Testimonials are an essential aspect of your school marketing strategy. Of course, your marketing is the primary avenue for communicating your school’s mission and unique offerings. Still, your message will be stronger if it comes from parents, students, and alumni rather than from your school.
The ultimate goal is to help your families grow to the point where their love of your school is so strong they will want to start telling other families about your school and what a difference you have made in the lives of their children and teenagers. And once families fall in love with your school, they will become evangelists to potential families scouring your website for honest, trustworthy reviews.
And honestly, testimonials and reviews are truly gold. Prospective parents trust the honest opinions of families whose children have attended your school way more than your marketing content. According to research conducted by BrightLocal, 79% of people trust online reviews as much as families and friends.
One of the most challenging aspects of gathering testimonials can be tracking down those who have been involved in your school, whether recent parents, alumni, committed faculty members, or other stakeholders, and asking them to share their experience with your school. But while it will take some effort on your part, the results are well worth it.
Tip #1. Send out testimonial request surveys
Email is one effective way to ask for a testimonial. Create a separate template for each audience group, whether parents of currently enrolled students, alumni, donors, or others. Make sure you keep your surveys short. If you ask too many questions, you run the risk of not receiving very many responses.
Tip #2. Go where your audience is
Another effective way to gather testimonial content is to go where you know your audience will be. For example, if you have an event where alumni will be attending, consider setting up a photo or video booth where they can talk about what made their experience at your school so special. This is an easy way to collect short video clips you can use on your website or social media networks. Most of the time, alumni are thrilled to be asked to reminisce with you about their alma mater.
Tip #3. Use social proof
Social proof in marketing takes the form of recommendations, endorsements, media coverage, etc. Social proof is a powerful way to encourage prospective families to enroll in your school. There are several ways to incorporate social proof into your marketing, such as case studies, testimonials, reviews, awards, recognition, user-generated content, and sharing praise and kind words given by families.
So while it does take a lot of work to collect testimonials, they are critical for showing potential families that students like their kids have benefitted from their school. This is precisely why online businesses with strong reviews have such an advantage; past and current families give “social proof” that others will benefit from your school as well.
Tip #4. Ask faculty to help
Faculty and staff are great allies when asking for testimonials, as parents or alumni might be more inclined to respond to someone on staff they have built a relationship with as opposed to a faceless email address from the school. This also can be a powerful way to segment your prospective families – if you have a testimonial from an alumnus who was a football star, you can publish it to your Football Athletics page as a recruitment tool for other gifted athletic students.
Tip #5. Consider testimonial videos
Testimonial videos are highly-effective and worth investing in, even though it can seem like a daunting task to create them. Video testimonials are not as simple as a written review. However, they can make a huge difference. Videos are more in-depth and do a better job of telling a story than a written review. They include real-life parents and students that other families can actually see, hear and trust.
Tip #6. Shoot the best testimonial videos
Here are some tips to make it easier to record a testimonial video.
Write and send out questions in advance
You don’t want to be making up questions on the spot. Instead, give your interviewees time to think through their answers to your questions by sending them out in advance. Sample questions might include:
- What made you decide to enroll your student in our school?
- What made our school stand out from other schools?
- What has made you the happiest about having your student enrolled in our school?
Choose the right environment and angle of the camera
Decide where you want to shoot the video, what time of day, and test out the lighting ahead of time. Make sure you can see the interviewee well, and there isn’t background noise.
Make your interviewee feel as comfortable as possible
Your interviewee is doing you a favor by agreeing to be in a testimonial video. In return, do everything you can to calm their nerves and make things as convenient as possible for them.
Keep the camera rolling
Remember, you can always edit the video so keep the camera on the whole time you’re with your interviewee. You might be surprised at what natural, uninhibited gems might happen that you can include in your video to help people relate more with your interviewee.
Edit, edit, edit
Take the time to edit your video, even if you have to cut out a lot of content. That’s OK. In the end, you will want a high-quality, straightforward, genuine video. And keep it short. No one wants to watch a long video. Remember, quality trumps quantity when it comes to testimonial videos.
Tip #7. Explain why their testimonial is important to your school
Explain to potential interviewees why their testimonial is so important, what your school will do with it, and why their voice is essential during the process. Reassure them you won’t release anything they haven’t approved, helping to build their trust in you. The best marketing opportunity you can get from their testimonial is from their own personal perspective and willingness to share.
Tip #8. Upload your video to your marketing platforms
Once your video has been approved by the powers-that-be as well as the interviewee, publish it on your social networks, website and even send it out in an email. You want as many people as possible to view and (hopefully) share your video.
There’s no need to feel overwhelmed about using testimonials in your school marketing. Instead, start simply and think through your process step-by-step. Once you have your process in place, explain your process to administrators, faculty, and staff who have built relationships with those you want to reach out to. Once you know who you’ll be working with, how to reach them, and how to diversify an effective set of testimonials, you’ll be supported by those who can back you up – those who can give them a “reason to believe.”
Do you use testimonials in your marketing mix? What tactics for getting in promoting testimonials have worked for your school? Please leave a comment in the Facebook Group…