Estimated Reading Time: 14 minutes

I’ve been working long hours the past couple of weeks developing a new website. My current one was developed in 2009 using FrontPage, an old MS Office program that is no longer supported. And even though my site looks great on mobile devices according to everyone I’ve asked, Google says it isn’t mobile friendly and Google is the boss. Anyway, I’m ready for a fresh look and am really enjoying designing something different!  (You can see it here but please keep in mind it is under development and far from finished!)

Yesterday, I spent the day identifying which testimonial plugin I wanted to use, setting it up, and then, the truly time consuming part, going through my extensive collection of testimonials and adding them to the new software. One big hassle was that I had not previously included the date with each testimonial, and I had to go through all my old class evaluation forms, emails, and various online business listings trying to identify the date for each testimonial! (And I’m not done yet!) Many people might think that’s too much work (and they’d be right that it was time-consuming!). But I didn’t think it would look good to have dozens of testimonials all with yesterday’s date–to a casual glance, it might look like I had just made a bunch up. But more importantly I wanted to show how far back my experience goes.

After twelve-plus hours of work on this yesterday, I came up with an extensive model for how to identify and collect great testimonials. Here are my thoughts in the hope that someone can benefit from the lessons I’ve learned!

Enterprising Insights: Testimonials

testimonial bubblesIf you are thinking about starting a tarot business or other service-oriented business, one of the things that you will need is a collection of testimonials. Testimonials are recommendations that you share on your website or that are available publicly wherever you have a page listing, including review sites like Yelp or a marketplace service site like Thumbtack. You might think that testimonials are about how great you are: “Wow, she’s the best!” “She’s awesome!” “She rocks!” But the truth of the matter is, compliments are the least important part of a testimonial.

Testimonials are most valuable when they let potential clients know what it’s like to work with you.

So if your testimonials are full of how great you are, but don’t mention what kind of experience the client had, then they are failing in their mission.

Identifying Great Testimonials

Compare these reviews from my Thumbtack page:

“I have been privileged to know Joy for several years and am always astounded by both her profound understanding of tarot, astrology, and Kabbalah, as well as her continual drive to expand her knowledgebase. These attributes, accompanied by her thoroughness and sincere thoughtfulness, make her an expert in the truest sense of the word. I cannot recommend her highly enough.”

Did that client get any benefit out of a session with me at all? Sadly, I don’t know. The only word that suggests what the client experienced is “thorough” suggesting that perhaps I babbled on too much! Let me point out that this is a friend who primarily knows me through the tarot meetup (perhaps why her focus was on my knowledge and expertise) and for whom I did a free session when I was developing a new service that combined tarot and astrology. I asked her and a number of other people to write reviews when I first put up my Thumbtack listing (they had an easy-to-use review request form). I very much appreciate her taking the time to offer the review! I do hope the session was valuable to her. She did say I was thoughtful–that’s nice!

“I loved my session with Joy. She is fantastic. Joy took her time explaining each card and its meaning. She was precise and accurate as she explained the cards as it pertains in my life. I highly recommend a visit with Joy, just for fun or if there is something troubling you. I plan on going to see her again and again!”

That’s much better—now a potential client knows several key things. One, this practitioner explains each card—how many times have you gone to a tarot reader and couldn’t find any connection between what they were saying and the cards on the table? That won’t happen here! Two, she was accurate as it pertained to the client’s life. Another score! How often do psychics say things that are true, but too vague to apply except in the most general way? This person found a clear correlation to what was happening in her life. She mentions that readings can be done for fun or with a more serious focus—that to me suggests that during the reading she experienced both of these (and it’s true that my clients are more likely to laugh than cry, even when we are being very serious). Would she recommend me to a friend? Check! Would she see me again? Check! These are the important things! This person was a new client, and after the session I sent her a review request. Thank you for the great testimonial!

The best testimonials tell you what the client experienced and not what they thought of you. “Joy is…” makes a less effective testimonial. “I felt…” makes a fabulous one!

Collecting Great Testimonials

So now that we know what makes a good testimonial, how do you go about collecting them? That can seem overwhelming when you are starting out. The main key is to ask—but, and hopefully now that I’ve explained things, you’ll see that it’s not nearly as hard as you had imagined.

What do I mean by that? Well, if you just send out an email to one or several people saying, “will you write me a testimonial?” they will most certainly write the glowing rave that doesn’t do you any good. So, no need to ask. Phew! What a relief! I hate asking people for favors!

1. Unsolicited Comments

But what will happen to you is that you will get emails from people or phone calls or they’ll bump into you in the grocery store and say, “Wow, every single thing you said in that reading happened.” Or, “You know, after that Reiki session with you I slept all night for the first time in months.” The first way to collect testimonials is to keep your ears and eyes open for comments people casually make to you indicating that they had a good experience with your service. Now’s when you ask! Well, it’s nice to say thank you first, then ask:

The Ask 1: “Really? Thank you so much! I’m so glad to hear this! You know, I’m working on developing/updating my website and I’d love to include your comments. Do you mind if I use your testimonial?”

