Leveraging testimonials for social proof

No matter how good we are at telling people about our products and services, it’s always heard with a degree of scepticism;  after all, we would say we’re good, wouldn’t we! But if your current and past customers say you’re good, it’s a lot more believable, so having testimonials in your arsenal can be the difference between winning and losing an opportunity. In marketing, this is called ‘social proof’.

The components of quality testimonials

What I most often see businesses using are unattributable one-liners: “Excellent service at a great price! – Mrs. Smith of nowhere”. These kind of things could be made up, and often are. They have little, if any, value. A far better and more effective approach is to proactively create some great testimonials and case studies.

A testimonial basically says you’re good and can be anything from a few lines to a page. A case study is more of a ‘story’ approach and is designed to help potential customers understand some examples of things you did for happy customers, so that they can understand how you could help them too. I’ll cover both here as if they’re the same…but keep the difference in mind when you come to create them. Let’s overview this in two parts, content and creation.


  • What content would appeal to your target audience?
  • Which product or service do you want to highlight (be specific)?
  • Ensure it’s representative of what you do, and believable
  • Don’t scare prospects away! Include points to encourage them
  • What would they be afraid of? Make points to reduce their fears
  • Include professional, high-quality images, especially pictures of customers


  • Write a list of questions to get answers matching the content you need
  • Don’t send a list of questions and ask customers to write their answers
  • Get a professional to interview clients and make it a fun, positive experience
  • Edit so it reads well, but don’t fundamentally change what they say
  • Ensure it also makes you customer look good too
  • Send the draft to them, then call to go through any edits they require
  • Omit anything that dates it, so you can use it for a long period
  • Have printed versions, not just online

If you follow the above guidelines you’ll have some excellent testimonials or case studies that significantly help your marketing effort to gain more good customers.

Where people get testimonials wrong

Don’t get lazy and send your customer a document with some boring questions and ask them to complete it themselves. A few things happen when you do. Firstly, few of them complete it, or they hate doing it and what they write comes across with zero enthusiasm. And when they write “It was mostly OK on the whole” you’ll be on thin ice if you edit it to sound better, but you really don’t want that kind of phrase in your testimonial. You need to speak to the customer over the phone or in person, then write the resulting document well. If that’s beyond your skills – pay someone who will do it well and ensure they do!

Recommendations on LinkedIn can also be great, but this is a situation where it’s up to your customer to write it. You get the opportunity to publish or not, and you can (and should) ask for changes if necessary. If you ask for a referral you can guide the response by saying “it’s up to you, but it would be great if you could highlight your experience over xyz and why you’d recommend others to use us”. The great thing about LinkedIn referrals is that they link to the person recommending you, so readers know they’re true. Ask for one per month!