When you or your customer are researching a product or service, you simply can’t deny the power of testimonials, reviews, and recommendations. But what’s the difference between testimonials and reviews? For that matter, what’s the difference between reviews and recommendations or testimonials vs recommendations?

Testimonials vs Reviews vs Recommendations

The difference between reviews, testimonials, and recommendations is subtle. Reviews are collected on third-party tools such as Google, Facebook, Yelp, etc. While Testimonials are often collected by the business themselves. Recommendations, on the other hand, are asked for and received between people who either know each other or who are part of the same community. Typically, the recommender is viewed as an “expert” or as having experience in the area or on the topic.

What Makes Reviews and Customer Testimonials Influence Purchase Decisions

Let’s talk about how reviews and testimonials work so that they will help potential customers choose you.

Reviews are about the WHAT

Reviews are powerful because of what is said about your business. Reviews are triggered by the quality of the customer experience; good or bad. Reviews are unvarnished, managed by a third party, and perceived to be a predictor of the buyer experience.

Customer Testimonials are about the WHO

Because testimonials and recommendations are often requested, we already know they are going to be positive.  So it’s not about what is said — it’s about “Who is saying it”.

A glowing testimonial from a celebrity or someone that is highly respected by the buyer says “WOW — if this person is a customer, I want to be a customer too!” or even more plainly, “If it’s good enough for so and so, it’s good enough for me.”

Recommendations are about the WHY

Recommendations are requested from a buyer who mirrors your ideal customer in every way and has experienced a transformation.  This person isn’t a celebrity, but they are the spitting image of your ideal customer and their life experience.

These days people ask for recommendations on Facebook.  Here’s an example from my local community.  In this Facebook group, people primarily ask and give recommendations for small businesses.

example of recommendation request on facebook

How to Get Good Reviews — It’s Not What You Think

Because reviews are about the WHAT of your product or service and how your customers experience your product, service, or employees, the best way to garner positive reviews and to have your customers leave reviews is to deliver in spades.

Sure, you can ask customers to leave reviews for your product or service.  You can provide incentives and rewards to get feedback and Google reviews. But the BEST way to get great reviews is to put a system in place that delivers an outstanding customer experience.

Put all your energy into understanding what your customers consider a great experience?  Is it the product, is it the service, is it your delivery? Is it your speed of service or accuracy? Figure it out and double down.

If you’re a restaurant is it your food, ambiance, or employees?

If you’re a service provider, then there’s a good chance that good reviews will come from who YOU are being with your customers.

If you are more focused on the quality of your service (as if it were a product), then good reviews will be hard to come by.  Instead, put your focus on all the different ways that you can put your client or your customer at the center of everything you do, how you do it and how you engage with your customers about it.

How to Get Customer Testimonials that Influence Sales

Because we know that testimonials tend to be requested rather than spontaneous, we look for who the testimonial is coming from. Is that customer like me? Are the customer testimonials from someone I know and admire?

The key to getting customer testimonials is choosing your customers carefully. Choose people who are most like your ideal customers, who had problems that your core offer solved.

Make sure that you have a process for getting testimonials from customers. Typically, businesses collect customer testimonials after the purchase is complete — but it doesn’t have to be that way.

If your product or service has a longer selling cycle, you can collect customer testimonials at different stages of the process. For example, if you are a technical or manufacturing company, customers may go through a consulting phase, pilot phase, and delivery phase,  You can collect testimonials from each of those.

How to Get Recommendations

Like reviews, recommendations are inspired and triggered by great customer experiences. The only difference is that recommendations are asked for by potential customers who are looking for a solution.

That means that you have to give your customers a good reason to recommend you and be top-of-mind for something very specific and unique that makes you worthy of recommendation.

Here’s how to do that.

Put All Your Focus on Your Customers

Look, it’s natural to be focused on your products or services. But, if you want reviews and testimonials, all of your attention should be on your customers.

How? Your job is to “listen for” what frustrates them and what you can do to make that challenge go away.  Use these questions as inspiration:

  • What problem are you facing right now?
  • What is this problem costing you?
  • How does this problem make you feel?
  • What does this problem look like in your everyday life?
  • What would you like it to look like?
  • What do you need from me (our business) so you can move forward?
  • What would make you really happy if we solved it?

