Testimonial Strategies-The Temptation of “Testiphonials”

Smart marketers know having real testimonials is a powerful marketing strategy. Fake Testimonials

What others say about you and your products and services is much more compelling and powerful than any marketing copy you could write for yourself.

The important lesson here is the word “real.”

Lately, I have seen an increase in a practice I personally detest and one I believe has no place in a business built on integrity, authenticity, quality and service.

It’s the use of canned, pre-written testimonials or what is more appropriately called a “testiphonial.”

Now don’t get me wrong, I know fake testimonials have been around as long as there has been authors and copywriters writing ads and sales letters.  What  I am talking about is different and it’s done with the guise of being an acceptable way to market in this age of “too much to do and too little time.”

It goes something like this.  A marketer has a new product or book that has yet to be released.  In an effort to build up their testimonials they will send out a slew of requests often with an incomplete product or the first few chapters of the book.

Due to the nature of product marketing, this is often a necessary practice, but here’s where it gets slimy.

Also sent is a list of pre-written testimonials about the product with a wink and nod that “these are being sent to give you ideas for your testimonial.”  All you need to do is pick which testimonial sounds like what you would write and put your name on it and send it back.

Ask the marketer why they do this and they’ll tell you nobody really has time to read the book or check out the product, so why not just write it for them.


This kind of marketing is an example of the epidemic of low quality, no-relationship, do-whatever-it-takes-to-make-a-sale mentality that is rampant out there.

Personally, I would not use a pre-written testiphonial. In fact, I know others detest this practice and refuse to endorse  products or services they cannot experience first-hand themselves.

The really interesting fact is, in my experience, whenever a customer writes a “real testimonial” it sounds SO MUCH BETTER than anything I could have written for them.  There’s a sense of authenticity and realism that cannot be duplicated by even the world’s greatest copywriters.

Folks, today when skepticism and cynicism are at an all-time high and when, via the Internet, ill-will can spread like wildfire, it’s more important than ever to market with integrity and true value.

So with this in mind, I want to offer you a few strategies I’ve used with much success over the years for getting real testimonials.  Many of these were developed back when I did consulting for software companies, where it was common practice for me to implement testimonial programs for every single client.

Interestingly, we had little problem getting top-level executives to give us their feedback and endorsement in writing or often times on video (this was back before the Flip camera so we had to go through the major effort of sending a multi-person crew to capture their words).

Strategy #1: Believe you can get the testimonial.  Many times getting a real testimonial is as simple as asking.  Of course this is based on the notion you have a relationship and proven track record with the person, so why wouldn’t they give it to you?

Strategy #2: Let them know why you are asking for the testimonial, who you are ultimately marketing to and how you intend to use the testimonial.  This is a critical step and gives your testimonial target a chance to say no if they feel it’s not a good fit. (If you are targeting V.I.P. “celebrity” testimonials, this is very important).

Strategy #3: Ask them to write you a testimonial.  If they are a current satisfied customer again this should pose no problem.  However, if you are requesting a testimonial for something that has yet to be pre-released, give them as much background information as possible.  If you are writing a book, send them a pre-release version that is at least 75% complete (when I published my first book, “Dream, Inc.” I waited until the book contents were written before sending out requests).

Strategy #4: There will be times when you send a request the person will push back and tell you to “write it for them” and they will edit and send back.  At this point explain why getting a testimonial from them – in their own words – is so important to you and if they could take the time, it would really help you (remember, more times than not, people like to help one another).

If they continue to push back, you have two choices.  Forget trying to get this testimonial or try strategy #5.  Either way, I would resist the temptation of creating a testiphonial for them.

Strategy #5: Conduct a five minute phone interview.  I’ve used this with much success over the years and you will be surprised how easy this strategy is.  What I will do is request a five minute phone call (I state this exact time right up front).  I will get the person on the phone and let them know I am recording the call so that we can transcribe the call later and create their testimonial from the actual conversation.

When you’re on the call, make sure you get all their contact information as they want it and then ask them some probing questions about your product or service. You’ll be amazed just how much people appreciate this type of interaction and how much they will open up.  The sound bites you get on these calls are invaluable.

Strategy #6: In the event the product is not complete yet, try to get a testimonial based on the overall idea or theme of the product or service.  Or one based on their personal experience with you and your abilities.

Yes this will sound different than if it was specific to your actual product or service, but it can still be extremely valuable in your marketing efforts.  When I created CopyDoodles®, I sent a number of marketers a small collection of CopyDoodles that would eventually be only a small portion of the final product, but it gave them enough to test.

I hope this article gives you a few practical ideas to help you collect real testimonials as you continue to grow your real business.

I would love to hear your thoughts about all this and if you have any of your own proven strategies for collecting testimonials!

About Mike Capuzzi

Mike is a publisher, Amazon # best-selling author, and coach for business owners, entrepreneurs and corporate leaders looking to stand out from the competition by authoring, publishing and leveraging short, helpful books. He is the author of 19 books, including two Amazon #1 Best Sellers. Learn more about his publishing opportunities at BiteSizedBooks.com.


