The goal of your website copy is to get your prospects to identify themselves in your business. You want to show them clearly that you understand their problems and can provide a unique and workable solution.

One way to do this is through testimonials and case studies. You know, something like this…

When Judy called me, her business was struggling, her website traffic was stalled and her newsletter list was all-but stagnant. I helped her see what she was doing wrong. I corrected those problems for her and now he business is thriving.

Sounds fine, right? My client needs to be rescued and I can save them from their peril.

I thought so too until I read Drew McClellan’s post Are We Playing the Wrong Role in Our Stories. Drew’s post changed my thoughts on how I approach case studies and testimonials. He suggests that when we tell out clients story we have the classic setup…

We have a hero, a problem/villain, a victim and a glorious solution.

Uh oh. If we’re the hero, guess who we’re casting in the role of victim? Yup. Our client.

While the prospect might identify with the challenge and be heartened by the solution, do they really want to see themselves in the victim role?

Of course we don’t, Drew. We just want to tell the stories of how our clients have gotten so much from working with us. But we don’t want to make them into victims. So how else do we tell their stories?

What if we twisted our tale in those case studies or testimonials, so that our clients were the heroes? We shift to being the glorious solution. (Not a bad role to play) But we give the credit, spotlight and heroine’s role to the client. They are smart enough to see the problem and devise a solution. And, in the end, everyone lives happily ever after.

Oh, I get it now. So I could retell Judy’s story like this…

When Judy phoned me she knew her website wasn’t meeting her goals. She knew she needed more traffic but didn’t know how. Together we devised a strategy to incresae her traffic. We also optimized her newsletter list for greater conversion. Judy’s business quickly increased and now her website is not only meeting, but surpassing her goals.

Subtle differences in this case study over the first one. You can see I wrote about Judy as being in control the entire time. And she was part of the solution. Never was she the ‘victim with the problem.’ And I come out as the solution instead of the hero.

How do you write about your clients? Are they victims or heroes?

Reader Interactions


  1. Karin Karin H. says

    Hi Dawud

    Would you allow me to ‘brag’?

    We have a case study on our FAQ blog, written by our “customer.” And reading your thoughts, fits the bill exactly (phew, intuitively we did it right ;-)) It describes their problem and how, with our help, they ‘solved’ it.

  2. Dawud Miracle says

    Karin H.,

    Absolutely. I’ll brag from time to time too.

    I think it’s really a subtle difference. Subtle, yet important. We certainly don’t want to paint our clients as being victims or idiots.

  3. Maverick says

    Great conversation and I love how you are making the client the real hero. They are the one investing in their business, making the changes, and getting over the barriers of being supported.

    However, I am curious why you chose:

    “So I could retell Judy’s story like this…”

    Instead of giving us a real before and after?

    PS Also, I like your spam prevention, but it’s glitched. If you hit the back button it randomly has a new addition formula so unless you have a photographic memory you’ll enter the new sum and get DENIED 🙁

  4. Mark Silver says

    Good point, my friend.

    David- I took a quick glance at your testimonials, and I think something that would help would be adding in some skepticism.

    One thing that testimonials do is help a new reader feel like they can relate. And since they haven’t gotten help yet, they can’t believe the solution exists- not 100%.

    So they need to see the vulnerability and skepticism, too.

    For instance, take a look at the testimonial on this page.

    A healthy dose of skepticism creates more connection. What do you think, David? Dawud?

  5. Dawud Miracle says


    I think it depends on your target market.

    Mark, in general, you work with small, start-up businesses who are a bit skeptical because they don’t have lots of resources and often need a bit more hand-holding. So I think this works for your target market.

    David, however, works with larger businesses and corporation often. So for large companies, it seems the skepticism is a bit presumptous and likely a turn-off. (Did I get that right, David?)

    So while I certainly think it could be beneficial to list skepticisms, I think the margin of error is higher when you’re targeting companies rather than individuals. It’s all about reaching your audience in the way that they need – but I know you know this.

  6. Mark Silver says

    Interesting comment, Dawud. I don’t get how skepticism would be presumptious, just because the client is a larger company.

    In my experience, and in my clients’ experiences, complex sales to larger companies require many more steps because of the different people involved in the decision-making process.

    So more people are involved- with more skepticism. The skepticism creates a bit of empathy for the reader and allows them some spaciousness to hear the good stuff.

    I’m interested to hear from David- but I’ve heard from clients and colleagues who sell to larger organizations that the skepticism- and the human connections- are the same- just more people involved.

  7. Dawud Miracle says


    I’m referring to testimonials. From the larger clients I’ve worked with over the years – of which I’m currently working with three – they could care less about what my testimonials say. They know that They’re smart enough to know that I’m going to put my best face forward. So the testimonial carries very little weight with them.

