Whether you call it a testimonial, case study, or success story, demonstrable results are a great component of a content marketing strategy. A great testimonial template is the perfect way to organize your client feedback to land more prospects.
That’s why I am offering you a free testimonial template here. Best of all, you can use for all of your success stories. What’s great about this template is that it takes into account the reader’s psychology. You can download all the important information no matter how much of the content they skim. Don’t forget to use my free blog content planner template to track all of your content, including customer success stories.
Testimonial vs. case study vs. success story
Testimonial, case study, and success story, along with a half dozen other phrases, are often used interchangeably. However, they don’t quite have the same meaning. It is worth going through them so you can better apply my free testimonial template.
However, if you’ve read my article on content vs. copy, you’ll know my general philosophy on words that have almost the same meaning. I don’t care if you use them the same way, and other people shouldn’t either!
What is a testimonial?
A testimonial is a document that comes from a client. Your client is the driver of its creation. They just love your product so much that they want to share it with others. The focus is on how your product has integrated into their work processes to improve their lives.
What is a case study?
A case study is usually more in depth than a testimonial. In addition, its focus tends to be on you and your product instead of the customer. You are picking the challenge and solution intentionally to showcase the value your product brings.
Unlike a testimonial, a case study is usually created by your company. Then, you find a client that fits the desired focus. This is the major case study vs. testimonial difference.
What is a success story?
Think of a success story as the happy marriage between a testimonial and a case study. Success stories have the best parts of both case studies and testimonials. This is why it isn’t always meaningful to differentiate among case study vs. testimonial vs. success story.
So, how does this blending work? Essentially, you take all of the great information from a customer testimonial. Then, you use it to support the case study, which shows off how your product solves particular pain points.
Instead of choosing between the story you want to tell and that of your client, you reinforce your story with their kind words. This is great, but it has to be done with the reader’s psychology in mind.
How do you tell a success story if no one wants to read it?
The fact is that people don’t tend to read content online, and this is even more true when it has a “salsey” sound to it. Unfortunately, that’s just the tone you are looking for with something like a success story.
This is where writing “skimmable” copy becomes important. If you aren’t writing this way as a content writer today, now is a great opportunity to change these habits. If you are a content manager, you should definitely be training on this point!
Skimmable content is basically an article, email, or anything else that can be mostly understood by simply reading the headlines, bullet points, image descriptions, and tables. You put all the important stuff where the eye is drawn. Everything else is there for the Google algorithm and/or the truly interested minority.
I call this the ninety/nine/point nine style of writing (because what it loses in a rounding error it gains in sounding cool).
Basically, 90% of people will read the title and some bullet points at the top (think your table of contents). Then, 9% will read that plus the section titles throughout. Finally, the last 0.9% (or 1%) will read anything else. You can boost these numbers by nudging the visitors to your site who might be interested towards your success stories.
This is where my free testimonial template truly shines. By creating a descriptive title and “top matter” section that gives the reader everything they need to know, you don’t need to worry about them bouncing off the page early.
Free testimonial template
Note that if you want pdf or Google Doc versions of any of my content, you can find me on LinkedIn. I’m always happy to help out, so don’t be afraid to DM me.
Here it is, the customer success story template that I have successfully used with a number of clients. I’m on a mission to create all of the templates, tracking spreadsheets, charts, and graphics you’ll need to be a great content strategist. Please take a look at my content map and content brief templates as well.
How [company type] overcame [pain point] with [the function] offered by [Us]
- Pain Point 1
- Pain Point 2
- Pain Point 3
- Solution to Pain Point 1
- Solution to Pain Point 2
- Solution to Pain Point 3
The Client: skimmable text
Basic introduction to the client and their business. Include their location, industry, and business processes that naturally lead to the pain points.
The Challenge: skimmable text
Describe in a paragraph what they want to do and why that leads to a pain point. If it takes two sentences, separate pain points into paragraphs. Otherwise, one sentence each and a single paragraph.
- Detailed Pain Point 1
- Detailed Pain Point 2
- Detailed Pain Point 3
Explain how they found us and why they decided to give us a try.
The Solution: skimmable text
The solution to Pain Point 1. This should be more about the “benefits” than the “features.” A benefit reads as “our product has produced some result,” whereas a feature reads as “our product does something.”
