With even a handful of eloquent, praising testimonials, your business will have a much better chance of capturing new customers – and building initial trust. And if you’re an established brand with a few thousand (or more) loyal customers, it shouldn’t be hard to collect the testimonials you need to accomplish this. 

However, if your company is just starting out, or if your customer base is small, testimonials are harder problem to solve. How can you get better testimonials at this stage of development? 

Why Testimonials Are So Important 

Let’s start with a briefer on why testimonials are so important for new companies. 

  • Social proof. Testimonials serve as a way to achieve social proof. In other words, you can use testimonials as a tool of persuasion, convincing someone new that your brand is worth working with. Social proof is powerful because it’s authentic; people are naturally distrustful of advertising and promotional material because it’s seen as inherently manipulative. On the other hand, a testimonial from a real customer is without motivation, and is seen as sincere. 
  • Customer dependence. The majority of modern consumers rely on testimonials and reviews to make purchasing decisions. Before they’re willing to part with their hard-earned money, they want some kind of reliable evidence that their purchase will be worth it. Testimonials fit the bill – and they’re so common that they’ve become expected. 
  • Conversion utility. Testimonials are especially powerful because, when featured and built on your website, they almost always increase your conversion rate. Including them at the bottom of an important landing page or in line with a call to action (CTA) on one of your core pages can drastically increase your conversion ratio.  

The Early Stage Problem 

As we’ve demonstrated, testimonials are a reliable way to get more customers. If every testimonial you receive leads to the acquisition of 100 new customers, and even 1 percent of those customers leave new testimonials, you’ll have a self-sustaining engine that can provide you with new testimonial content indefinitely. 

But in the earliest stages of your company’s development, you can’t bootstrap this. You’ll have few, if any customers, and no preexisting testimonials to work with. 

To address this problem, you’ll need to specifically cultivate testimonials from your early-stage customer base. 

Can You Write Testimonials Yourself? 

At this point, you may wonder whether it’s worth trying to write the testimonials yourself. You can make up the name of a customer and say whatever you want about your own business. 

However, this approach isn’t advisable. The whole point of attracting and showcasing testimonials is to build consumer trust. If your testimonial looks suspicious, or if it’s demonstrably proven false, you’ll have the opposite result; people will trust you less. 

It’s much more impactful and less risky to get testimonials from real customers. So how can you do it during the earliest stages of your business’s growth?  

Provide Excellent Service to Your Earliest Customers

Your most important strategy is to provide excellent service to your earliest customers. If you exceed expectations, your customers will likely go out of their way to give you praise – and help you find more customers in the future. 

The first phase of addressing this problem is finding initial customers. If you’re having trouble building trust with new prospective clients, consider offering your services for a discount, or even for free. You can professionally network to find people in your target demographics who might be interested in being guinea pigs for your startup. 

Once you’ve onboarded them, go out of your way to make sure they have the best possible experience. Don’t worry about profit margins or turnaround time at this point; just deliver exceptional results and ensure the customer gets what they need. 

If you do this consistently with your earliest customers, you should have no trouble getting the testimonials you need to continue growing. 

Ask Directly 

Once you’ve worked with several customers and you’ve started to establish a digital footprint for your brand, you might get some testimonials naturally. But it’s more likely that you’ll have to ask for them. 

The best way to do this is by being direct, especially if you already have an established relationship with the client in question. Write an email or have a conversation over a phone call with three important elements: 

  • The recap. Make sure you briefly recap the nature of your relationship. How did you work together? What were the results? 
  • The positive reminder. Make sure to frame the situation in a positive light. Remind them about how much money you were able to save them, or how much they complimented your product. 
  • The ask. Finally, be succinct and direct when asking for a testimonial. Something like, “We’re hoping to grow our customer base in the next several months, and to do that, we need testimonials from our previous clients. Would you be willing to provide one? Thanks in advance,” works perfectly. 

There’s a small chance you’ll receive negative feedback or no feedback at all. If this is the case, handle the situation gracefully. 

Get Active on Social Media

Next, get active on social media. Your brand should be working to attract new followers and engage your existing audience with ongoing content posts, discussion threads, and general responsiveness. Once you reach critical mass, you’ll be able to reach out to your followers in a way that helps you attract more testimonials. 

For example, you can ask a broad question like, “what do you think of our [product]? Let us know in the comments below!” At least some of your customers will respond with praise or compliments. If and when they do, ask them for permission to use these statements as testimonials on your website. 

Establish Alerts

Take things a step further by setting up automatic alerts, so you’re notified every time your brand is mentioned on social media. Some of these comments and responses will inevitably be negative, but some will be positive – and they could be valuable opportunities to cultivate testimonials. 

Respond to Reviews 

Online reviews and testimonials are two sides of the same coin, so it’s important to pay attention to both in the early days of your business’s development. Pay attention to new reviews that emerge for your business (and automate this if possible) and respond to them. 

When you receive negative reviews, reach out to see if there’s anything you can do to make the situation better. Sometimes, a simple apology and an offer to make things right is all it takes to turn a scorned customer into a grateful one. 

When you see positive reviews, consider reaching out and asking if the writer is willing to provide you with a testimonial. Depending on how the review is structured and phrased, you might even be able to use the review as a testimonial directly. 

Work for Video Testimonials 

At this point, you should have at least one or two strong written testimonials that you can use in your marketing materials (as well as your website). Periodically adding new written testimonials to your rotation can help you improve over time. 

But written testimonials aren’t quite as impactful as video testimonials. Once you build a strong relationship with at least one client, consider asking them to work with you on a video testimonial. The best course of action here is to offer to film the testimonial yourself – that way, the client doesn’t feel the pressure to put together a polished, professional video on their own. 

There are many strategies that can increase your likelihood of receiving testimonials from loyal customers and a few strategies that can get you testimonials directly – no matter how many or how few customers you have. Once those testimonials are in place and working on your business’s behalf, you’ll be in a position to multiply your customer base and never worry about this type of early-stage growth problem again. 

Nate Nead

Nate Nead is the CEO & Managing Member of Nead, LLC, a consulting company that provides strategic advisory services across multiple disciplines including finance, marketing and software development. For over a decade Nate had provided strategic guidance on M&A, capital procurement, technology and marketing solutions for some of the most well-known online brands. He and his team advise Fortune 500 and SMB clients alike. The team is based in Seattle, Washington; El Paso, Texas and West Palm Beach, Florida.