In a social world where opinions, reviews and comments can often make or break a new product, service, or business venture, it has become increasingly challenging for small business owners to “manage” their business reputation.

But then again, understanding what your customers think of your business and using that to your advantage is essential to the credibility and success of your business. Your relationship with your customers doesn’t end at the checkout or point of sale. This is especially true for service-based businesses that rely on word of mouth, repeat customers and recommendations. After all, very few of us make large buying decisions without consulting the Internet, friends or neighbors who have had similar needs. This is why customer testimonials remain an integral part of any business's marketing toolkit.

Here are some tips for pulling together customer testimonials, while ensuring you comply with important truth-in-advertising and endorsement laws.

What Form Should Testimonials Take?

Testimonials, case studies or success stories don’t have to be long and complex. A quick sound bite from a customer or a few paragraphs about a customer’s challenge and how you helped them, interwoven with a quote from that client, is often sufficient. Post these on your website, brochure and other marketing pieces. You could even showcase satisfied customers on your Facebook page or newsletter.

Longer case studies do have their place. If your product is of a technical nature or involves a complex implementation, then you might want to think about hiring a writer to pull together a one or two page piece.

How to Solicit Testimonials

There are many ways to ask customers for their input for a testimonial. Depending on the nature of your business, you could do the following:

  • Start with customers you know are happy with your service. Repeat customers or those you know well are likely to be more than willing to endorse your business. Ask for specifics about how much time/money you saved them, or if there was a particular part of your customer service approach that appealed to them.
  • Reach out to customers who have given you positive reviews or comments on social media or online review listings like Yelp, Google+ Local, etc.
  • Invite customers to complete a post-sale phone or online survey.
  • Host a customer appreciation day. Show your customers some love and hopefully they’ll give you some back. Hand out surveys, comment cards, and ask if they don’t mind being contacted for more information. Online businesses could do the same, with special offers and an online survey integrated into the mix.

Understand Endorsement Laws and Regulations

There are a few rules of the road you need to follow to ensure you are acting within the law when using customer testimonials. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Get Written Permission –Testimonials are more believable if you can attribute a customer name, photo or location to them. In these and all cases, it’s important to have them sign a written agreement that outlines what content you will use and how and where you will be using it.
  • Comply with the FTC’s Truth-in-Advertising Guidelines – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers businesses advice on how to comply with the Federal Trade Commission Act  (scroll down to “Endorsements and Testimonials”). In summary, you’ll need to abide by the following:
    • Any endorsements used in testimonials must be truthful and not misleading.
    • Endorsements by consumers must reflect the typical experience of consumers who use the product, not the experience of just a few satisfied customers. If an endorsement doesn't reflect users' typical experience, the ad must clearly disclose either what consumers can expect their results to be or the limited applicability of the endorser's experience. Saying "Not all consumers will get these results" or "Your results may vary" is not enough.
    • You must disclose any connection you or your business has with the consumer who is endorsing your product or service.
  • Avoid Misleading Claims– If a testimonial claims specific results, other customers can interpret this to mean that they’ll experience the same. If you can’t guarantee this, then your marketing piece is misleading and in violation of truth-in-advertising laws. To avoid this, you should clearly state what results consumers can expect under normal circumstances. We’ve all heard these phrases – “results not typical” or “results may vary” – in ads, but disclaimers like these aren’t enough for the FTC. So if you are making specific claims to results in your testimonials you must:
    • Have proof to back up the claim that any results described in the testimonial are typical.
    • Clearly disclose the generally expected performance or results in the piece.

For more information, consult the FTC’s Endorsements guide for businesses. Related Blogs

About the Author(s)

U.S. Small Business Administration

The SBA is an independent federal agency that works to assist and protect the interests of American small businesses.

U.S. Small Business Administration
Customer Testimonials