Testimonials are essential online. New customers do not know you, and they look for reviews and testimonials from your current customers to find out more about you. They want to know if your product or service is good, if you are easy to do business with, and if you offer good value for their dollars.

Testimonials are “social proof” that can give your business an awesome boost and add to revenues and profits. You can tell people you are great, but it means so much more coming from others. So how do you get your customers to provide the sort of testimonials that will make potential customers come to your business or website and buy? Here are some ideas that will help.

Always ask for feedback. Most people are comfortable providing feedback immediately after the sale or delivery of the product or service. After they have committed to you, they most likely are sure of their decision and happy. Capture that happiness in a few lines of feedback that can help drive more customers to you.

Ask the right way. Phrasing your questions to elicit the most positive responses is wise. Think about it—you can say, “Hey, write a testimonial for me” or you can specifically ask the customer “How did my service help with your business needs?” Which do you think would get a better response? Not to mention, you are asking the customer a specific question that they can more easily answer with their experience working with you. Also, ask the customer what they would tell a friend or colleague about you, your product, or your service. You will get some interesting, and probably glowing, responses. Finally, ask for a testimonial if they feel your product or service was good enough. Obviously, when you ask several different ways, surely you have thrilled them enough to rave about you in at least one of their answers.

Testimonials that are succinct and to the point are traffic magnets. Most people will not read long and rambling testimonials but will check out the sound bites. Think in terms of those, and highlight certain parts of a testimonial, or use smaller sections on your marketing pieces and website.

Get permission to use. You might be tempted to take the raving reviews and slap them online, but hold off for just a second. You do not want to make a happy customer unhappy, do you? Give them a call, and say, “I was so glad to see how happy you were with my work. Do you mind if I use it as a testimonial on my website?” You can also send an email asking the same thing, and could include the quote you are planning to run so they can verify or adjust anything they want at that point.

Be sure to thank them. A great way to use those promotional items you buy is to give or send one to your customers for allowing you to use their great testimonials. Even if it is just a pen or a water bottle, it is a pleasant surprise to them and helps to enhance the relationship even further.

Of course, it goes without saying that your product or your service must be good to get the testimonials you want, so be sure that you under promise and over deliver. The idea is to thrill them so much they will be glad to write rave reviews for you.

This post written by Denise Gabbard, who blogs regularly about home loans Australia and other personal finance and business issues.