Testimonials and Why Some Clients May Not Want To Give Them

Thinking on My Business

Today is my buffer day: a day where I’m working on my business development. I’ve had a couple of meetings, but they have all been centered around business development. It’s so nice to not have to jump into the client-facing role sometimes; it’s important to carve out space for this time. I did a really poor job earlier this year of building that into my schedule, even though it’s something that I coach to my high-level consulting clients.

As a reminder, start putting time on your calendar for your own business development and for working on your business on a regular basis. If you coach with me, you hear me say this all the time, but it’s something we can all easily push aside, right? Because we’re really good at putting everyone else before ourselves. So, make sure that you are doing a really good job of carving out that CEO time. 

And it’s not going to be a full day right off the get-go for a lot of us. It’s going to be a couple of hours here or there. You’re going to work up to a half-day, whatever it might be. I have finally gotten back to a place where I have one full day and it’s really helpful; it is a game-changer and it’s so important. So just being mindful of it, trying to keep it top of mind, and infuse it into your regular schedule is incredible. 

Something New I’ve Been Thinking On: Testimonials

In this theme of representation and business development, It reminds me of a conversation that came up with a high-level client around testimonials. This relates to what I mentioned before. I promise! Because perception is critical, right? The way we show up for our clients – and our peers – reflects directly back on our business growth. 

When I got to this discussion with the client, on testimonials and visibility, it wasn’t because I asked for a testimonial for myself. But I have in the past, where I’ve worked with clients I know that I have knocked it out of the park and I’ve done incredible work for them. 

So, when it comes time for asking for a recommendation or a testimonial, and the client has avoided the topic or it’s just not been something they’ve been able to get to…I’ve always wondered what that was about. And I’m not exactly a pushy person by any means. And so I would always just let it be. And then I had this conversation with a client last week. And it was like an “aha” moment. 

First of all, I don’t think it’s talked about very often. And second of all, I’m curious if this has ever come up with any clients that you’ve worked with. So testimonials, as we know, are incredibly important. We want to gather that social proof. I talked about this a lot in my coaching, how to do that, and how to infuse that into your workflows. 

One of my coaching students even has a beautiful workflow for how she gathers testimonials, and she gifted that to me, thank goodness. So that has been infused into my own workflows, and it’s something we’re going to talk about if you coach with me. 

But anyway, this client of mine, she was talking about how one of her contractors did a wonderful job. We were talking about a project and team development. She said, “Oh my goodness, it was such a fantastic experience.”

She then tells me, “the contractor asked for a testimonial. And I’m not giving them a testimonial; not because I don’t think their work is good but because I don’t want my competitors to know who I use as part of my team or what tools I use to be successful.” And I was like, oh, my goodness, I had no idea. I didn’t even stop long enough ever to think about things from that perspective. But I can totally relate. And so I’m curious, have you ever thought about that? And have you ever gotten that type of feedback from a client? 

Keeping Your IP Protected

So this person, this client of mine, she loved the work this contractor did, it was beautiful, but she does not want to give a testimonial because she doesn’t want her competitors knowing what she used. She doesn’t want to give her tips and tricks away. She wants to keep everything under the table. And I thought that was so interesting and fair enough. Like I get that approach. 

It was so obvious when I heard it, and it was so genuine. It’s a protection of themselves and their brand; they don’t want anybody to know. I’m not kidding. This client told me, “I had to research for this person.” And you know, when folks give her recommendations, she keeps those so close to her like gold, and she doesn’t want anyone else knowing it.

And so I’m like, well, that’s gonna be interesting because clearly I’m not gonna get a recommendation from her either, which is okay, but I’m sure glad that we had that conversation. It opened up a whole new perspective for me. And so I’ve been racking my brain and trying to think, Okay, what else would be possible? How could I encourage people to still have some type of social proof and value to warrant the work that they’ve done for someone? 

Thinking Without a Solution 

I’ve got to be honest… I’ve come to a roadblock. So I wanted to open up this discussion and hear if you can think of any solutions to this (throw me some comments or send me a message!). Is there some other way to showcase the results that you got without, you know, exposing the client for that matter?

In defense of the client that I told you about earlier: she is very high profile and she does have competitors. She does have people that stalk her and try to figure out every piece of our methodology. And she’s done a really good job protecting her brand and her IP. This is sort of part of that. But it was so fascinating to me, and I’ve been noodling on it ever since. Because I wanted to show up to you guys and say, this conversation happened. And here’s my solution to that I can’t come up with a solution. And that drives me crazy. 

Okay, so someone I was talking to this week about it started saying case studies…that’s the way to go. Obviously, case studies are possible. But are our case studies as valuable when they don’t have an actual name or a brand attached to it? That’s my question. And anybody can make up a case study, right? But if there’s a case study, and it presents the person and the link to their business, that is credible. 

But if that doesn’t exist, is the case study really that valuable? That was my question: why is that not a solution? Sure, you could still have a showcase of the work you’ve done. You could have a testimonial without a name behind it, but I am the type of person who is always questioning, Is that real if there’s not a name attached to it? I want the meaty, juicy, and great testimonials where I have the person’s picture and I have that true social proof.

