I was talking the other day to one of our vendors who is going out of business but starting a new line of work. He had referred me proudly to his new website, and I told him how impressed I was with the testimonials on the site. They were especially impressive because the business is new.
(Note: Testimonials are quotes from customers or clients praising the product or service. They are a form of evidence that the product or service is worth buying.)
He responded, "I'm glad you like them. I wrote all of them."
In response to my questions, I learned, shocked, that our vendor had made up all the testimonials and simply added attributions like "John T." and "Rita M." and "Ellie A."–apparently based on real people who had been his actual first customers.
His defense was "But that's what they would have said!"
Yes, they might very well have said those words, but they did not. Neither did they approve them or put their names to them.
That's lying. And it's a bad way to start a new business.
Here is what you can do to get testimonials for a new business:
If you can get your first customers the normal ways, fine. Ask them for comments and permission to quote their words.
If you don't have customers yet, ask people to try your product at no cost or low cost–with the understanding that they will give you feedback on your offering. If the feedback is not positive, improve the offering. If it is positive, get their permission to use the comments.
If their comments are positive but not stated well, ask for permission to edit them. Then get their approval on the final wording.
If a customer says, "Just write something for me, and I'll approve it," interview the customer so you can use his or her words and ideas. Then get approval on what you write.
Use your customers' first and last names, and include identifying information such as their company names or geographical locations. Those details show your potential customers that the testimonials are real.
As for "But that's what they would have said!" recognize it for what it is: lazy lying.
Don't let stress, frustration, or credit card bills compromise what you know is right. Start a new business telling the truth.