The solution to Pain Point 2. This should be more about the “benefits” than the “features.” A benefit reads as “our product has produced some result,” whereas a feature reads as “our product does something.”
The solution to Pain Point 3. This should be more about the “benefits” than the “features.” A benefit reads as “our product has produced some result,” whereas a feature reads as “our product does something.”
The Result: skimmable text
This is where we describe how the company is operating now and how [Us] has entered their processes seamlessly. [Us] is now integrated into their workflows, making them more efficient.
In [Company’s] words
[Company’s] Fav 3 Features
This is where we can explain in further detail the features that are part of the solution. We can talk about ourselves here instead of focusing on them as benefits. We don’t need to mention the client.
The explanation of Feature 1
The explanation of Feature 2
The explanation of Feature 3
[Optional] Where [Company] thinks [Us] can improve
Add in that [Us] is listening and the product team is already working on the issue.
Testimonial template explained
There’s a lot to this, and like all templates the explanation is how you get the most out of it. Let me break this down piece by piece. First, note that the title and sections have been demoted to H3 to H5 as part of this piece. You definitely want to bump those back up to H1 to H3! To save you time, open up the Google Doc version and save a copy to your drive.
This title is the opposite of creative. However, it does help you build the main pain point (Pain Point 1) as the keyword for the article. That’ll help the SEO. It also helps with making the article skimmable. Even seeing a bunch of titles in an RSS feed gives the visitor an idea of who you can help and how.
Whenever you see square brackets, you’ll want to replace whatever is written in the testimonial template with something specific to your case. I use [Us] for your company and [company] for the client.
Here, [company type] can be anything. This helps you make the piece seem applicable to more than just one company but all those under a single buyer persona. For me, the default usually ends up being “a B2B SaaS company” as I’ve been working as a content marketer in the B2B SaaS space for so long. For you, it can be anything, and you can make it more general or specific depending on how focused you want the piece to be.
The top matter
You might have a different word for this. It’s probably a better word than top matter. But this is generally what everything above the story is called in academic publishing and before I started work as a content writer for inbound marketing I was an academic editor and proofreader. So, I call it top matter.
This is by far the most important part of my case study template. It is also the thing that is absent from most success stories I see online. Right at the top you need to give everything you want the reader to know. You want that 90% who aren’t spending more than 25 seconds on the page to get the gist of the story.
These two bullet lists, and I recommend putting them inside a colored box that matches the branding of your product, are the story. You are linking problems to solutions. The rest is just there for the 10% enticed enough by this top matter to keep going.
Long titles often seem out of place in content writing, but here is a case where I’d definitely stretch those conventions. Give the overall challenge, solution, and result in these H2s so that the reader both gets the information from the section title and is enticed to read more. This is a great way to provide the 9% more information and increase the share of readers who join the 0.9% group.
You should assume that almost no one has continued reading this far. The story is complete, and everything from here down is more an appendix than part of the actual customer success story template.
In the earlier sections, you want to consider the equation “pain point + feature = benefit.” What I mean by this is that you should write in the solution section the benefits of using your product as opposed to your product’s features.
At the bottom, you can flip the script, repeat some of your targeted keywords, and really explain the features. If you make all the feature H3s skimmable, there’s a chance that some of those point nine percenters might really begin to like what they are seeing.
The worst case is that the Google algorithm considers your testimonial of a higher quality and you rank better. As a content strategist, I’m ok with that and think it is worth the added effort.
Room for improvement
This is my favorite part of this free testimonial template. It might seem weird to add a shortcoming to a success story, but I think this adds several benefits:
- Your product management team is never getting enough feedback from clients. Putting a small question in your success story script about something the client would like to see is a great way to find more feedback.
- If you are a customer-focused team, then this is a great way to show that you take their constructive criticism seriously when improving your platform. However, be sure to talk to the product managers before you make such promises!
- Having the success story less than 100% positive makes it a bit more believable. Even dictators only win 99.5% of the vote when they have fake elections!
The best testimonial template is the one that you can actually use
Well, there it is. What I personally like about this testimonial/success story/case study template is that it is easy. There are no tricky parts, and you won’t need to bend your interview script to fit the template. In fact, every digital marketing department could adopt this into their process today.
As a final note, be sure to always get final approval from a client on your writing before you post their success story. You don’t want to harm your client’s brand inadvertently.
If you have any questions, see an error, or have ideas for my next template, please let me know on LinkedIn!