Testimonials have got to be one of the most powerful marketing tools for business services. I’ve never met anyone who thinks otherwise. When I talk to business owners, they tell me about their “really great” clients who have “only good things to say” about how satisfied they are. So why isn’t every business’ web site and social media teeming with testimonials?

“I ask for testimonials,” said one chiropractor I met. “They never seem to get around to writing them.”

“All the testimonials sound the same,” a real estate agent told me. “They’re flattering, but pretty generic.”

There’s nothing compelling about a web site full of fluffy statements punctuated by strings of exclamation points and emojis:

“Liz is Amazing!!!”

“She’s the Best!!!!”

“I never want to work with anyone else!!!!!!”

So how do you get articulate, authentic testimonials that tell future customers how they’ll benefit by doing business with you? It’s not as hard as you might think, if you’re willing to take matters into your own hands.

Step one: Email a few of your satisfied customers. Schedule a phone call for no more than a half an hour. Say you want to ask a few questions about the service they received from your company. People love to talk about themselves, and are usually flattered to be asked their opinion.

Step two: Before you start to make phone calls, take a moment to jot down a few open-ended questions. These questions might take the form of, “Tell me about…” or “What was your favorite part…?” The key is to give your customer the opportunity to do all the talking.

One more thing to do before you call: Write down three to five key strengths you’d like highlighted about your company. For example, you might want new customers to know about your longevity in business or your commitment to the most accurate estimates. Be prepared to ask about your clients’ experience in these areas.

Step three: Make the calls, and be prepared to listen and take notes. If you choose to record the conversation, be sure to get permission. And even though your primary objective is to obtain a testimonial, be prepared for any kind of feedback. If you hear about a problem or concern with your service, make the commitment to fix it.

Before you hang up, be sure to tell your client you’ll be sending them the written testimonial for their review and approval. You should never post or reprint a testimonial that isn’t approved by the person giving it.

I’ll never forget the time my former neighbor in California showed me a post card he’d received from the real estate agent who’d helped sell our house. Not only did it feature a less-than-flattering photo of me, it also included a quote about his service that was one hundred percent fabricated. I’m sure he thought we’d never find out, since we’d moved out of state, but that killed any chance he had of ever getting a recommendation from me.

Step four: Yes, I’m going to tell you to write your client’s testimonial for them. Use their words, but don’t be afraid to edit the statement to make it concise and articulate. Also, make sure to include any of the service differentiators they experienced. Be sure what you write is as specific as possible, and leave out vague statements that don’t do anything to highlight your company’s strengths.

Now there you have it. You’ve created a handful of testimonials and touched base with some of your best clients in the meantime. If you’ve listened carefully and taken care with the writing, your clients will be flattered with the attention and the opportunity to share their opinion.

Once you have approval to use the testimonial, post it on your web site, include it in your newsletter, create a social media post, and add it to promotional materials. You can also ask your customer to post a testimonial to Yelp or another review site, if they feel so inclined.

Call me if you need help gathering testimonials for your business!