Watch out—they will immediately offer to write you one—but I almost always politely decline. Whenever people set out to write a testimonial, they go into rave mode. We don’t want that—we want a simple, straightforward, to the point assessment of how the service directly benefited them.

For example, someone in a tarot class was completing an exercise and suddenly burst out with, “My mind just opened up!” I didn’t hesitate–I was trying to build my testimonials at the time and I said to her, “Do you mind if I use your statement, ‘My mind just opened up!’ as a testimonial and attribute it to you by name?” We worked out a compromise in which she wrote a couple sentences that included her statement and put it in context.

The benefit of this is that you don’t have to bring it up–let the client bring up the compliment and then all you have to do is be bold enough to ask if you can share that comment with other people.

2. Soliciting Testimonials from Your Regulars

If you do solicit testimonials (all pros and cons aside, it can get you a jump-start on the process), it might help to be specific about things your clients can address. I didn’t have any Reiki class testimonials and asked one of my students for one. This is what I said:

The Ask 2: “I would love it if you could provide a short testimonial—a couple sentences—on what you liked about the class, how it changed you, why you chose to do the six-month program, or whatever you think you would most like to tell other people looking for a Reiki class.”

I tend to use this method with people I feel comfortable with–students who have taken several classes, clients who have done multiple sessions, colleagues who know my work well. It’s a lot easier to ask when you already have a good relationship with the person!

3. Guiding New Clients to Online Forms or Review Requests

Another great way to solicit testimonials is to employ an easy-to-use form. Both my Thumbtack listing and my Appointy scheduling software offer a chance for me to push a button and request a review from my clients. If only I would use them! I am currently developing a new website, and this time I’m including a testimonial plugin (I chose Strong Testimonials, a free plugin) that includes a form for people to add their review.

Thanking a client after a session is just good manners (this one is do-as-I-say-not-as-I-do!). And if you can combine it with an opportunity for them to share their experience by writing a review, then the request flows pretty naturally. Here’s the email template from my Appointy scheduling software. Appointy lets me customize the emails, so it’s my voice the clients hear, not some curt comments from a developer in India.

The Ask 3:

Dear {fname} {lname},

Thank you for doing a session with me!

I hope you were pleased with your session. If you have any questions about it please let me know.

I would love it if you would please take a moment to review your experience with {businessname} by clicking here.

If you need any more information or would like to know more about how I use client reviews, please contact me at {businessemail}.

Thank you!

Joy

Alternately, when I have my new site up and running, I could email each client and direct them to the testimonial form online.

There’s something about the formality of a form that legitimizes the request. It brings about an objectivity that reduces the vulnerability of making the request: “My software does this automatically, I hope you don’t mind.” Kind of a “just following orders” mentality, but whatever it takes to get the job done. When I was building my business I was more motivated to send out review requests. This to me is the easiest way to make requests of new clients who have only done a single session with me.

Incidentally, it’s best not to solicit reviews for review sites like Yelp or Google+. For Yelp, I believe one of the factors that is weighted in their algorithms is whether the person has done any other Yelp reviews—if they haven’t, it looks like you sent them to your review page to boost your ratings. Which in a way you did, even, unfortunately, if it’s a client who found you through Yelp in the first place. I let the Yelp reviews develop naturally. And hopefully more tarot and Reiki clients across the nation will find enough value in Yelp that they start writing reviews on a regular basis for the businesses they love, giving more weight to all their reviews.

4. Providing Evaluation Forms at the End of a Class or Session

The last method for collecting testimonials is actually the very first method I ever employed. As part of my tarot training in the early 90s, my teacher had me develop and teach a beginning tarot class. I had only been reading for a little over two years myself, but so often the best way to learn something is to teach it. (Incidentally, the exercises I developed for that class in January 1994 are still being used as part of my Magician’s Tools beginning tarot class!) My teacher insisted that I create evaluation forms for everyone to fill out at the end of class; he even told me what to put on them. I still use the same basic form, just slightly updated and expanded!

Things to include in an evaluation form might be: before and after (what was your level of experience/level of confidence before this class/after this class; what was your level of discomfort/pain/confusion/doubt before/after this session); how knowledgeable/professional was your teacher/practitioner; was the class/session interesting/fun/enjoyable; what did you like best/least; please share any other comments. You can hand out an evaluation form at the end of a class or keep small half-sheet or quarter-sheet forms at your reading table for people to fill out.

The Ask 4:

The evaluation form from my January 1994 beginning tarot class.
The evaluation form from my January 1994 beginning tarot class.

