3 Proven Ways to Improve Your Client Testimonials for More Business

“Nothing draws a crowd quite like a crowd.”Review

P.T. Barnum was a guy who knew a little something about drawing crowds, and his advice above stands as one of the most important things you need to learn if you want to grow a successful business…

Potential customers care more about what other customers have to say over anything else.

It’s a concept known as social proof, and you’ll find that it plays a role in nearly every aspect of client persuasion that you can imagine, from leveraging it to better negotiate with clients to marketing your business to new clients.

Unfortunately, many freelancers just like to slap up the latest, “Good job!” they got from a client and assume that’s going to make the cut.

It isn’t.

The good thing is that there are a few easy ways to improve your client testimonials without resorting to bugging your clients, being too “sales-y”, or worst of all, being dishonest.

The Power of Client Testimonials

In an age where the Web has such a pervasive presence in our everyday lives, you probably won’t be surprised to find that the way people shop nowadays is quite different from way back when.

According to these statistics, up to 70% of American shoppers now say that they look at reviews online before making a purchase.

You can also see from data in this article that nearly 63% of consumers indicate that they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has reviews and testimonials.

It’s not hard to imagine how that translates over to freelance work — customers today want you to “show them the money” in the form of real customers that you’ve helped in the past.

Proof positive that you should be taking your testimonials very seriously!

Here’s how to step them up a notch…

1.) Add a Photo to Increase Trust

Let’s start with an easy one!

Here’s the thing: Just because your customer testimonial is true, doesn’t mean people will believe it.

It is a somewhat frustrating but important lesson to learn.

Fortunately, new research on “truthiness” (any Colbert fans out there?) shows that images can increase trust with nearly anyone… even if the images are nonsensical!

The researchers found that by adding an image to a statement (even if the image didn’t show any proof), respondents trusted the statement far more often. Picture a statement about the human body accompanied by a stock photo of a doctor… that’s what they mean by nonsensical.

Fortunately, you can apply this in a way that actually makes sense — by adding a photo alongside of your client testimonials.

In the same way that you would use a product testimonial…

Testimonial…add a quality photograph of your client next to the nice things they had to say about you.

Be sure to also utilize the power of headlines + grouping, as you can greet potential clients with a full selection of satisfied customers, like so:

Social Proof

This simple tweak will literally give a “face” to those who had such kind things to say about you, and considering that photos have been proven to increase empathy as well as trust, I’d say you better start adding them!

2.) Utilize Stories: Transportation Leads to Persuasion

One of the most effective testimonial “styles” is the customer story.

While a 5-star review will catch a prospective client’s attention, a personal story about how you solved a huge headache for a customer will resonate with them like nothing else.

According to psychologists Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons (authors of The Invisible Gorilla), stories are persuasive and more trustworthy than statistics because individual examples stay lodged in our minds, but statistics and averages do not:

Our ancestors lacked access to huge data sets and experimental methods. By necessity, we learned from specific examples, not by compiling data from many people across a wide range of situations.

Some interesting research on storytelling reveals that stories work because they are able to slip in under the radar and wrap us up in the tale. Essentially, transportation leads to persuasion.

It’s easy to ignore marketing gimmicks, but stories create a sense of suspense that must be seen to completion (“What happened next?”)

They are also very easy to relate too, and if a potential customer comes across a client who had a problem that has caused them some massive headaches (“My site was down and I was freaking out! But ____ came to the rescue!”) then they will be falling over themselves to hire you.

3.) Harness the Power of Implicit Egotism

Doesn’t it frustrate you when you’re being lectured to by someone who can’t possibly relate to what you do?

You are not alone! According to a psychological concept known as ”implicit egotism” we relate to people far better when they resemble us in some way.

It results in some seriously weird stuff, such as ownership bias (valuing your crappy CRT TV for more than it’s worth at garage sales just because you own it) and it has even been shown to influence people when it isn’t true!

Check out this example: in a study conducted on implicit egotism, researchers found that those people who were told they had a similar birthday to Grigori Rasputin (the mad monk) held a far more favorable opinion of him than others… even though it wasn’t true!

