A Step-by-Step Formula for Generating Powerful Testimonials

Not all testimonials are created equal.

Testimonials are a vital piece of any business’s marketing strategy. They are the social proof that helps you build trust with your prospective customer.

I’m sure you’ve perused through your competitors (or your own) Facebook reviews section. You’re likely to find things like “…best place to get my sweat on”, or “if you’re dropping in and really want to get your ass kicked, this is the place to go!”, or “love the trainers and community here”.

These people meant well, and they were honest… but these kinds of stories aren’t going to help you identify with the pain points of your prospective member. They aren’t going to build much (if any) real credibility. And they definitely don’t do a great job of sharing what it is you ACTUALLY do for people.

Imagine you could produce dozens of powerful testimonials like this…

“I was overweight and miserable. I had just turned 50 and my size 10/12 clothes were no longer comfortable and I was going to have to size up. I wanted to change things, and start living a healthier lifestyle, but knew I didn’t have the self-discipline to do it on my own. So I tried CrossFit. I couldn’t always do everything as it what called for in the WOD each day, but I did my best. It was a challenge and I loved it! Each day I was able to do a little more and learned to meet new challenges head on. Within 1 year I reached my first goal of losing 20 pounds, and I continued to lose weight after that! It’s taken a lot of determination along the way, but the rewards have been worth it. Life is great now because I have strength and mobility that I didn’t have prior to CrossFit and I am no longer easily fatigued. I feel amazing now!”

A very tiny percentage people of people will naturally write a testimonial like this, yet this is the kind of testimonial that tells a good story. It identifies the person’s original pain, it share’s their decision to change, it walks you through their journey, and it ends with a picture of the success they’re now enjoying.

People respond better to a well-written transformation story.

Want to know the really cool part? Everyone has a compelling story! Yep. The problem is that people think they need to have lost 30 pounds, or gone through some sort of spectacular life change in order for their story to be important… but they’re wrong.

Everyone’s story is compelling, because we all have similar experiences. And just because someone doesn’t have 30 pounds to lose doesn’t mean they don’t want to change their life. And when they read about someone struggling the same way they are (no matter how small), it’s motivating! It’s proof that someone else out there has overcome that pain point.

You can help people tell their story, with this simple framework.

This framework has been adapted from the Storybrand framework. They’ve studied 2000 years of storytelling and identified the types of stories that people love hearing. (They’ve also shown how this same framework is essentially the storyline for most every movie out there… even noting the striking story similarities between Star Wars and Tommy Boy).

Here’s the questions you’ll want to ask:

  • What were you struggling with before you started [the gym, CrossFit, etc]?
    You’ll want to be able to identify the exact feelings they were having, and what was causing those feelings. If they were overweight, we want to know how being overweight made them mentally feel.
  • What was the defining moment where you realized you needed to do something?
    This is the best place to get specifics. What year? What season was it? Where were they when they decided to do something? What were they doing when they realized they needed to change?
  • What was it about [our gym, CrossFit, etc] that kept you coming back?
    This is what they enjoyed about your solution… this could be as simple as telling how amazing the coaches are, or how welcoming the community is…
  • What changes have you seen in yourself?
    Being a gym, you’ll likely see a lot of physical changes… but don’t forget about mental and even spiritual changes people go through. These are all important. Get them to describe how you’d recognize that change. If it’s lost weight – how much? If they dropped sizes – from what old size to what new size? If they gained confidence – what can they now do easier?
  • How is life now that you’ve experienced those changes?
    We want them to share how they feel about the changes they’ve experienced. Don’t suffice for “good”… Get them to share something they couldn’t formerly do, but now they can – and find out what that means to them.
  • What would you tell someone with a similar struggle to yours?
    This is just a fun question to ask. After you’ve listened to their story, and they feel heard – most people will naturally get really excited about helping someone else that’s having similar struggles. Why? Because they know what it’s like.

Then you’ll want to edit and re-format the responses:

You’ll probably want to keep it under 250 words (the one shown above was only 167 words). The point is to use as few words as you have to in order to tell the best story you can. We aren’t trying to write essays, we’re just trying to sum up experiences and give prospects a quick and easy way to relate to the customer.

  • Open with the original struggle.
  • Describe the defining moment, specifying exact years, seasons, weights, etc.
  • Share why they stayed with their choice.
  • Detail the changes that have been seen.
  • Share how they feel about the success they’re now experiencing.
  • And if it fits… let them encourage others to do the same!

When you end up sharing someone’s story, you’re sending 2 messages. The first message you’re sending is that you care enough about your customer to share their story. That customer will feel honored, and that public association will go a long ways towards making them feel like part of your tribe. The second message you’re sending is to prospects… it’s that you care about and can help people like them.

Create better testimonials that resonate with your prospects and you’ll inspire them to seek the same kind of transformation.