How to build trust and convert more sales with testimonials

Testimonials are much more than just reviews. They are powerful success stories from past customers, and they answer one of the most important questions for future customers: “Is this product right for me?”

Today you’ll learn how to collect and structure amazing testimonials on your landing pages so your leads can feel confident that your product or service will help them achieve results.

A quick note from David

You can manage your website testimonials using your favourite tools.

I’ve personally fallen in love with Thrive Ovation for WordPress. It’s an all-in-one plugin that allows you to collect customer testimonials anywhere on your website, review and approve them, and then display them anywhere using beautiful testimonial designs. Again, you can use whatever tools work for you!

What is a testimonial?

Testimonials give your customers the chance to tell their ‘transformation story’ of how your product or service helped them achieve a result. They focus on the problem, the solution, the journey, and the result. Here’s an example:


(If you’re wondering, this is from Sean McCabe’s Hiring Bootcamp, which as you can see, I highly recommend.)

Do you see how I share my experience of how the product (the bootcamp training in this case) helped me to overcome a need, desire, frustration or challenge?

This is extremely powerful. It allows other people, who share the same problem, to relate to my experience and decide whether they want to buy. Here’s the thought process going through their head:

“Oh wow, I’m not alone in having this problem/desire/need. This person had the same problem and this product/service worked for him, so it could work for me too!”

How is a testimonial different from a review or case study?

Reviews talk simply about the product or service. Delivery, quality, price and performance. They tell you nothing about how the product transformed the reviewer’s life or how similar the reviewer’s situation is to your own (as a potential purchaser).

Case studies are like inverted testimonials. They tell a story of transformation from the perspective of the company or brand who performed the service. They often go something like this:

“Shoes-R-Us came to us with a challenge to diversify their online sales away from paid advertising. We helped them plan and implement powerful additional channels such as SEO and email marketing, and as a result their business is better than ever. Aren’t we great?”

Do you see the difference?

Top tips for collecting and displaying amazing testimonials on your landing pages

OK, enough background information. Here’s the good stuff: your complete guide to collecting and structuring testimonials that will make a huge difference to your conversion rates. Bookmark this page so you can refer to it in the future.

Strike while the iron’s hot

The best time to ask for a testimonial is when someone contacts you with positive feedback on your website, product or service. They are already in a thankful mindset, having seen good results from their investment. They are subconsciously looking for a way to reciprocate — to pay you back — and they try to do so by sharing their happy experiences via email, phone, letter etc.

This is the absolute perfect time to ask permission to collect a testimonial. They will almost always say yes.

If you wait a week, or even a day, to follow up on this desire to reciprocate, you will no longer be front-of-mind. Their time and focus will be taken up by other things in their life, meaning you’ll have to chase them for a testimonial. And chasing for testimonials is always uncomfortable!

You’ll need a process already in place to take advantage of this rule of reciprocity… for example, an online form with question prompts, a templated email, or even just a phone call with some directed questions. But this framework needs to be in place before asking for testimonials to make the process as quick and easy as possible.

Strike while the iron is hot and make the process as easy as possible.

Obtain and record permission

Don’t be tempted to simply re-publish positive emails from past customers. Private email comes with an expectation of privacy in most legal jurisdictions. If you want to feature the testimonials of successful customers (of course you do!) without getting into sticky legal trouble, you’ll need to get permission first.

If replying to a nice email or social media post, just ask the following:

Thank you for your kind words. It’s great to know you find [product/service/website] helpful!

May I share your positive feedback on the website?

It will help other people to read your experiences and decide if [product/service/website] is right for them too.

If you collect testimonials via a form on your website, you can clearly state the following:

Submitting your feedback here grants us permission to share it with others.

There’s really no need to add a checkbox. That’s just another hoop you’re asking people to jump through.

Edit for grammar and readability

Be very clear you reserve this right. Self-submitted testimonials are often full of spelling and grammar mistakes, confusing sentence structure, and irrelevant parts that negatively impact readability.