What this means to you: You don’t need to worry about Rasputin, instead, you should be utilizing this information to improve your client testimonials by nailing down you ideal customer and then trying to get a review that appeals to their exact desires.

Let me explain…

Instead of trying to get a hold of the biggest & baddest dude you can find (like the CEO) for comment on your work, think about which type of person is likely to hire you.

If, perhaps, you offer copywriting services, it might be the marketing director. If you do contract design work, maybe the lead designer of most companies is the person who reaches out to you.

Get someone like that for a testimonial!

When they see someone like themselves on your homepage or hire me page, they can relate better to the comments that the testimonial has made about your work.

Trying to get the person highest up the ladder that you can (or your most famous client) to give you a testimonial can be fruitless if you aren’t appealing to your ideal customer’s ego.

Your Turn

Let me know what you thought of these simple techniques for improving your client testimonials down in the comments!

If you haven’t already, make sure you don’t leave without picking up our free guide on How to Write the Perfect Proposal.

See you down below!

About Gregory Ciotti


Gregory Ciotti loves small businesses & startups and gets nerdy about behavioral psychology on his blog Sparring Mind.

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{ 10 comments }

Rahat Bashar

Thanks for the tips Gregory.

Just a quick question.

Since I run a design blog, I’m curious on how social proof effects the amount of shares my posts gets.

For instance, if a post already has a few tweets, then are people more likely to tweet that post after seeing that?

Also, if I have a high amount of Facebook likes and I display it my blog’s homepage, then are people more likely to subscribe after seeing that?

Rafal Dyrda

Photos of customers make a huge difference. A while ago I added testimonials without photos. Once I added photos, the conversion rates went up as well as visitors spent more time on the site.

Gregory Ciotti

@Rahat — That’s a good question, and the answer seems to be that yes, a lack of social sharing may cause people to share less because the blog looks “abandoned,” but you can using sharing plugins like this (http://wordpress.org/extend/plugins/flare/) to fix that.

@Rafal — I can’t ask for a better example than that! :)

Sara Cormier

This is the most useful and insightful blog I read. Thank you for another great post!

Craig

How do you suggest asking for testimonials in the first place?

Angela

Craig, if you have great results with clients you don’t necessarily have to ask outright for testimonials. Instead, you can ask whether you can share their results with others. The really happy ones will write an actual testimonial sometimes, while some others may just say you can share the results but not to reveal the company name… While others will just say no.

Lelo

Gregory your post is appreciated and awesome like the rest of them. I’ve read most of your blogs started two weeks ago and have found some serious inspiration to promote most of my work on my site. I’m pretty new at this just finished my certificate in webdesign. I’m writing you all the way from Swaziland I haven’t necessarily taken the steps to promote the site and I’m currently at a place where I need to for the sake of getting atleast a bit of traffic which at this point is almost none existent. So if you may please advise me on how to best start increasing traffic to my site or direct me to a blog that will give me some of the needed insight. I have atleast five clients i’ve made websites for but mostly close friends and two references. Thanks Greg.

Ken Richman

Adding photos is a great tip – yet it’s one thing to ask a client for a testimonial, a different thing to get a photo too. And it needs to be consistent, so once you start adding photos, you have to keep it up. Which means your best testimonial may not make the cut if it doesn’t have a photo.
Do you know of a WordPress plug-in that makes it easy to add testimonials and also pulls in gravatars?

Joseph Putnam

Is there anywhere on the web that Gregory Ciotti won’t show up to provide incredibly awesome advice? I read through this article not knowing who wrote it only to be surprised to find out it was written by the prolific Mr. Ciotti. For some reason I’m not surprised. :)

Thanks to Gregory and Bidsketch for the great post!

Caleb

Good thoughts Gregory! Testimonials are a great way to raise your reputation in the eyes of your clients / customers. You are totally right about pictures and especially faces working well. Our firm recently built a website for a local food pantry, and they’ve been getting raving reviews about it from the community.

Why? One of the reasons is the photos we included – it helps people in the same situation to feel secure about the organization.

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