clear on what my own singular, value-producing message was to the world (I’m a speaker) and StoryBrand forced me to identify it and align it with wants and needs to fulfill in the marketplace.

How did that challenge make you feel?
Frustrated, lost, confused, “living in a fog”

What changed after attending?
My messaging immediately went from “blurry to clear,” became extremely benefit and “outcome” driven, and helped me stand out from the competition by appealing to, and connecting with, my customers on a deeper level that matters most to them.

What specific results can you share?
I’m don’t feel lost or confused anymore. I’m getting more referrals and getting rebooked to speak by previous clients more than I ever have over the past 9 1/2 years of speaking. I just got booked to speak again for another Fortune 500 company at a higher speaking fee than usual.

What would you say to somebody on the fence about attending?
You have everything to gain and nothing to lose. The return on investment far outweighs the small price of admission. If you aren’t willing to invest in your personal and business development, then you probably shouldn’t be in business (or won’t likely be for long). Sign up for the next StoryBrand event ASAP.

Use video and candid images

Most of us are visual learners (around 65% of the population, according to Social Science Research Network).

That means your testimonials should be visually compelling.

Always feature a picture of the person who gave the testimonial. Headshots are fine, but candid pictures can lend even more authenticity.

Plus, since testimonials are about building trust, featuring someone’s full name and face alongside their testimonial helps assure your readers that these are real people and real success stories.

To up the authenticity and engagement factor, add video testimonials whenever you can. You can make this work on any budget.

Ask customers to record themselves. Everybody has a video camera these days. Ask customers to record a quick video testimonial using the questions as a guide. Or set up a Skype session so you can have a conversation, then just edit out your questions later.

Set up a mini booth at your next event. If you regularly interact with customers, get a tripod for your iPhone and set up a little recording booth. We do this at our StoryBrand Live Workshops, so we can capture people’s experiences right then and there.

Hire a video crew. Go high production and hire a video production company. They’ll go to your customer’s location and get beautiful, professional interviews and b-roll and package it all up with music.

Create a process for gathering testimonials.

The best time to get great customer testimonials is BEFORE you need them.

That means it’s important to establish a process for how your business finds, captures, and organizes customer testimonials.

Take our fake salon from earlier, Ooh La La. Their process might look like this:

1. Sherrie at the front desk takes “before” and “after” pictures of every client.

2. The marketing team sets up an autoresponder email two weeks after every appointment that asks customers to rate their experience and take a survey.

3. Once a week, Sherrie reviews all the survey data and highlights the best testimonials.

4. Sherrie puts together the testimonials in a Google document and organizes them by age and gender.

After just a few weeks, Ooh La La has a vast (and visual) supply of stories and inspiration for their email campaigns. A whole new page on their website. A “Wall of Gorgeous” they can put up in the lobby. If they need to create an ad for a men’s lifestyle magazine, they can easily find a testimonial that’ll reach their target audience.

Whatever your process looks like, know that you’ll need to enlist your sales and support teams to help you find these testimonials. They’re the ones on the phone listening to customers and hearing customer successes. Make sure they know the process and feel empowered to participate in it.

Don’t settle for vague testimonials (or worse, none at all). Imagine how great it would feel to know you’ve got a process in place to capture all the wonderful things you’re doing for your customers. Set it up this week and let me know what happens. But be warned — I’ll probably try to make you give me a testimonial!

Do Your Own Marketing Makeover (For Free)

Great testimonials are only one piece of persuasive, authentic marketing. Sign up for my free video series, 5 Minute Marketing Makeover, and I’ll show you what else you can do this week to clarify your message and grow your business.

Subscribe to the Building a Story Brand Podcast