I don’t know about you, but I have had a task on my list for years: collect and share client testimonials.Celebrating client success podcast business

Whilst I do have some testimonials here and there, I don’t share client testimonials or results on socials or in content consistently. So people ask me about that a bit, and ask if I’m worried about the sales I’m missing out on by not using them.

I thought for this episode, we could have a conversation about some of the benefits and risks of using client testimonials, and why I actually choose NOT to use them in my business in the way other people do.

Let’s dive into this one, shall we?

 

Let’s talk testimonials!

 

Podcast Client testimonials marketing

 


Here for the links referenced in the show notes?

Grab the core messaging document and training: tashcorbin.com/message
Grab the client testimonial guide: tashcorbin.com/collect
Podcast: Should you be transparent with your prices? tashcorbin.com/393


EPISODE 396: Listen using the player below, or click the links to your fave platform to subscribe and listen over there:

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Let’s talk testimonials!

I understand there is a huge push by marketing specialists, copywriters, and business coaches to consistently share client results and testimonials as part of your content strategy. Before I dive into the challenges and some of the reasons why I don’t, I want to clarify the difference between a client result and a client testimonial:

  • A client testimonial is usually a story about working with you in your client’s words. For example: “I worked with Tash and before doing her program, working with her was such a joy and she really understood me.”  And then there’s the name and photo of the person who gave that testimonial. They are literally giving testimony as to the experience of and results from working with someone.
  • A client result is where the mentor or provider shares a result that a client has achieved. This is often done through the lens of ‘celebrating them’ – e.g. “I want to celebrate my client who just went from here to there. So proud of you.” These tend to be shared in a variety of ways – sometimes with the person’s name, sometimes without… sometimes they are tagged… but not always.

It doesn’t always have to relate to a financial outcome – it could be that someone has finally published their book, or got their course out into the world or they’ve just finished their launch with 15 sales.

Here’s my take on sharing client results:

Where that client result is something that you do not promise, I don’t believe it is ethical to share that result. Where that client result is dependent on undisclosed existing results, assets, or additional work and investment, I also don’t feel it is ethical.

Here are the key reasons why:

  1. How do we know that that client result is actually verifiable and real, especially when their full name isn’t included and they aren’t tagged? It’s so easy for those results to be faked.
  2. The use of those client results, especially where they are wildly out of the ordinary, is part of an agitation marketing strategy. Seeing someone else’s result, that is almost unimaginable for you to achieve (and certainly not quickly) makes your audience uncomfortable. And it’s done on purpose. The goal is to create agitation about the existing state they are in.
  3. You are claiming your client’s result as your own (either in part or in full), but your client achieved it. You didn’t do the work for them. They did the work. Personally, I think it’s disrespectful to my clients to go out on the internet and on my own social platform, and “celebrate” their successes in order to drum up more business for myself. If I truly wanted to celebrate that particular individual and their result, I would send them a private message to celebrate them. I would encourage them to share their celebration on their own platforms. And I would comment, cheering them on. I wouldn’t say “It was a pleasure to mentor you” … because, once again, I’m making it about me. I am centring myself.
  4. If my goal is to drum up more sales, ‘celebrating my client’ isn’t the right way to achieve that. You’re using someone who PAID you for your own gain, under the guise of promoting them. I have had it happen to me, and it really took the shine off my experience. I felt used. I’ve shared a goal I had achieved, and someone swooped into the comments and said “So proud of you, it was so fun working with you on this project” … they’ve pretty much said “I helped you with that”. So they can turn it into a pitch for themselves. It just feels yucky. I have also had people “Celebrate my results” on their social media, when I was completely dissatisfied with their support, and I did not attribute the result to their input at all. But they just claimed it anyway.

In fact, the only place I would ‘celebrate’ a client result myself, would be with their permission, to share or ask them to share with their peers inside their program group, because that gets THEM in the spotlight, rather than me. And there’s no misconstruing this as trying to use it to market myself or the program as well.

I think it’s important to be clear on the REAL purpose for sharing that ‘celebration’: You’re not posting on their socials. In a lot of cases, the client isn’t even named, let alone tagged. If you were ACTUALLY celebrating them, you’d do it very differently. Sharing client results on your platforms is celebrating yourself. Plain and simple. I find it odd, and not at all how I operate.

Readers also don’t know what went into that result.

In essence, you’re giving the impression that just working with you is all it takes. Without the background information about what they had already, and what went into the result, you’re minimising the input of the client and their existing assets and experience.

If you don’t explicitly state that this isn’t a ‘usual’ outcome of working with you, you’re misleading people, creating the impression it’s totally reasonable to expect that result as well. If that is not true, and that is not something you would stand behind, I don’t think it’s appropriate to share that way.

Are you creating an unrealistic expectation for potential clients?