Again, if you collect testimonials via your website, clearly state the following:

We reserve the right to make changes for the purposes of grammar and readability.

Create a rich story of transformation with question prompts

Your customers don’t know what makes an effective testimonial.

If you simply ask them to share a testimonial without any guidance, you’ll receive a few disjointed sentences without structure, journey, results, transformation, and sometimes grammar, spelling or effort. They are busy people and they owe your company nothing – so again, make it as easy as possible for them.

The secret to getting great testimonials asking the right questions.

There are 4 main question prompts that combine to tell powerful stories of success with you product, service or brand.

  • Describe your biggest frustration or challenge about [the original problem]
  • How has [product/service/brand] helped you?
  • Would you recommend [product/service/brand]? If so, what would you say to someone who isn’t quite sure?
  • Is there anything else you’d like to add?

When you collect and combine the answers to these questions into a testimonial, you build a story that walks you through where the customer was before they purchased your product, how it helped to achieve a result, and how they would recommend it to future customers.

Don’t forget to ask people how they would personally recommend you to others. You’ll find some valuable words of promotion coming directly from the mouths of your customers!

Ask questions that require expanding upon

Remember to avoid asking questions that can be answered in a few words. On their own, they don’t produce useful testimonials:

  • Would you recommend [product/service/brand]?
  • Did [product/service/brand] help you achieve the results you wanted?
  • etc.

Force the customer to expand on their answers, ideally 1-2 short paragraphs per question.

Select the best snippets to create powerful mini-testimonials

Sometimes it can be a good idea to display only the best or most relevant parts of a testimonial.

In fact, I always recommend keeping both a full length version and a shorter, more hard-hitting version where appropriate. This way you can choose which version to use for best effect.

The WordPress testimonial plugin I use (Thrive Ovation) makes this super easy. Just duplicate the full testimonial, choose what to keep, and save it. Then you can choose whether to display the full or short version on any page.

Use photos to supercharge your testimonials

There’s no doubt about it: the social proof effect of testimonials is supercharged with real photos of customers.

A photo allows visitors to connect on a human level to past customers. It allows visitors to relate to past customers, to believe their stories, to ultimately know, like and trust your brand. Words are cheap (and sometimes easily faked), but if a customer is willing to put their face alongside their recommendation, that’s a powerful endorsement.

From experience, I recommend you ask for a photo immediately after receiving their testimonial. Don’t wait or the request feels invasive. Feel free to use my email below:

Just a quick email to say thank you for submitting your testimonial!

Do you have a photo I can add?

A photo would allow me to feature your review across more pages to help more people.

Please do let me know!

Of course, some people aren’t comfortable sharing a photo, especially in this age of digital privacy. You should respect that and move on. At least you still have their written testimonial.

However, many people simply don’t respond. Feel free to politely chase them for a final answer; everyone is busy and you might have asked while they were boarding a bus, or checking their email in the bathroom.

Should you offer an incentive for testimonials?

Sometimes customers need an extra reason to share their testimonial, even if your product has produced amazing results in their life.

“What’s in it for me?” is the adage that springs to mind.

Most countries have their own trading and advertising standards that regulate (and sometimes punish) incentivised endorsements and testimonials. Be sure to operate above the law in your country.

If you offer an incentive, it should hold no inherent value — no money, credits, additional products or services, nothing that could be considered a bribe for an biased endorsement. Your future customers need to know if any 3rd party recommendation was provided after an exchange of value.

If you can offer an incentive, it should only be to encourage someone to take the time to submit a testimonial, NOT to leave a positive review. Make this clear. The content of the testimonial should be unbiased and offered freely by the customer.

Setting up an automated way to collect testimonials

OK, this is a teaser 🙂

In the next upcoming article, I’ll show show you my exact process for automatically collecting testimonials.

Just hit the Facebook Like button below to receive a notification when it’s published.

You’re welcome to copy my process and start collecting your own library of conversion-boosting testimonials to choose from when building a new sales page.