  1. Andrew Anderson on July 20, 2010 at 7:21 pm

    Good story. Ultimately testimonials only work on about 50% of the people out there who have an external reference frame. The other 50% who have in internal frame could care less. This is based on the work of Marilyne Woodsmall and Wyatt Woodsmall in their book “Personality Language”.

    So, it is important to to get the right kind of testimonial and not too many of them otherwise you will be alienate half of your potential buyers.


  2. Kim Rogers on July 20, 2010 at 7:41 pm

    Hi Mike:

    It’s Kim from the James Malinchak event in Vegas… Nice to touch base w/you again.

    I love your article, and agree whole-heartedly with your assessment of the use of testiphonials, and their ability to do more harm than good.

    I also appreciate how you’ve provided encouragement with some suggestions for people to follow on how get legitimate testimonials.

    I used to have trouble in that area when I first started promoting my businesses on the internet, and truthfully, 90% of my problem was that I was afraid to ask! Now I ask, and people are very accomodating.

    Thanks again Mike!
    Sorry I don’t have a gravatar, but you can see me here: http://www.4grantwriters.com

    I still have your card. I’ll call.


    • Mike Capuzzi on July 20, 2010 at 8:18 pm

      Hi Kim,

      I remember you! I sat next to your daughter on the plane out, right? Hope all is well!


  3. TG on July 20, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    Not mentioned here — but discalaimers are SOOOOOOO important. I know you can’t help but ASK for testimonials sometimes, but new FTC guidelines recommend that you must put a discalimer that says the testimonial was indeed solicited.

    If ethical marketers follow the FTC guidelines, these “testiphonials” would not be an issue at all. The number one rule is that testimonials must be TRUTHFUL and FACTUAL. Secondly, you must put disclaimers about whether the testimonaisl was solicited, payed for, endorsed, or even if you have a relationship (personal or otherwise) with the testimonial giver. Third, you should technically get written permission from the “giver” that the testimonial is their words and can be used. And finally, you have to let your audience know if you made any corrections or changes to the testimonial (inclduing grammar or spelling changes.)

    • Mike Capuzzi on July 20, 2010 at 8:19 pm

      Excellent points. Thanks for sending!


  4. Diane Conklin on July 20, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    So true Mike – not only testimonials but other stuff as well. Too bad all that stuff has to affect those of us who are doing it the right way, huh?

    But, eventually the authentic stuff wins out and the fakes fade into the woodwork – is that called Karma?

  5. Marte Cliff on July 20, 2010 at 8:41 pm

    I can’t imagine writing a testimonial for a product I hadn’t tried – or a book I hadn’t read.

    I recall one internet marketer a few months ago who wrote to his entire list to apologize for a product he had recommended… it turned out not to be so good. Why take that chance to ruin your own credibility?

    I write for a number of real estate agents and most of them do have a few testimonials for me to choose from when writing their letters or web copy. In my opinion, the ones that are most impressive and ring truest are those that reveal some little detail of the service provided. Usually it’s something that the agent doesn’t even use in his or her sales copy.

    These “humanize” the agent and show the readers that he or she really does care about clients and goes beyond the call of duty at times.

  6. David Cathers on July 20, 2010 at 9:08 pm

    Great points Mike.

    It’s so much better when it comes from a satified client in their own words. If you wrote them all out yourself it would be like listening to one artists records. After a while they all sound alike.
    I like idea with the phone interview. I have done similar with taking notes in a one on one conversation. Then get their permission to use the content. Hasn’t been a problem yet.

  7. Marcus Viar on July 20, 2010 at 6:01 pm

    I like reading your articles Mike. You keep a tone that makes them easy to read. I do have a question for you though…

    Do you use spelling errors on purpose? Like the “What what” in paragraph 6 and “them” in Strategy #4. I’m not criticizing; I’m actually asking. I thought maybe it was part of a strategy to make readers feel like there’s a real human on the other side of the keyboard.

    Or then again, could be that your just really busy.

    • Mike Capuzzi on July 20, 2010 at 6:14 pm


      LOL! I would love to take the credit and say it was intentional so you could see a real human was writing this, but that would not be accurate. Chalk it to being”hot and bothered” by the subject I was writing about. Thanks for the head’s up!


  8. Alice Huntly on July 20, 2010 at 6:02 pm

    I agree with Andrew. I am one of the 50% who don’t read testimonials. How am I supposed to know if they are real or not. I don’t know the people that wrote them or quite possibly as you point out these people may not even have written them. I also don’t like long sales letters and squeeze pages. I click away from all of these things now because I have wasted so much money just trying to promote my little website that I just see these things as hype and a waste of money that I have long since run out of.
    I am making this comment because I think that genuine honest markets should know about the damage that can be done to everyone by using hyped up marketing. If I am no longer buying from these sort of strategies then their is bound to be other people who won’t buy from them either.