    What carries weight, from my experience, is the interactions I have with these prospective clients – not the few testimonials I’ve included on my site. In our initial meetings, I allow them ample time to get answers their questions and concerns. I even ask them about it myself.

    Solopreneurs, however, often feel alone and confused as they try to build and grow their business; needing their hands held a bit more. Testimonials can often soothe the anxieties and fears they have about going forward.

  8. Mark Silver says

    Ahhh.. testimonials, is it? 🙂 Also, I resent your comment that all of my clients are struggling and just starting out. It’s true I don’t work with large corporations. Still, best-selling authors and leaders of seven-figure businesses don’t necessarily fall within the ‘just starting out’ bit… 😉

    This may be a larger discussion than the scope of blog comments, but let me be clear on two points:

    First point: Testimonials don’t carry a huge amount of weight. No one thing does. But, they do carry weight, with many, many people- and the size of the organization someone belongs to doesn’t affect what affects them- who they are, how they learn, and how they take in information affects what affects them.

    Point two: Your clients don’t always know what affects them in walking towards the sale.

    I’ve had people tell me they absolutely detest my so-called ‘long’ sales pages- and then, on further questioning, they tell me they’ve read the page upwards of 10 times, and then enrolled in my offering.

    Testimonials are important. A single testimonial is not going to change anyone’s mind- but several (or many) strong, detailed, skepticism-included, details and results-oriented, question-answering testimonials can make a larger impact than you think.

  9. Mark Silver says

    Still getting used to the blogging thing- I can’t edit the comment after I posted it, and the friendly, warm, bantering tone didn’t seem to come through the way I wanted it to- so re-read it with that warm, bantering, friendly tone.

    Also, I know you didn’t say every one of my clients was struggling- that was part of the bantering… Ahhh… too quick to hit the ‘submit’ button…

  10. Maverick says

    Did I tell you about the time that two Sufis began to fight. One Sufi said to the other…

    I’m ready for the new post that talks about how miscommunication happens on blogs 🙂

  11. Dawud Miracle says


    Thanks. Nice suggestion. I didn’t choose a ‘real’ version simply out because I was short on the time I allowed myself to write this morning. Use an example for brevity.

    Sorry on the comment filter. I can tell you it works wonders. It’s cut my spam down 98% so far.


    Tickle, tickle…

    See, as usual, we’re not too far off from each other. The testimonial doesn’t do it on it’s own. It needs to be part of an overall message – giving a ‘face’ to what you do.

    And, just like clients, we don’t know what’s going to affect the prospect and ‘get them’ to make a choice.

    Testimonials are important – I never said they weren’t. They just need to be part of an overall strategy and linked into the page content.

    As for editing…sorry. There are plugins for WordPress that allow comments to be edited. I think the conversation is richer not editing, though.

    And of course you don’t only work with struggling start-ups – just as I don’t. And, yet we both serve those audiences as well as our more established clients. No bantering, just looking at things from different angles.

  12. Maverick says

    Maverick, Instigator, Bozo – Yep they all apply.

    Personally I love the different dialogue especially when there is healthy disagreement.

    I and look forward to the miscom post.

    Tickle, Tickle…

    Now that will have me smile for weeks to come.

  13. Dawud Miracle says


    You really are a Maverick, aren’t you??

    I don’t see a fight – there’s nothing personal in it. I see two people with different perspectives on how best to market. Neither is wrong. And debate is healthy. It forces us to learn, change and grow. No way should we just shake out heads yes and go along with people if we feel differently. Certainly not in the blogosphere.

    I may write a post about miscommunciation soon.

  14. Karin Karin H. says

    Hi all

    IMHO all have valid points. Testimonials are important (even to big companies, it’s mostly one person making the final decision, not?), but one testimonial doesn’t do it and testimonials have to be part of the bigger (marketing) picture.

    We’ve tried to solve that by printing a double sided A4: front explains our KISS principles we work by and the benefits of natural wooden flooring, the other side contains some 10 short testimonials from existing customers (chosen on the basis of ‘proving’ our principles).

    New prospect who visit our showroom normally receive that ‘marketing’ tool (together with specific leaflets on the range of flooring they are interested in, all ‘wrapped’ together in our eco-friendly 100% recycled paper bag – with ‘green’ stamped company details).
    And it works, reading how others have ‘experienced’ our principles gives trust.

    p.s. the originals of the testimonials are publicly shown in our portfolio folder (containing also lots of pictures of floors we’ve installed = other form of testimonial)

  15. Dave Starr --- ROI Guy says

    You know this is one of the more thought provoking articles I’ve read in a long time.