I almost always provide typed evaluation forms that my students fill out by hand. I tried once doing it as an online survey, only to eventually decide I wanted to print them out (which took up a lot more paper than if I’d just printed them in the first place). If you use an online survey, verify ahead of time what access you have to the data–I was shocked to discover that I couldn’t download the results of a very commonly used survey tool unless I paid for it. Luckily there are plenty of other options that are free and let you use your results however you wish (I’ve used JotForm and Google Forms in the past).

I find that these types of testimonials will need a little bit of editing to get them into sentence form.

The vast majority of the testimonials I have for my classes come from class evaluations. They are anonymous, but I think that can lend a certain credibility.

Conclusion

I hope this inspires you to start developing your testimonial collection! It can be a rewarding experience and a place to go to bask in the good vibes when you’re feeling in a rut or like the business is more trouble than it’s worth. Reviews of the work you offer can be a direct benefit to you personally when you realize: I can do this because, well, I’ve already done it!

Enterprising Insights: Testimonials Tips and Tricks

Sneaky Places to Gather Testimonials

  1. Friends and family: one of my very first client testimonials was from my sister and another was from a friend/roommate
  2. Comments from clients or students during a session or class
  3. Thank yous from clients or students after a session or class, either in person, by email or phone, or, in rare instances, an actual mailed card
  4. Meetup reviews! A great place to scour for well-written testimonials.
  5. Hand out evaluation forms
  6. Start a page for your business on Yelp or Google where people can both find you and leave a review
  7. Use an online service listing marketplace (Thumbtack, Etsy) or appointment scheduling software (Appointy) that lets you request reviews
  8. Comments people make on Facebook or other social media
  9. Use your phone to audio or video record someone’s comments — with their knowledge and permission of course!
  10. If you are just getting started in your business or trying out a new service, you can exchange a free session for feedback. However, I recommend that you don’t barter for reviews. I think it’s ethically questionable to offer to trade something for a review. Reviews are most effective when they arise naturally from a happy client who is excited to share their experience. On the other hand, trading for feedback is win-win, and if the feedback form provides a spot for the person to provide an optional testimonial, that’s fair.

Don’t Forget These Important Details!

  1. Always ask permission! No one likes to be surprised that they are suddenly recommending you to the world when all they did is send you a polite email after a session.
  2. Ask how they want their name listed–full name, first name last initial, nom de plume, etc.
  3. Take note of the date! Have people write the date on evaluation forms.
  4. Keep them organized! I realized I should have started an Excel file to keep my testimonials more organized. You may scoff, but someday you’re going to want to upload your hundreds of raving testimonials to your top-of-the-line new testimonial software and you’ll wish you had them better organized!
  5. Use categories. I’m separating my testimonials into categories like: Tarot Classes, Other Esoteric Classes, Readings, Reiki Classes, Reiki Sessions, etc. This way I can keep relevant reviews together so someone interested in a qabalah class can skip all the Reiki stuff.
  6. Use a headline for each testimonial to highlight the best stuff

Check out my Testimonials page on my old website and my updated page on the in-development site.

Where do you find good testimonials? Please leave a comment below!

_________________________________________________

Joy Vernon is the president of Joy Vernon Tarot and Reiki, Inc. When pressed repeatedly, she will offer business coaching or her Going Pro class. She is the organizer of the Denver Tarot Geeks, Denver Tarot Meetup and Denver Traditional Reiki Meetup, and she served on the faculty of Avalon Center for Druidic Studies. She is one of the psychics at Isis Books and is a Certified Professional Tarot Reader and a member of the American Tarot Association and Tarosophy Tarot Association. Joy also teaches Traditional Japanese Reiki. For information on upcoming classes or to schedule an appointment, please visit JoyVernon.com.

© 2015 by Joy Vernon. All rights reserved.

 

 

 

 

Joy Vernon is widely recognized by tarot professionals as an expert tarot teacher and respected community leader. With over twenty years’ experience teaching energetic and esoteric modalities, Joy brings expertise and practiced familiarity to her specialty of esoteric tarot, which layers astrological and qabalistic symbolism onto the traditional tarot structure. Under her leadership, the Denver Tarot Meetup has grown into one of the largest and most active tarot-specific meetups in the world. Joy works as a tarot reader, astrologer, and teacher at Isis Books. To learn more, please visit JoyVernon.com.
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Enterprising Insights: Testimonials

3 thoughts on “Enterprising Insights: Testimonials

  • September 17, 2015 at 11:25 am
    Permalink

    Dearest Joy,

    You are a consummate professional sharing your valuable wisdom and experience. Thank you for your tireless support and generous time. So glad to be able to call you my friend too!

    Light & Love,
    Katrina

    • September 17, 2015 at 11:38 am
      Permalink

      Thank you, Katrina! I’m glad you found this blog and I very much appreciate the comment! 🙂

  • October 17, 2015 at 7:43 pm
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    Your new website has beautiful artwork Joy!

Comments are closed.