How to Legally Collect and Use Testimonials
When it comes to running and promoting a business, learning to leverage client testimonials can be your not-so-secret weapon for converting leads into high-paying clients.
There’s no doubt testimonials are one of the most persuasive and compelling ways to show you provide an incredible product or service.
Just think about the last time you bought a service or product.
Did you check the star ratings or read the reviews? If so, it’s likely that you were influenced by what you saw, and made your decision accordingly.
Happy Clients + their testimonials = greater opportunity to provide your much needed services to the people who need them.
I’m a big proponent of using systems in your business, and this applies to collecting testimonials too!
Similar to your onboarding process where you send your service contract to your client, once a project or program is complete, you can and should include asking for a client testimonial from your client as part of your off-boarding process.
And you guessed it, there’s a right and wrong way to use your client testimonials, legally speaking.
*Keep in mind, all of these legal considerations also apply to influencer marketing.
What The Law Says About Using Customer Testimonials
Depending on whether you are in Canada or the U.S., there are different laws around using customer testimonials.
In Canada, the Competition Act is the legislation that governs misleading advertising. These laws require that any advertising you do can’t be misleading. It’s your job to ensure that all testimonials are true and honest. This means, if you are using testimonials, the person endorsing the product must have actually used the product. It also requires that if you have paid or given the user free or discounted products (or some other form of compensation), that you clearly disclose this to the public. You also can’t hide it in the fine print. It has to be easy for the public to identify this. Think #ad, #paidopportunity, or an affiliate disclaimer.
The Competition Bureau of Canada is in charge of policing this. They have been cracking down on this lately, especially with the rise of influencer marketing. For example, it’s not a good idea to let your mom or best friend be your first reviewer if they haven’t disclosed that they have a material connection with you and that you compensated them in some way. Consumers are pretty savvy, and can spot a fake a mile away. Aside from being illegal, this sort of marketing just doesn’t look good on you or your business’s part.
Canadian law also has specific language for client testimonials. It prohibits using testimonials unless the person publishing the testimonial (IE, you, the business owner), can prove that the testimonial was approved and you were given written permission to use the testimonial.
In the United States, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission is the enforcement agency that deals with false or misleading testimonials and endorsements. You can check out the FTC guide here, which answers a lot of questions about using client testimonials if you advertise in the U.S.
It is good to familiarize yourself with these guidelines if you are making marketing claims to U.S. consumers. This guide is also helpful for businesses using testimonials and endorsements made to Canadian consumers, given that the principles underlying false or misleading endorsements are largely the same in both Canada and the United States.
Important Legal Considerations To Keep In Mind When Using Client Testimonials
Although there are strict laws and policies around using client testimonials, they are still a very powerful tool for your business, and when used right, can benefit both the consumer and the producer. Keep these legal considerations in mind when using client testimonials in your business.
1. Make sure your testimonials are from real clients and customers.
Not only are false testimonials illegal and can get you in trouble, but consumers are savvy and smart. They can tell when a testimonial is false, skewed, or not 100% true.
2. Get permission from your clients and customers first.
Before using their likeness or their name, you should get permission from your clients and customers first. While some may be honored to see their name and testimonial on your website or social media, others might not be so keen to have the public know they used your services. It’s important to get their permission first and ensure you are using their testimonial and name in a way that they are comfortable with.
3. Ensure all testimonials are accurate and not exaggerated.
Do not tiptoe on the line of false advertising! If your client was making $99K in their business and because of your coaching, they hit $101K, exaggerating that your coaching was the sole reason for them tipping over the 6-figure mark seems a little misleading to me. It’s important that your clients give honest and transparent testimonials about the results they experienced from your service or product.
4. Disclose any payment or value exchange you offer for testimonials.
If you pay your clients or customers for testimonials, or give them any other kind of value exchange (like 10% off their next purchase or a free product), you must disclose this so that a reader of the testimonial knows they have been compensated in some way.
5. Don’t commit copyright infringement by copy + pasting your reviews from Third-Party Websites.
This is a big legal no-no! Instead, you can reach out to those who left a review to thank them and ask if they would provide a testimonial that you can use on your website and in your marketing. You can also use plugins compatible with your website to link or pull your reviews from a third-party site (like Google, Yelp, or Facebook).
6. Get approval from your client before posting their testimonial on your website.
You should always get your client’s approval to post their testimonial on your website. This is especially true if you are posting personally identifiable information, like their name or a photo. You want to ensure that your client provides their consent and is comfortable doing so. For instance, if you’re a weight loss or relationship coach, you can’t assume that every client is comfortable with having their personal journey shared on your website. It’s always better to be safe (and legal), rather than sorry.