I guess, best-case scenario, you could do something but keep it anonymous, but that’s a little bit boring. That can be ESPECIALLY BORING if the business is so unique and you’ve provided excellent ROI for them. So again, I still don’t have a good solution. Now if it was somebody you were doing social media management for, and the person was a realtor, you could describe that client in broad terms (think “prominent LA realtor”)…that would be a little bit easier. 

I couldn’t EVEN do that in my particular client’s case, because the industry that this person is in is so niche. 

There are plenty more that are willing and able to give me a testimonial; luckily, this is true. And there are plenty of people who are willing to give you a testimonial too. And so this might be something to really think about because maybe you run such a niche biz that you really need testimonials.

And if that’s part of your process, you might want to start thinking about asking that upfront. Am I able to showcase the results that I get for your business? Having those open discussions, because if it comes to the end and you’re really counting on that, then you might reconsider that client. This situation could change a lot of things.

Proactive Conversations with Your Clients Around Testimonials

 Some proactive conversations might be the solution here, and figuring out how you build that request into your workflow. So You don’t necessarily need to give a full name. Right? And that’s kind of what we’re talking about (if they’re a very specific type of coach or they are in a very specific type of industry). I know that this person that I’m using as the example of where this discussion came from…there’s no way on earth.

I can’t identify a way that would be safe enough for her to even be able to do this. So she might be an extreme case, but it’s still really interesting to see a question that I wanted to bring up. 

 You don’t need a testimonial from every client. Oh, absolutely not, but testimonials from clients that are maybe long-term. Or if you’re somebody who doesn’t do a lot of small projects, if you have a roster of only three clients, right, and then you’re going to lose that client because the contract is coming to an end. 

Whatever it might be like, that testimonial might be really, really important to you because, if you’re just starting out, that’s critical social proof. And to be honest, I don’t want to inject any fear into this. I didn’t have testimonials for a long time and it didn’t matter to my business. To be clear, you don’t have to have testimonials. We want to start gathering testimonials as part of our process as CEOs of our business and really making sure that we have ways to showcase the results that we’re achieving. 

But I’m just bringing this up as a topic of discussion and not a requirement; do not feel like “I don’t have any testimonials. Oh goodness, I’ve got to have those tomorrow.” That’s not it at all. It just was something interesting and a whole other perspective to think about on this topic.

My only solution to not having a testimonial for this client is being able to speak to it in discovery calls and say, I have a client that I’ve worked with, and we did X, Y, and Z. In this, I’m not divulging any information around their business, but I’m still able to talk about the results (traction on growth, social media, membership, etc.). 

So you can still speak to things. But as far as something like to stamp on your social media or your website that kind of put a little interesting twist in it. 

Protecting the Privacy of Your Clients

I’m used to protecting privacy due to my medical background. I’m really protective. I also don’t like it when my words are screenshotted and posted without consent. Yeah, I think that that is really important to remember too is making sure that you are asking for permission. I make it very clear – as a part of my offboarding – that I get permission and respect privacy. That’s part of my integrity, ethics, and that’s part of my core values. And so I don’t ever want to use people’s information without permission. 

I think that that’s important to remember as well because just because everybody’s taking screenshots of things that people say and posting them like that’s not best practice by any means. It’s fine if you have permission. 

And so these are things that you should pay attention to, for those of you that are in a leadership role with your clients, like if you’re an OBM, or a VA or even a social media manager, that you are teaching them best practices. 

When you’re working with clients, it can be beneficial to help them understand how to implement a system around best practices. So these are really, really interesting discussions to have with clients. Don’t be afraid to ask what they’re doing to capture testimonials and feedback. And do they have the correct permission? 

I’ve worked with a lot of clients in the membership space who work with kids, right? So kindergarten, printables, and preschool activities, and things like that. And so helping our clients understand, okay, if you have permission from your clients to screenshot, you also need to make sure that there’s written permission, especially if there are any pictures of minors in the activities.

We need to be really understanding all of the due diligence and the proper policies to be capturing these testimonials. So just like every other discussion in this online business space, there’s a whole rabbit hole that we can go down with this. 

Simple Testimonials That Still Get the Job Done

And, you know, it could be totally simple. If it’s more of a generalized service that you’re doing, you don’t really need their name, you could still showcase some stuff with permission. But if somebody is in a very specific niche, they do something really unique, and they’re super high profile, it might not be that easy. So make sure you understand the NDA, make sure that you are on the same page with people, because the worst thing that you could do is create tension.

Say you do a great job for someone and then share the work that you did for them, probably without malicious intent but without their permission, and then they’re upset with you afterward. So you want to make sure that you’re protecting yourself as well, but if anybody has any bright tips around this as you’re reading this (or if you already have an easy solution!), I would totally be open to hearing from you. 

I like to bring other perspectives to the table, especially at this point, you know, I have a lot of experience with different types of clients. And there aren’t many things that I haven’t heard of or dealt with. But this was a new one. This was a new objection that I was like, wow, I respect you. I had never thought of that. So I wanted to share.

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