Real talk — even baddies like you need positive feedback.
Whether you admit it or not, we know you care what your clients think of you, and guess what? You should. When a fiery endorsement can catapult your product or service into must-have status, you need to be doing anything you can to make it happen.
Ok, not anything. Actually, there are a few things you should definitely NOT do if you want to legally and ethically secure testimonials, but sometimes it’s hard to know where the line is.
Want to secure stellar testimonials? The Testimonial Toolkit is what you need. Check it out here!
Legally Securing Testimonials: Guidelines
Just so we’re clear: testimonials aren’t the same as reviews, even though they’re sometimes called reviews. Testimonials are generally more in-depth and personal, and they’re almost always positive because they typically appear on a business’ website or promotional materials. In contrast, reviews can be posted anywhere and may be perceived as negative.
When you offer a spectacular product or service, you deserve equally glowing testimonials. However, customers don’t always think to leave feedback without prompting, so you need to be strategic. These guidelines will help you keep it professional and legal.
Do: Ask for Testimonials
There is nothing wrong with legally securing testimonials: asking’s free! In fact, it’s the easiest way to get someone to vouch for you.
More often than not, fans of your business will be flattered that want to share their opinions, and these very exchanges can engender even more loyalty.
First, make it super easy for people to give you a glowing review. Here are some ideas for how to collect this all-important info:
- Use Typeform or another fast and easy form fill or survey program
- Keep it short and sweet: people may not have a lot of time
- Rotate in Google Testimonials – these show up on your Google Business Profile and help your cause when people search for you online
If possible, video testimonials are G-O-L-D (you can go down the rabbit hole of Amazon video testimonials if you’re in doubt. Trust us: they are so full of life and energy and convince people far more effectively than any other medium).
Keep in mind: asking for a testimonial isn’t the same as asking “how did we do?” You want the glow, the gush, the story. To get that, you need to ask the right questions.
Here are some question ideas to get great testimonials:
- Could you describe what it was like to work with me/us?
- What did you enjoy most about working with me/us?
- How can I/we make the experience even better for customers like you?
You don’t want the ask to feel inauthentic, so don’t be afraid to ask if there is “room for improvement.” That said, those questions and answers should stay between you and the client. For any public-facing online testimonials, only ask for the 5-star version.
Do: Pay for Testimonials (If You Need To)
Paying for testimonials shouldn’t be your first option, but if you need to incentivize people to rave a little, go for it.
There are a few situations where you may not do the kind of work to get frequent feedback. For instance, if you have long-term projects that take several weeks or months, or if you sell goods that are more like a tool than a product. If your business carries some of those nuances, it may not be the most feedback-friendly situation. It can also be really tough for brand new businesses to get their first testimonials. In these cases, buying them is a practical, acceptable option.
There is a catch, though.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the “material connection” (the fact that the person was paid) should be clear to potential customers reading the testimonial. Even though the FTC allows testimonials, they leave it up to individual websites whether to do the same. Many websites explicitly forbid paid testimonials in their terms of service agreements.
Do: Give Freebies for Testimonials (With Disclosure)
Nothing gets testimonials as fast as freebies!
Consumers love to try new products for free. You can offer a free coaching session, a digital gift card, a digital download, or premium content, all of which are digitally deliverable and easy peasy to hand off. Many people will be happy to get that freebie in exchange for writing a testimonial. Just remember: Although you can engage in a trade for a testimonial, you can’t ask for a positive one. Also, you need to disclose to potential customers that the testimonial was given as part of an exchange.
Do: Include Customers’ Names With Testimonials (With Permission)
Anonymous testimonials may give the impression that they are not real.
They can make a reader wonder why the reviewer didn’t want to reveal their name — do they actually like the product or service you provide? Have you changed their life with 1:1 business coaching? Do they love their beautiful new website? Most importantly: Is the reviewer associated with the brand? A hidden name can look like a question mark, so we’d always recommend that you use names.
Of course, you should only use real names after you’ve gotten express permission from the customer or client. You want to get their consent to use the testimonial, and also make it clear how you plan to use the testimonial. Keeping things transparent in this way will avoid you landing in legal hot water and your client will appreciate your integrity. #winwin
Pro tip: never include an email address, phone number, or any other personally identifiable information in a public testimonial. Their name and title or what type of work they do (i.e. “Business Coach” or “Social Media Manager”) is where we usually draw the line.
Don’t: Copy and Paste Testimonials From Other Places Onto Your Website
No matter how desperate you get, please don’t copy and paste from other websites. Testimonials posted to some sites, including Google profiles, are considered intellectual property of the original poster and the site owner. Copying and pasting to your own site could be copyright infringement, and ultimately, it’s just plain dishonest and tacky.
If you want more mileage out of your glowing online testimonials, there are legal workarounds. You can use a plugin like BirdEye to automatically pull testimonials from Yelp and other review sites and post them on yours. Just realize that these plug-ins will be posting ALL of the testimonials — not just the good ones.
Don’t: Edit Testimonials
Testimonials have value because they are in the customer’s own words. . . not yours. It’s important to retain that authenticity by not editing them substantially. According to FTC guidelines, “Endorsements must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience of the endorser.”
What you can change: grammar issues, very slight wording, or punctuation.
What you can’t change: the underlying meaning of a client written testimonial.
Don’t: Make Up Testimonials
SMH — just don’t do it, girl!
In the world of testimonials, this is about the worst move you can make. Not only is making up testimonials false advertising, but it’s also considered fraud. It’s the fastest way to have consumer protection groups and the FTC shutting down your business.
It’s hard to wait around for testimonials when you want the world to know you’re killing it RIGHT NOW. A little patience will pay off, though. Just focus on your craft and ask your loyal clients to help you out. They’ll be able to write a more heartfelt, enthusiastic testimonial than you can make up.
How to Use Testimonials to Market Your Business
The world needs to know how great you are, and client testimonials are a great way to amplify your impact by getting other people to tell it like it is. Here are some ways to sprinkle in all of the great, meaningful testimonials you gather from clients:
- Add client testimonials to your website
- Add client testimonials to your sell sheets, pitch decks, and other sales related materials
In the course of the customer journey, client testimonials can play a key role in contexts like these:
- On sales pages
- On contact pages
- In the sidebar of your website
- In exit intent popups (think: shopping cart abandonment or the “final buy” ditch risk)
Some other use cases are specific to how you operate but could be useful:
- Ask for client testimonials for your Facebook page
- Ask for clients to endorse you on LinkedIn
- Ask for client testimonials/product testimonials on Amazon or Etsy
- Ask for Yelp, NextDoor, or other local testimonials if your business has a local operation
Legally Securing Testimonials to Build Your Business
A fabulous testimonial can persuade countless customers to do business with you. The wrong testimonial, on the other hand, can hurt your reputation and land you in legal trouble. Unethical practices aren’t worth it, and The Legal Godfairy is here to keep your biz above board. Want legal advice you can count on? We’re here to make sure your glow up = a grow up: Get the Testimonial Toolkit today.
*Disclaimer: This blog post has been prepared solely for general information and educational purposes. It is not intended to provide, nor should it be relied on for, legal advice. Should you require advice regarding a specific matter, appropriate legal or other professional advice should be obtained.