Client testimonials are an extremely important aspect of modern marketing for any business. Word-of-mouth has always been important, but thanks to social media, it’s easier than ever to build a reputation based on user reviews, and very difficult to fix a bad reputation when it’s been splashed across Facebook and Twitter.

Any good digital marketing campaign will include soliciting clients for their feedback, and a better campaign approach will have you asking those clients if their words can be used in marketing materials. Passively waiting for satisfied customers speak their mind on Yelp or Google won’t work unless your customers are passionate about the service or product they received, and you can end up with a disproportionate number of bad reviews, just because angry customers are the loudest.

Of course, you have to know your clientbase before asking them if you can use their reviews on your website or in your brochures with the express purpose of getting new customers. A tone deaf marketing pitch asking dissatisfied customers to share their experience with your service can take them from merely disgruntled to outright furious in the span of a two-line email.

So how can you decide when it’s inappropriate to ask your clients if you they’ll give you a positive review you can splash all over your marketing materials?

Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Do you actually know your customers are satisfied?
    Take a look at your Google reviews and see if they’re overwhelmingly negative. That will give you a clue that your clients aren’t particularly happy. You can also find any positive reviewers and follow up with them for a further review. In fact, you could go one step further and initiative a client survey of your own, and ping any positive respondents to see if they’d be willing to be your champion.
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  3. Do you provide a service that is necessary, but has a bad reputation?
    If you are an Internet service provider, financial institution, or health insurance provider, you may want to think twice about asking your clients what they think. There are certain types of businesses that people despise no matter how great they are, and asking your clients’ opinions will just incite rage.
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  5. Was there a hiccup with service? How did you respond?
    Oftentimes clients will grade you based on how you responded to a challenge or adverse situation. If you lost your cool, or failed to remedy the problem, you may be in the midst of knocking over an angry beehive.
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  7. Did you actively listen to the needs of your client?
    People want to be heard. If you know that you’ve engaged in empathic listening with your clients, you have a better chance of getting a good review, regardless of whether a problem was solved or not.
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  9. Is this the right kind of person to provide an honest, genuine testimonial? Testimonials are golden eggs within the business basket because it is a peer-to-peer recommendation on businesses that take pride in your work. Asking your significant other to write a testimonial on behalf of a business is less authentic and desperate.

There will always be people who are just geared to be negative, and they won’t have anything good to say no matter how great your service or company is. But it’s how you respond to these “haters” that can help you build a reputation of excellence, especially when it’s your customers who will advocate on your behalf.