7. Ensure if you make any changes to the testimonial, that your client signs off on them.
Sometimes, you’ll receive a testimonial that is super clear and concise and can be used as is. Other times, there are misspellings and grammar errors in client testimonials and you want to fix those before sharing it on your website. You may receive a video testimonial that is rather long and you wish to split it into shorter clips and piece those together. No matter what changes you make to a client’s testimonial, just make sure you make them aware of them and have them sign off on the final version.
The Best Way to Legally Collect Client Testimonials
The best practice to do this is to have a client testimonial release signed. This can be a standalone document or integrated into your testimonial feedback form if done electronically.
If you don’t have a client release form, grab your FREE CLIENT RELEASE FORM HERE. Client testimonials are so important, especially for small business owners, so I wanted to get this into as many hands as possible!
How To Ask For Client Testimonials
Once you know the legal considerations for using client testimonials, it’s important to think about how you will ask for these testimonials.
I recommend integrating this process into your business systems, as this will save you time and stress and ensure that this process is followed in the same manner each time. It also makes the process more professional and easy for your client.
There is a definite skill that goes into asking for and getting testimonials, however, once you get them, they can do a lot of heavy lifting and make a great impact in your business.
Once you put this system into place, it will get easier to flex this muscle after your first few asks.
Here are a few tips to keep in mind when asking for client testimonials:
Tip #1: Ask soon after the services are provided.
Don’t let too much time pass between when you finish your work and when you make your ask; by then, a lot of the details, energy, and enthusiasm will be lost! When it comes to testimonials, the nuances and details about the incredible service you provided will likely have been lost. These are the details that could help you stand out from your competition! There’s definitely a sweet spot when it comes to timing, but better to err on the side of sooner rather than later. This also helps delineate the client relationship and show that it has come to an end.
Tip #2: Include a form in your client off-boarding.
Integrate a client testimonial form into your off-boarding process, which can be automated using a CRM platform, like my personal favourite, Dubsado. Dubsado, is the platform I use to manage my own clients in my law firm, and is also how I collect my client testimonials. Since my release is uploaded and automatically gets sent out once my work is completed, it makes collecting my client testimonials really easy since it’s automated.
Tip #3: Look for testimonials that aren’t super obvious.
Client testimonials don’t always have to be long, drawn-out stories. A quick “THANK YOU” in your Instagram DM’s or a client win shared via Slack can be just as powerful. Just ensure you get their permission to reuse it.
For example, if a client messages you saying they implemented the skills you taught them, you could say, “This is so amazing! Thanks for sharing. Could I use this as a testimonial to share with my audience?” If the nature of your work is personal, just be cautious of client confidentiality.
Tip #4: Don’t automatically assume your client wants their photo on your website.
As I mentioned earlier, not everyone wants their identity displayed on your website. Be sure to get consent from them and have them approve or choose the photo used.
Tip #5: Utilize Zoom recordings as testimonials.
Zoom recordings can be transformed into powerful video testimonials and then transcribed into written testimonials. Again, just make sure you ask for permission and consent from your client no matter which type of testimonial you pull from a recording.
Tip #6: Be thoughtful about your testimonial form.
When it comes to client testimonials, the more details, the better. Be thoughtful about your testimonial form and use questions that tease out specific details.
A few example questions might be:
- Did you have any initial hesitations before hiring me?
- What made you decide my services were a fit for your business?
- What changes did my services bring to your life and/or business? (Look for specific and quantifiable changes, for example, “my new website design increased sales 38% in the first 3 months,” “my IG Followers went up 200% once I hired you as a social media agency,” etc.).
- What did you like best about working with me?
- What could I do better next time? (You might not include this in your testimonial form, but this is invaluable constructive feedback to help you continue honing in on your services and skills. If you’re not getting great testimonials, this will help you make changes and make it as great as you can).
- Is there anything else you’d like to add? (You might get feedback on your processes, approach, etc.).
If you don’t want to do a testimonial form, you can simply send an email to thank your client for working with you with a link to where they can leave you a Google review. Of course, you have less control over these, but it is a good opportunity for transparent reviews. If there are any negative reviews, you can address these head on (albeit, publicly). Just remember you can’t copy + paste these to your website as this is considered copyright infringement.
Tip #7: Keep testimonials clear and concise.
You can edit a client testimonial for clarity. However, if you do make any edits, you must ensure that your client approves them first (unless this is consented to in your client testimonial release form).
If you haven’t been leveraging the power of client testimonials in your business, take this as your sign that today is the day to start! Asking for client testimonials can be uncomfortable at first, but this form of social proof is so important to continue growing and scaling your business.