Let’s break it down: Even though you’re not overtly stating “This is what my clients get working with me”, that’s exactly the expectation you’re setting. Especially if you combine that with other agitation marketing strategies.

I once saw a marketer share these five posts in a row:

  1. If people follow you for years, but don’t buy – you need to fix your messaging.
  2. When you get your messaging nailed, you’ll triple your income overnight. Every time.
  3. The right messaging is the difference between clients needing to ‘sleep on it’ before buying a $500 package, or saying “Here’s my card” when you outline your 10k package.
  4. Celebrating my client S, who’s gone from $1200 per month to having her first 55k month just 6 weeks after starting our work together!
  5. I’ve got 3 spaces for VIPs next month – Let’s dial in your messaging, because you’ve been doing this far too long to keep missing the mark with your content.

Would you say, that there would be an expectation from that sequence of posts, that you’d have a HUGE income leap after working with this person?

When you share wildly unrealistic or exceptional client results, you’re subconsciously planting a seed that future buyers will have the same result, just by paying you. And you are doing that without ever having to make the promise out loud. But the expectation is created.

This isn’t just misleading for them, it can be painful for you if new clients come in, based on those results and assertions.

This can create further challenges for you in your sales and delivery process:

  1. When people buy from you, you’ll need to include disclaimers and clauses about ‘typical results’ on the sales page and in your onboarding process. You’ll have those clauses that say “results are not typical”, or “your results depend on what you start with”, or “your results depend on your commitment, there’s no guarantee of results”.
  2. If you’ve been sharing content that makes wild results and big changes ‘overnight’ seem like a regular occurrence, that messaging is not consistent. It can create distrust, and in reality it’s almost starting the relationship in a combative way… and then what happens if they don’t read the fine print? How do you ensure that isn’t the expectation you’ve created, and you’re not setting them up for a lot of disappointment?
  3. In your work together, you’re going to have to work on lowering their expectations in each session, or with each strategy, as to the results they might expect. If you don’t, they are likely to be disappointed by the results of working together, even if it’s a significant improvement for THEM. Because it’s not the level of improvement you set them up to believe was going to happen. I can’t imagine starting client relationships and client sessions with having to do that. It reminds me of working in real estate – agents would overestimate the ‘market price’ of a home in their appraisal, so they would get the listing, but as soon as they had the client locked in, they would IMMEDIATELY work on reducing their price expectations.

There are ways to share client results that aren’t as unethical:

For example, if you edit books, and help clients get them published – celebrating a client book being published, and promoting that book for other people to purchase, is a brilliant way of sharing a client result. You’re actually putting the client in the spotlight! You’re promoting their particular product or service, and you’re not claiming that you wrote the book or that the book wouldn’t exist without you.

Instead, you’re celebrating that they have achieved that milestone. There’s also a big difference between testimonials about the experience of working with you, versus you taking the credit by celebrating your client results on your own platform.

In essence, client results form part of a bigger strategy – based on agitation.

Here are the key pieces in summary:

  • Post outrageous client results consistently, making readers feel inferior and agitated that they aren’t achieving the same.
  • If possible, share specific numbers and specific timeframes, but make the leaps BIG and the timeframes SHORT.
  • Post content that looks ‘inspirational’, but that is causing further agitation and impatience – “When you fix X, you’ll make five figures in a SNAP.”  or  “When you heal the mindset of Y, you’ll triple your income overnight”
  • Share your offers, but keep it vague – “If you want to make more money, my VIP program is how we do it – DM me for details”  – don’t include the price, of course. (See Episode 393 for pricing)
  • This conveniently ‘explains’ why a lot of mentors who get virtually no engagement on social media are claiming to have $250k months – they’ll tell you “All the best engagement happens in the DMs babe”… believe nothing – I’ve even heard of mentors like this creating fake accounts to be their biggest fans, and successful clients. It’s amazing the lengths people will go to in order to pretend to be successful, rather than just being an ethical business person and achieving the results in real life. Tee hee.
  • If someone reaches out to work with you, keep the offer pretty loose and focused on results, not the process to get there. You don’t want to activate someone’s logical centre of their brain, you want them to buy on pure emotion. Talk about other client results, being careful to say “That’s not a promise for you, but it’s a good indication”.
  • When clients commence working with you, get them to sign a contract that includes non-disclosure agreement (some even try to restrict you from sharing your experiences publicly – always read the fine print!)
  • Immediately start to lower their expectations of what they’ll achieve, and increase their expectations of the work involved. Make it clear that the results don’t come in overnight.

It makes me so uncomfortable even imagining treating someone that way – but there are plenty of business and money coaches in particular who use it consistently. It’s why ‘manifesting’ causes such a polarising response in entrepreneurs – I think it comes down to your experiences with manifesting mentors, and the marketing strategies they use.

