How REALTORS® Leverage Testimonials

“They’re effective, and they’re free. What more do you want from marketing?” says Judy Kay about testimonials.

As broker-owner at RockCenter Realty in Galveston, Kay puts testimonials on her website and in her client materials. “Testimonials from buyer clients go in my buyer packets, and I put testimonials from sellers in my listing packets.”

Kim Erwin, broker-associate at Keller Williams Island Properties in Corpus Christi, also uses testimonials.

“People want to do business with people who do good business,” she says, “and testimonials are one of the best ways to show potential clients that other people were satisfied with your services.”

Erwin says about half her clients offer to give a testimonial, and she asks the other half after the transaction closes. “Some clients send me an email, but others will put a card or letter in the mail.”

She has looked into services that you can use to solicit testimonials from clients, but Erwin prefers direct feedback. She says the questions asked by those services aren’t as useful. “A form might ask, ‘Did your agent close the transaction on time?’ Well, a yes/no answer to that question doesn’t tell the whole story.”

Kay also gets her feedback straight from clients. “I ask them in person—usually while we’re waiting to get the keys or waiting for a check to get funded at closing. I’ll say, ‘Do you mind texting me a couple of sentences about how you think the process went? Or anything I could do better in the future?’ Everyone has their phones on them, so it’s pretty immediate.”

Kay and Erwin both ask if they can use the testimonials on their websites and other materials. Getting permission is an essential step, and neither have encountered much resistance from clients providing feedback.

“Good testimonials reinforce that you’re doing the right thing for clients—they’re like referrals,” says Erwin. “I’ve had people tell me they found my site and decided to contact me because of the testimonials.”

Kay has another, more personal way that she benefits from testimonials: “They act as a pick-me-up. When I have a bad experience with a client, I sometimes look at the testimonials to remind myself that I’m very good at my job.”

When and Why Testimonials Work

Marlone D. Henderson, associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin Department of Psychology, answers questions about the science behind decision-making and when testimonials work best.

Texas REALTOR®: How do testimonials factor into decision making?

Henderson: When people look for external information to make decisions, they rely on two general types of information. The first kind is case-based information, such as a testimony from someone with experience with a product or service. The second is aggregate information, which is the experiences of many people or general trends. It’s usually a big sample size and tells us what happens to most people.

How do people use these types of information?

People tend to be drawn to testimonial or case-based information. It’s easy for them to wrap their heads around it, because they can visualize it. It’s concrete. They understand what it means to have bad service at a restaurant or to have a real estate agent who doesn’t return their calls.

Aggregate information can be hard to process, whether it’s because there are complicated statistics or because it’s abstract information. For example, how does a 4-star restaurant look different than a 4.5-star one?

The drawback to relying on case-based information is that you could have a testimony that doesn’t represent how things work for most people most of the time. Even the best restaurants have bad reviews.

Does that mean testimonials are more effective than aggregate information?

It depends if the customers are thinking about a transaction in the near or distant future. People’s brains think in abstract or concrete ways based on time.

If you ask someone what his life will be like in 10 years—the distant future—he’ll say general, more abstract things: “I hope I’m healthy. I want my kids to do well.”

If, however, you ask him about tomorrow—the near future—he’ll be more detailed, more concrete: “I have a closing in the morning then I’m going to lunch. After that, I’m heading to the gym.”

When people are in that detailed, concrete mindset, they’ll be swayed more by the testimony. If they’re thinking generally, they’ll be swayed more by the aggregate information.

So, testimonials work better on potential clients thinking about near future actions, like buying a house in two months. Aggregate information tends to work better with potential clients planning for the distant future, such as a multi-year plan to downsize.

You can tailor your marketing based on the audience. Potential clients who are ready to buy or sell get testimonials, while people without a clear plan or timeline might be more receptive to hearing about your high sales numbers or other ways you rank highly versus area agents.

4 Steps to Effective Testimonials

1. Ask right away

If you’ve done a testimonial-worthy job, clients are usually willing to give you a good testimonial. Ask right after the transaction ends, when they’re happy with the outcome and the satisfaction is fresh in their minds.

2. Look for a problem

You want to let clients say whatever they want about how great you are. However, some transactions are more complicated than others. If you helped close a particularly challenging one, suggest to the client that he or she mention how you solved it.

3. Be flexible on format

Text, email, hand-written note—it doesn’t matter how they deliver the information as long as they do. Certain clients might be more comfortable sending you a video clip, which you can use or transcribe into print.

4. Get permission

Make a list of all the ways you might use testimonials—e.g., website, social media, email newsletters, listing packet. When your clients send the testimonial, reply with a question that includes are your intended uses:

“May I use this on my website and social media channels with your name?” Using the client’s name enhances your testimonial’s authenticity, which makes it more credible.