Customer testimonials can be just a survey filled out by people who have used your product or service or those cheesy videos you sometimes see on infomercials. They tend to be thought of as vestigial digits for a business: they're the aftermath of a job well done, and little more. When, in reality, they can be used to get more business, creating a feedback loop that's a great form of advertising for yourself, and also a beacon for future deals to be made by future customers who find themselves fence-sitting on your website.
This comes from no less an authority than SCORE's small-business blog. If you aren't familiar, SCORE is a "nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship."
So, how do you get testimonials?
It depends on what you want from them. If you want a case study, SCORE recommends enlisting a writer – but only to do this if your product "is of a technical nature or involves a complex implementation." If it's less complicated, you can hit up your customers via social media, invite them to complete a post-sale phone or online survey or flat-out just ask the customers who you know are super-thrilled with your company. Even then, though, that isn't where things stop.
SCORE rifles through the laws governing endorsements and how you use them. Of course, it should be said – since it doesn't go without saying, these days -- that reading a website alone isn't a substitute for consulting a real-life lawyer familiar with your specific company and what you want to specifically do with your endorsements. Stuff like avoiding misleading claims, getting written permission and complying with the FTC's truth-in-advertising guidelines are all good starts. But make sure you get the law's endorsement before you get your customers'.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.