I have a simple rule when it comes to sharing results:

If I’m not comfortable saying the result in a promo post for the product or service, then I don’t share it. Certainly not without context of what went into it, what the starting point was, and clarity about the process.

I also don’t share client testimonials that are focused on the results, but don’t speak to the process. When I share client testimonials on sales pages here and there, you’ll notice that quite a lot will talk about the process, and if it mentions results, they aren’t financial, but a shift in perspective of behaviour. I’m comfortable with a testimonial including results that are a shift in behaviour or perspective, because I absolutely stand behind that being a consistent, and expected outcome of working with me. Regardless of your starting point.

Whilst some students in Take Off have gone from X to Y income in their business in a short period of time, that’s the exception, it’s not the rule. Generally those people had something in place that most people don’t have access to at the start of the program. Perhaps the fast-result client had an existing audience, or they were able to invest money in Facebook ads to fast-track their growth, where others may not have had that. Or they had access to a referral network that other people might not have access to.

When I collect testimonials, I ask some specific questions to understand more than just the before and after. I ask about the process, their experience, what they liked, what they didn’t like, and more. That way, it’s more aligned with my values, and I’m not setting unrealistic client expectations or inadvertently telling people that just buying Take Off will magically create results.

Take Off students don’t get results from just buying the program. They do the program. They complete the process, coming to calls, asking questions, and making adjustments to their niche, messaging, marketing – based on our conversations, and THEIR decisions. And then they’ve shared that with their mailing list and on social media. I didn’t do all of that for them, so that’s not my success to claim.

There’s another key reason people rely on testimonials…

You don’t feel confident to speak about the value of what you do, or about yourself and your expertise.

Lots of people rely on testimonials because they would prefer to let others speak about their work, rather than learn how to do it powerfully themselves. There’s a discomfort with the messaging, or a discomfort with speaking proudly about your work, so you let others do it for you.

There’s a strong desire to lean on other people singing your praises and doing the selling for you.

First and foremost, this is an indicator that your messaging needs attention, but also it’s a mindset insight that can’t be ignored. You deserve to speak highly of yourself and your work. You are allowed to take up space, and proudly speak about the transformation you facilitate, you don’t need someone else to talk about it for you.

If you’re not comfortable saying that people who work with you go from A to B… and instead rely on your clients to make those claims for you – it’s actually the same thing that you’re promising.

Rather than needing others to sing your praises and speak powerfully about what you do, your job as CEO of your business, is to learn how and to practice speaking powerfully about the transformation that you facilitate.

I still recommend collecting and using client testimonials.

Just be mindful as to how you use them, the tone of those testimonials, and don’t rely on them to feel like you have an offer that people want to buy.  Use some structured questions when collecting testimonials to direct people to talk not just about the outcomes, but also their experience of the process of working with you. That will ensure that the testimonials you share are more helpful to the people reading them and aren’t accidentally (or on purpose) agitating people’s current state in order to swoop in and be their saviour with your offer.

If you focus on speaking about your process, as well as the outcomes that you’re delivering on, you’ll avoid falling into an agitation marketing strategy.

When it comes to purchasing from me, I want to empower my audience to make their decision based on their excitement and emotion but also their LOGIC. Agitation marketing is proven to shut down the logical centre of the brain and get people into the space of buying through the lens of emotion. This prevents them from understanding the process that you’re facilitating them, and can lead to unrealistic expectations (either of the workload or the results) – and that’s not fun for you or for them.

The decision to purchase (or not) isn’t empowered if you shut down their capacity to process and use logic in the decision. #justsaying.

Thank you so much for joining me for this episode

As I said, it’s a bit of a controversial one, because I know that it’s a very common strategy. I know that lots of people use it, and lots of people talk about it. There’s a huge fear about not using testimonials, because you feel you’re missing out.

Maybe you could experiment with two or three months of finding your words and refining your messaging, instead of relying on other people’s words and experiences. I believe that you would actually feel far more confident in your messaging, you would get far more traction, and attract more empowered buyers. Dial up the trust and consent that you have with your audience, instead of relying on those agitation based strategies.

I have two special gifts for you today:

Number one is if this has brought up some stuff around your messaging, I’ve got my messaging template and it comes with a training to help you to map out the value proposition of working with you and that transformation that you facilitate. Grab it at tashcorbin.com/message.

Plus, I have a testimonial collection guide to help you collect more informed and thorough experiences from clients. That way, the testimonials you share will be more balanced, include more about the process of working with you, and will be less likely to just cause agitation and set unrealistic expectations. You can grab that at tashcorbin.com/collect.

Thank you so much for joining me for this episode, and as always, I cannot WAIT to see you SHINE!

Tash Corbin Business Mentor and Strategist