Are Your Client Testimonials Up to Par?

Testimonials from good clients are your best calling card and can be one key reason why a prospect could be persuaded to pick you over the competition.

If you're in the business of providing a service that comes directly from who you are, and your expertise, being trusted by a potential client (and existing clients) is the foundation of a sustainable business. I suspect that if you spoke again to your more established peers, they'd tell you that referrals form the bulk of their new business.

You and I both know referrals don't come from people who didn't have a good experience as your client. As for those who do recommend you because of their client experience, they can be one of the most powerful resources in marketing yourself to potential clients.  How often have you - after reading product or service reviews which are intelligently written - made a decision to contact the vendor or provider or to purchase a product?

What should testimonials contain? 

  1. An authentic "voice". Testimonials should be short and factual, with details that convey your client's experience. Above all, it should "sound" personal. Not like a sound bite, but something that resonates naturally from the person you helped. So if your client is a CEO or manager in a large firm, his testimonial would read differently than a woman who succeeded with a personal injury claim. In both case, stick to conversational language that doesn't come across as scripted. Remember you're targeting a lay audience, however sophisticated they may be.
  2. The matter you helped the client with, and how you made them feel. To some degree, this allows you to showcase your specific expertise. Your client who is giving the testimonial doesn't have to reveal the details of her case, but highlighting the specifics is key (after all, how compelling are generalizations really?). For example:

"Tom made sense of all the legal and medical jargon involved in my personal injury case. With his guidance, I could understand why we took certain steps in my case, and why some solutions were simply not available to me. I felt I could make an informed decision, whatever the outcome. Other lawyers I had approached didn't seem to have the same level of knowledge about  the technical aspects of my medical case that impacted my legal chances. I understood why we settled my case for a specific amount."

How to get them done?

  • Talk to the clients with whom you've had a warm and rewarding professional experience. People who in their own right are considered good at their own work, who represent the typical client that would benefit from your expertise. In other words, they embody the traits of your ideal client, but also the ones you can most help. Remember that you don't want just anyone as new client - you want a responsible, rational client who can work with you towards success, not someone who is merely "lawyer-shopping" for the best "deal". The latter tend to be more trouble than they are worth, and are most unlikely to give you a testimonial, let alone a sterling one. In short, like attracts like.
  • Use their words, not yours. When you talk to them about crafting a testimonial, ask them - in their own words - to describe their experience working with you firm. And then ask them what mattered most of them at the end of the day. Key sentences such as "you made me fear the whole process less" or "I felt I had a chance at finding a solution to my problem" or "you gave me peace-of-mind in something that has caused me a lot of worry" can be very powerful. Of course, they are only so if the language doesn't come across as hackneyed or stilted.
  • Draft a short paragraph, and share it with your client. Certainly you don't want too lengthy a testimonial, but here's where you have to exercise judgement. Sometimes, brevity is what works best. But sometimes, details humanize a story and can convey authenticity. Prospects need to feel this authenticity from the testimonial if they are going to feel some sort of comfort with a lawyer they haven't yet met.
  • Let your client make changes. But if in the end you're not comfortable with them, you don't have to use the testimonial. Move on to the next testimonial. And if you can't develop a good one as yet, don't settle for one that is less than authentic and sterling.
  • Get your client to sign off on it, and let them know when the testimonial goes live on your website. If they are on LinkedIn, ask them whether they can post their testimonial as a recommendation.

There are other things you should do to keep your website fresh and compelling. I'll say more about that in a future blog post. But for now, if you haven't got any (or enough) testimonials on your website, it's time to get them done.

In a world where consumers increasingly rely on their peer reviews to make a purchasing decision, why not exploit your good record with past clients?