How to Get Great Testimonials

by Julian Franklin
Originally Published in September 2003 Issue of The Linking Ring

    How valuable are testimonials?  They can totally sell your product or service.  When you say nice things about your business people automatically discout what you say because they figure (rightly so) that you would always say nice things about yourself, even if they weren’t true.  But when someone else says nice things about you, it is much more credible.  When dozens of people are saying nice things about you, then it must be true.

    Years ago, when I decided I was going to enter the market for summer library reading programs as a magician, I developed a very specific method of acquiring positive reviews.  The following year (12 months after my first entry into the market) I booked over 85 summer reading programs, and I was charging 25-50% more than many of my long standing competitors.  I made more in 10 weeks than most magicians make in a year.  The positive reviews I recieved the first year and subsiquently shared with any potential client who would listen or read played a huge role in my success in booking those shows.

    So how do you get great reviews?  It is a multi-step process that begins with those dreaded words: “First, you have to have a good product or service...”  I’ve spoken and written elsewhere about how to insure you have a good show and for the sake of this article we will have to assume that you have.  Otherwise you simply won’t get good reviews no matter what techniques you use.

    Once you have an offering that meets the client's needs, and after having given the client everything you promised plus a little bit more, the next thing you must do is immediately cement in the client’s mind that they are happy with the transaction.  You do this by asking them, in their euphoric, post-purchase state, if there was anything at all that you could have done to have made the product or service any better.  You do this AT the time of delivery.  Don’t wait a week, a day, or even an hour.  You ask them right after the product or service has been delivered.

    As a performer, most of your clients are planning an event that is (at least to them) a major deal.  They have last minute jitters just like anyone else and once the tension is releaved, they enter a temporary state of euphoria.  So, as long as you didn’t totally bomb, the client should be in a good mood.  By asking at that time you compell them to say something in their euphoric state which means that most often it will be something nice.  Now, when you follow up later in writing, they are averse to contradict their previous statements and you are more likely to get another positive feedback.

    As soon as I get home I follow up with a letter than includes a survey.  The survey I’ve designed asks questions that I use to help develop my show.  I ask them to rate certain aspects of my show (humor, educational value, overall impression, etc.) on a scale from 1-5.  I specifically avoided the familiar 1-10 scale for a few important psychological reasons.

    People hesitate to give anyone a 10.  Many feel that is simply TOO good.  So they will give a lot of 9s instead.  But on a scale from 1-5, if they don’t give you the highest rating then they are forced to give you a rating of slightly above average.  Well, if your show is good they won’t want to do that, so they put down a 5.  This also lets those who are generous to give you a 10 and if your show is really good, you will get a few who mark down 10.  That instantly becomes a great reference quote “On a scale from one to five, you are a TEN!!”

    My survey also includes several open ended questions like “What was most memorable about the show?”,  “What did you like best about the show?” and “What could I do to improve my show?”.  When you get questionaires back in the mail you will find that you not only have some wonderful quotes and testimonials, but you also have some great insight into ways to truly improve what you offer.  Please don’t make the mistake of believing too much of the good things people say about you while ignoring the bad.  Any negative comment is an opportunity to further improve your show.

    I send out these questionaires after my shows along with a letter thanking the client for the opportunity to work with them and briefly explaining that I am constantly trying to improve my shows.  I ask them for their help by filling out the enclosed survey and then mention that I often use the comments in promotional material and if they don’t want me to use their name or comments to please let me know.  I get over 99% of the surveys back.  The reason is because I make the form short (one double-sided page with 10 questions total, half of which are 1-5 scale questions) and I include a self-addressed stamped envelope.

    I don’t include postage paid envelopes or even metered postage.  By putting a live postage stamp on a pre-addressed envelope and including it with the questionaire you will have amazing response rates simply because people can’t bring themselves to throw away a perfectly good stamp.  But they won’t waste the time and effort to soak the stamp off for their own use, so they just fill in the questionaire and drop it in the mail.  The extra few cents of including the stamped envelope will pay huge dividends in testimonials.

    Now you have to put those testimonials to work.  I’ve found the easiest way to do this is to create a flyer of quotes.  Be sure to include the name of the person making the quote if possible, otherwise it seems much less valid.  This is why it is important to ask permission in your letter that you send out with the questionaire.

    My flyers show the different quotes in a few different fonts just to deliniate the different speakers.  I include 10 or so on each side of a double sided piece of paper and put a headline at the top of one side like “Find Out What Everyone is Talking About” or something similar.  Others have used the headline “What Applause Looks Like on Paper”.  Borrow these or develop your own headline, but make yourself a quote sheet, then inlcude this flyer in all your letters and promotional mailings.

    Is it easy to make up all these forms and letters and then send them out after every show?  Really it is.  Why don’t more people do it?  I don’t know, but it makes for easy pickings for those of us who do.  I highly encourage everyone to try this at least until you have enough good quotes to create a flyer.  Your banker will thank you for it.

Julian Franklin is one of America's leading marketing consultants, a top behavior modification specialist, and author who develops creative ways to stimulate growth in your business. He has authored more than 20 books on human behavior, marketing, professional development, and personal accomplishment. He is frequently invited to speak on these topics as well. For more information, including the opportunity to subscribe to his free monthly e-newsletter, you can visit