    I sort of ‘backed into’ blogging … I was maintaining a simple “business card” type website for my “brick and mortar” business and I found I got phone calls and email inquiries from potential clients when I “wrote stories” about my clients who had success using my help systems.

    I started writing about a lot of other business-related subjects when I found how convenient a blog attached to the old site was.

    reviewing …. the site has been up for more than 3 years now so there’s quite a bit of “stuff” (OMG I actually wrote some of that? LoL) I notice one thing. Not once is my customer ever a hero. In many cases they were heroes … but I never wrote the story that way.

    Thanks for the insight,

  16. David Airey :: Creative Design :: says

    Dawud, by ‘freshening up’ I meant including one or two new testimonials, as those two have been used for quite a while now.

    Thanks for taking a look.

    I have a ton of e-mails to catch up on so can’t participate too heavily in the discussion. Besides, there’s a bit too much tickling going on here for my liking. 😉

  17. Dawud Miracle says


    It’s coming…


    Sorry, we won’t tickle you so much. I couldn’t find your testimonials on your About page. Perhaps you removed them. Did notice a few more design and navigation updates which I think work better.

    I know about being behind on email…just caught up myself.

    Karin H.,

    Yeah, I agree. I think testimonials for the sake of testimonials can be helpful at best. Ideally, they’re placed right into your web copy so that when you say, “I do good work,” for instance, you then have a testimonial that says, “they do good work.” Placement in the flow of text seems to be the most effective.


    I know, thank Drew. And thanks for getting up back on topic. The point of my post was to look at the perspective we write our testimonials/case studies from. The comments have gotten us off into a tangent about something else.

    When I read Drew’s post, which inspired my post, I went beyond just customer stories. I started to look at how I actually thought about my clients. Do I think of them as victims that need me to save them? I found that I do a little bit. Not a lot – but enough that it probably comes across that way somethings in my writing.

    To me, this is an important topic. Perhaps now our conversation can move forward from here. Thanks so much for bringing us back.

  18. Judy: Highly Contagoius Marketing says

    Oh Boy, this really hits a nerve for me!

    I’ve been working with a client to help her develop an information product that she can sell through her website.

    We agreed that one way she would promote the new product was through her ezine which up until now she published sporadically.

    We also agreed that I would write the promotional copy for her ezine and she would write the main article.

    A week or so later she called me in a panic. Told me she was “stuck” and just couldn’t get the article finished. Plus she’s super busy with other projects.

    So, “Super Judy” to the rescue. After I clarified what she wanted to write about, proceeded to write the entire article and didn’t charge a penny more.

    Why? My rationale was, if the ezine didn’t go out because the client was stuck, we wouldn’t promote the product and ultimately it wouldn’t sell which would reflect badly on me.

    Not a good decision on my end. I spent hours the following week writing and editing the article…time that could have been spent more effectively and profitably doing other things.

    But then I get her glowing thanks and praise at what at great writer I am.

    My new experiment (nervous here) is to tell her that I will not be available to write articles for her upcoming newsletters but am recommending good a copywriter for her to use.

    The superJudy/praise junkie habit is a hard one to break.

  19. Dawud Miracle says


    Wow! Great example. And I know where you’re coming from.

    I’ve gotten stuck doing more than I really need to for clients from time to time. It almost never pays off. I don’t mean in me getting paid…I mean in the client really getting what they need.

    Ultimate, I feel, solopreneurs need to take responsibility for their business. That doesn’t mean they don’t farm our work from time to time. What it does mean, for me, is that they have the vision for where they want their business to go and they’re the ones who are at the helm in guiding that vision.

    In other words, I think solopreneurs, especially, need to have control over their business and business direction. It’s the only way, in my opinion, that a small business can really be successful. If you’re the owner, you’ve gotta own your business.

  20. Judy: Highly Contagoius Marketing says

    Is this irony?
    The same client called me last night and
    asked me to handle marketing for a non-profit. When I asked what kind of the budget they were working with, she said, “I have no budget.”
    The biggest challenge is responding in a way that is respectful to her (I think highly of her) but still communicates my standards.
    I’m very interested in hearing more about how others handle this.

  21. Dawud Miracle says



    In these situations, I’ve just tried to be really clear on price. Often I’ve given two or three options that would come in at different price-points for different levels of service. That way the client still feels like they have a choice and you’re not faced with providing more services for less cost.

  22. Smiley says

    Testimonials are important – I never said they weren’t. They just need to be part of an overall strategy and linked into the page content.

  23. Dawud Miracle says


    Oh, absolutely. I feel that testimonials are in addition to great content. They help complete great content. But they, by themselves, can not make content great.

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