Dos and Don’ts of Testimonials [Legal Tips]

In this blog post, we'll provide you with some tips to use testimonials legally so that you can avoid any potential problems down the road.

Dos and Don’ts of Testimonials [Legal Tips]
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If you run a startup, create courses, or work with agencies, you know how important it is to have social proof. Testimonials are one of the most powerful pieces of social proof because they come from people who have used your product or service and can attest to its quality. You want your customers to leave testimonials. They are proof that you are good at what you do. But there are certain legal implications of using testimonials that you need to be aware of.
So, before you start asking past clients for quotes, you have to keep in mind the legal aspect of things. In this blog post, we'll provide you with some tips to use testimonials legally so that you can avoid any potential problems down the road.

Do Get Written Permission

The first and most important thing you need to do is to make sure you have permission to use the testimonial. If you're planning on using a testimonial, you need to make sure you have the person's permission to do so. Otherwise, you could be opening yourself up to a lawsuit.
The best way to get written permission is through sending the person in question an email or contract that explains how their words will be used, and giving them the opportunity to review and approve the final edit. You could have the person sign a release form that gives you the okay to use their name, likeness, and words in your marketing. It seems like a small thing, but getting explicit permission from your customer before using their testimonial is crucial. This means that you need to have a conversation with them about how their words will be used, and you need to get their verbal or written consent. Without that, you could find yourself in hot water down the line.

Do keep it real

It is important to be truthful when using testimonials. It’s tempting to want to make your business look as good as possible, but resist the urge to embellish the truth. Making false claims in your testimonials is not only dishonest, it’s also illegal. So stick to the facts and let your happy customers do the rest. Don’t doctor up the testimonials you use. That means no changing the words around, no leaving out negative comments, and no adding in quotes or attributes that the person didn't actually say. Stick to using the customer’s exact words, warts and all. Otherwise, you could find yourself in trouble, as it could result in charges of deceptive advertising.
Of course, you also should not make up testimonials. Not only is this unethical, it's also illegal. If you're caught doing this, you could be subject to hefty fines and damage to your reputation. It is important to use actual testimonials from real customers, rather than making up quotes or using quotes from famous people who have never used your product or service. This can be difficult to do if you don't have any existing customers, but it's important to get creative and find ways to get testimonials from people who are likely to be interested in what you're offering.
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Do Disclose Your Relationship

If you’re using a testimonial from a family member or someone who works for you, make sure to disclose that relationship. Otherwise, people might think you’re trying to pull one over on them. The same goes for any affiliate relationships—if you’re being compensated in any way for using a particular testimonial, disclose that information up front.

Don’t make promises you can’t keep

A lot of times, companies will make claims in their testimonials about what their product can do for the customer. For example, they might say that their software increased sales by X percent or increased conversion rates by Y percent. Be very careful about making any claims like this in your testimonials. If you can’t back up those claims, you could find yourself in legal trouble. It’s better to err on the side of caution and stick to more general statements about how the product made the customer feel.
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Do be aware of FTC Guidelines

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has guidelines in place regarding endorsements and testimonials. These guidelines state that an endorsement must be honest and reflecting the endorser's true opinion. If there's any incentive for giving a positive review (such as a discount or free product), then that must be disclosed as well. Additionally, endorsements can't be used in a way that makes false or unsubstantiated claims about your product or service.

Do be mindful of libel laws

Libel laws vary from state to state, but in general, they protect people from false and defamatory statements that are made about them publicly - including in testimonials. If you're concerned that a testimonial might cross the line into libel, err on the side of caution and don't use it. It's not worth the risk of being sued.

Do use Disclaimers When Necessary

Depending on the type of business you have, there may be certain regulations you need to follow when using testimonials in your marketing. For example, if you sell investment products like stocks or mutual funds, any testimonials you use must be accompanied by a disclaimer that states that past performance is no guarantee of future results. Failing to include this disclaimer could lead to charges of securities fraud.
 

 
Wrapping up…
 
Asking for testimonials from happy clients is a great way to build social proof and show potential customers that you know what you’re doing. However, before you use a testimonial, make sure you understand the legal considerations involved. Make sure you get explicit permission from customers before using their words, keep the testimonials real, and be mindful of laws and regulations. By following these simple tips, you can avoid any legal trouble down the road, by staying on the right side of the law.
 
If you need help getting started, our team at testimonial.to can assist you with gathering testimonials and adding them to your website within minutes!
 
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Written by

Damon Chen
Damon Chen

Founder of Testimonial