Develop and Build Relationships with Fans

Every single customer is a potential recommender.  In other words, if you invest in providing a great experience, they will reward you with referrals.

Recommendations are actually referrals.  And referrals should not be a surprise, they should be part of a lead-generating system.

Run a Referral System

A solid referral system will naturally drive reviews and testimonials about your business.

A referral system is a systematic process inside your business that delivers great customer relationships and provides a simple, easy way for satisfied customers to recommend your business to their family and friends and rewards them for the referral.

How to Get Testimonials

Asking for a customer testimonial falls right under asking for a sale as the most dreaded part of the sales process. If this is how you feel, then that’s your sign that your focus is more on your business than it is on your customer and helping them.

To get testimonials you have to have systems to ask for and collect testimonials. Keep track of customers who have experienced stellar results with your product or service. Make giving a testimonial another step in the process.

Tag happy customers and schedule an appointment for getting a testimonial

Remember, the way testimonials contribute to your marketing is all about who is leaving the testimonial. Look for customers who are influential in your community and who love your business.

Identify ideal customers; those customers who are not good at what you do and value what you do so highly, that they will be happy to share and promote their experience with you.

Ask for video testimonials

Video testimonials are a terrific solution to getting online testimonials.  If you have a Facebook Page or Yelp page, or if you are listed on any review sites, make leaving a video testimonial FUN.

Inspire your customers to tell positive stories and experiences with your product or service.

Every week or so, run an “online challenge” for your clients. Ask them to tell you a story of how their life was before, during, and after engaging with you. What were some unexpected benefits, a-ha moments, what challenges did they face and how did you help them overcome those challenges.

How to Get Customer Reviews

One way to get customer reviews is to ask for customer reviews. You’ve probably had this experience at your local bank or chain store. While I do believe in asking for customer reviews, I’m not a fan of pushing customers to review your business and telling them how to rate your business.

There are better ways to get customer reviews.

Deliver an experience that inspires customers to leave a review.

Happy and satisfied customers are enthusiastic referrers and recommenders of your business. Your best marketing investment is inside your own business and your own employees so that they can deliver outstanding experiences.

Print a simple “how to leave a review” card for your customers

Leaving customer reviews, especially Google reviews can be difficult for customers who aren’t familiar with online reviews or maybe don’t have a Google account. These customers want to leave positive reviews, but don’t know how.

Here are just a few examples of feedback cards that you can use to ask for reviews.

example of google review request

You can make these cards to ask for feedback for every customer review and testimonial site.

Here’s one for Yelp:

Example of yelp review request

And one for Facebook:

example of request for facebook review template

How to Use Testimonials, Reviews, and Recommendations in Your Marketing

Let’s pull this all together and leverage reviews, testimonials, and recommendations as part of your marketing strategy.

How to Use Positive Reviews from Review Sites

  • Feature your 4 and 5-star reviews from review sites as screen shots on your website.
  • Reward and acknowledge customers and clients who left a positive review with discounts, free stuff, or other VIP rewards. Collect a “response video” from them and post it on your social media.
  • Embrace negative reviews and respond to them, take on the feedback and improve that element of your business — then post this on your social media or via email.  Then reward that customer that opened your eyes with that review or feedback.

How to Use Testimonials

  • Embrace your happy ideal customers, love on them, feature them and share their success stories on your website, and on your marketing materials.
  • Take pictures of your happiest customers, print out their testimonials and hang up their pictures in your office.
  • Collect all your testimonials, thank you cards and letters of appreciation and make a happy customer scrapbook.

How to Use Recommendations

  • Create a VIP client or customer group and enroll them in helping you develop new products or services to help even more customers.
  • Use recommendations and testimonials in your Facebook ads.
  • Label “highly recommended”  or “most popular” products on your website.

Now that you know the difference between testimonials reviews and recommendations, you’ll get even more from your marketing and attract your ideal customers without spending more money on marketing.