Most Testimonials Do Little Help Your Credibility (This is Why)

Nearly all client generated testimonials these days are pretty much useless except to fill up all that empty space on your website. Worn out and overused clichés like “excellent service”, “tremendous help” or “knows her stuff” are horribly vague and don’t clearly communicate the tangible outcomes that you provide… and those tangible, specific, and positive outcomes are exactly what clients want.

Unless they are in some sales or marketing related field, most clients have no idea how to write a credibility-boosting testimonial for a coach or consultant. To make matters worse, when you do get a limp testimonial from a happy client, it’s almost impossible to ask them to revise it. That seems so pushy and ungrateful, doesn’t it? After all, they took their valuable time to craft it and are surely quite proud of their writing skills. So, who are we to complain about it? Once it’s in your hands, it is what it is.

(Before we go on, and in the interest of full transparency, I have some of these warm and fuzzy, but sterile testimonials on my own website. They are from a long time ago and I intend to eat my own dog food, so I am replacing them as time goes on. I did not want to keep this information from you just because of that… and like me, you won’t be able to replace all of yours overnight either.)

So, going forward, how can we artfully escape from this tricky testimonial trap?

By writing the testimonials for your clients. That’s correct… you write it!

Here’s how…

The next time the subject comes up with a client, for example when they pay you a compliment on a job well done, instead of requesting they put that in writing, ask if you can write it up for their approval and signature. Most clients will jump at this because they’re usually very busy and sometimes a bit intimidated by the prospect of writing a testimonial.

Here’s how to spot these opportunities…

  1. You receive a grateful email message like ‘You did a fantastic job!”
  2. Messages on your LinkedIn or Facebook accounts like “You guys are awesome!”
  3. In-person gratitude: “You’ve been so great, is there anything I can do for you?”

What next?

Here is a nifty template you can use to create a strong testimonial…

  1. Prior to working with (Name) I was (Experiencing this problem or condition).
  2. (Name) helped me (Achieve some specific positive outcome).
  3. Now (This is my improved situation).


Here is an actual example from my website:

“Prior to working with Jim, I was charging $75 dollars an hour to help my clients with human resource issues, averaging about $225 per new client. I needed to find at least ten new clients every month to just pay the bills. Jim helped me create a high-value package that I began selling for almost TEN times more than what I’d been charging before. I now feel great about my business and its future!”

Ed McArdle, Chicago, IL

Notice that the template follows this sequence:

  1. Define the pre-existing issue/problem/situation (Averaging only $225 per client)
  2. Describe the solution/resolution (Created a high-value offering)
  3. Detail the outcome/result (Now making ten times per client than before)

Testimonials carry more weight when the specific name and location of the writer is included and are more likely to be viewed as genuine. You can further strengthen testimonials by using pictures of your satisfied clients alongside their testimonials. When you do receive a good testimonial from a customer, always ask for a picture. (Most people have at least a LinkedIn photo.) Also, print and keep a file of your client approval emails.

What if you just starting out and have few if any completed engagements? Here’s one way you can speed up the process. Volunteer to do a short-term engagement with a non-profit. Besides helping the community, you can trade your time there for a testimonial.