"How do I ask clients for endorsements or testimonials?"
"If a client posts a testimonial or recommendation on sites like AVVO or LinkedIn, can I copy that endorsement and put it on my website, too?"
These are questions I hear from lawyers fairly frequently. Most recently, they appeared on a lawyer's list-serve that I participate in, and they sparked quite a discussion.
Asking clients for recommendations
There are many ways that you can ask clients to recommend your work. I think the most effective approach is the simple, straightforward approach. It’s always good to strike while the iron is hot – when a client sends you a nice email or thanks you for helping them, that’s the best time to ask if they would mind writing an recommendation of you for your website or other marketing materials.
You can also make a request for a recommendation part of your standard closing letter (or conversation) to clients. If you've done a good job for them, most clients will be happy to do so - and your work will be freshest in their minds right after their matter has been completed.
What makes an effective testimonial
Testimonials are most effective when they address common objections or misconceptions, but you can also ask clients to write something that addresses a specific aspect of your service – especially if they have already mentioned it themselves in their "thank you" note or comments to you.
It isn’t necessary to use a client’s name in a testimonial. You can still get the point across and showcase what you do in a concrete way without breaching a client’s privacy. Ed Poll, coach and law firm management consultant, believes that client names shouldn't be used on lawyers' websites - he believes firmly that even if the client agrees to reveal their name, it sends the wrong message.
Whether you agree with Ed on that point or not, as you can see from the client success stories on Ed’s site, it doesn’t matter that the client’s name isn’t used. The stories are written in such a way that it is unlikely that they were “made up” and they contain the kinds of specifics that address the exact reasons why clients would hire someone who does what he does.
While your credentials are important and should be included in your marketing materials, the problem is that, to the layperson, many lawyers seem to have 'the same' credentials or experience. It's hard to tell lawyers with similar levels of experience and similar practice areas apart.
Sometimes, you can set yourself apart by the number of years that you have been in practice, but that alone won't cut it. Potential clients want to know more about who they will be working with or who they will be entrusting their business, their financial future or their freedom to. The writing or speaking you have done in your area of expertise can be another factor - which is why it is always good to keep developing your content and publicizing it - but again, those won't show the human side of what you do, or the day to day realities of working with you.
Even if you haven't been in practice that long or you haven't yet built up your content library and speaker credentials, the work you have done for clients can work for you.
This goes back to the main principles of marketing:
- What is it that convinces a client to hire you?
- What makes you stand out from others?
- How can you demonstrate your expertise and give the potential client or referral source looking at your marketing materials a concrete understanding of the specifics of what you do for clients on a daily basis?
- How can you anticipate and overcome the common objections to hiring someone in your field?
- How can you demonstrate that you understand the client's problems and that you have a solution that will work?
Cover these basics in your marketing materials - and keep them in mind when writing case studies or talking to clients about recommendations or endorsements.
Copying a client's endorsement for your website
As for the second question posed at the beginning of this article, I think it’s a great idea to use endorsements that others have already given you in multiple places. But I always think it’s best to ask them first.
Drop the client a line saying something like, “Thanks so much for the great endorsement you gave me on Avvo. I really appreciate it. Would you mind if I posted it on my website as well?” Most clients are going to say yes, but I always think it’s better to err on the side of caution.
I've written about testimonials before on two of the other sites I write for: on the Lawyeristsite, I wrote generally about client testimonials for lawyer marketing. I followed that up with a post on Slaw on what makes a good testimonial for a law firm website. Check out these posts for additional tips.