    • Mike Capuzzi on July 20, 2010 at 6:18 pm

      Alice, I feel your pain and understand where you are coming from, but (and excuse the cliche’) don’t throw the baby out with the bath water! Not everything is hype and I think you are going to start seeing big changes. It is up to each of us to discern what is real and what is suspect. Thanks for the post!


  9. Justin Partridge on July 20, 2010 at 7:26 pm

    Mike that was a great article and an important message! I agree totally with not only the ethics of doing it right first but also in asking for permission to use each testimonial. It actually creates more belief in your own product or service too.
    I wrote a book a few years back and got the majority of the testimonials I needed from thank-you emails, I then wrote them back and asked if I could use what they said for my testimonial page. To my amazement, most of them offered to re write the testimonials better, I think it gave them a sense of being apart or associated to the product. and it’s this. I believe I found in retrospect that created testimonials that where believable, said what I couldn’t or may not have thought to and actually created new sales people out there pushing my book. You see when someone gives a testimonial they will tend to take association to it and push the living $%&# out of it for you!

    • Mike Capuzzi on July 20, 2010 at 8:37 pm

      Thanks Justin!


  10. Toronto Dentist in Etobicoke on July 20, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    Great post Mike.
    I always found testimonials hard to come by until I recently developed an email survey that we send out as a follow-up to a customer experience.

    It’s just 13 questions.

    The first 11 questions are all multiple-choice as a quick warm-up. They help move people from vague thoughts to meaningful specifics about how their customer experience was handled.

    The second-last question allows them to vent about anything they thought could be better. The last question is the one that produces testimonials like magic.

    Here’s the secret… It’s all in the sequence. The email invitation. The opening questions. Everything is designed to set the stage for that last testimonial-gathering question.

    Joe 😀
    Survey Results – http://www.royalyorkdental.com/dentist-survey
    Rave Reviews – http://www.royalyorkdental.com/dentist-rave-reviews

    • Mike Capuzzi on July 20, 2010 at 8:41 pm


      Great feedback and examples. I checked out your site. Nice job!

      I love using surveys too and agree they can be a smart strategy for creating a database of real testimonials. My good friend Shannon McCaffery is creating a very cool survey product (info at http://www.CreateAmazingSurveys.com (non affiliate link).


  11. Toronto Dentist in Etobicoke on July 20, 2010 at 7:55 pm

    Here are the last 2 questions…

    12. If you could wave a magic wand inside our office and change anything you wanted, what could we improve upon?

    13. In 50 words or less, please provide your thoughts and feelings regarding Royal York Dental. NOTE: Best answers will be eligible to win ________ Toothbrush. Thank you for your kindness.

    According to Robert Cialdini, the key is to offer the possibility of a small prize and to not “buy” positive responses.

    Once people put words to paper, there level of advocacy will have been raised considerably, as long as those words weren’t bought.

    Joe 😀

  12. Rob Anspach on July 20, 2010 at 9:23 pm

    I always ask for a testimonial! Since I always have my iphone with a built in video camera on me I always ask if I can have a video testimonial. A short video adds so much more credibility over a written one and can be added to you website, YouTube or social media site. Putting a picture to the written testimonial is also a good idea as it gives the readers an idea who it is behind the words.

    If you are going to use a testimonial – use the full name and their city – goes back to being credible. A testimonial with just the persons initials and no location regardless if real – screams phony.

  13. Melissa Galt on July 21, 2010 at 8:38 am


    While I agree, I have written testimonials for satisfied clients when they asked because they had little time to do so and I knew them well enough to write in their “voice.” Yes, I’d have preferred it straight from them, however in that business, I worked with just a few very high end clients so each testimonial counted, there was no quantity available as there seems to be in so many IM opps today.

    I am not a fan of cannedimonials which is what many authors send in advance and you can always tell that it was all written by one person because generally they all sound alike and well canned!

    I know you have the sharemarks, but an RT at the top would really serve those of us who are avid Twitterers.

    Warmly, Melissa

    PS. Your submit button is showing black, no words, is that deliberate?

    • Mike Capuzzi on July 21, 2010 at 10:13 am


      I know where you are coming from. Regarding the questions about my blog, my web guy is looking into those.

      Thanks for being a CopyDoodles customer too!


  14. Carmen on July 21, 2010 at 9:03 am

    Thanks Mike for your candid assessment of a very prevalent problem.

    I think if we as marketers want to be taken seriously (be credible) we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard. People do talk to each other & in the need you will be found out. And even if we’re seeking testiphonials with other people who are doing the same thing, we need to keep in mind that “there is no honor among thieves.” Let’s keep our heads up and we won’t have to remember what we lied about!

  15. Toronto Dentist in Etobicoke on July 21, 2010 at 9:28 am

    Thanks Mike, I checked out Shannon’s site and signed up. Looks like she really knows her stuff.

    I totally agree with Rob about using full names, photo and city. It helps verify credibility and more establish social proof. As in, “Hey, this person lives near me.”

    I also offer a reciprocal link back to their business. Though most of my patients aren’t looking for that.

    Joe 😀

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