Testimonials: The Holy Grail of Test Prep Marketing

Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail of Test Prep Marketing

Indiana Jones and the Holy Grail of Test Prep Marketing

Following up with clients is one of the most important things you can do to build and promote your test prep business. To maximize these efforts, you'll need to consider not only the timing (Have you started planning for feedback follow-ups after the August 28th SAT?) but also the guidance you give clients as they craft glowing testimonials.

All That Shimmers Is NOT Gold

Direct Referrals.jpeg

Direct referrals are ideal for expanding your client base. But growing your business one student at a time is not an efficient model for scaling. And if you're not careful about how you market your test prep system, you'll find that most of the referrals you receive request a specific tutor. Careless branding can allow your brand to become interchangeable with your tutors' first names. This can be a serious problem.



Why Testimonials Work

Testimonials work because they help potential customers relate to the experiences of your satisfied customers. Once potential customers can see themselves in the experiences of your happy customers, they're much more likely to feel comfortable reaching out to you for help.  Remember, every customer that calls you is looking for help with a problem. Often, that problem feels embarrassing on a level that the customer may not even understand.

How to Gather High-Quality Testimonials

First and foremost, you'll need to provide guidance on what you're looking for in a testimonial. Randomness in a small sample size doesn't usually appear very random. If you want to curate a thoughtfully diverse collection of written testimonials, then you'll need to provide a few pointers to help your respondents deliver what you're looking for. But before you pick up the phone or send that email to follow up with clients, be sure you've got a strategy in place to help your students and their parents generate quality and targeted testimonials. In asking for testimonials, you are essentially asking your clients to do free promotional work for you. As such, be prepared to offer support to help make the process as simple and painless as possible

Emphasize brevity

You are looking for a few sentences that you can use to promote your business. It will always be easier to get a client to write a few sentences than a dissertation. Furthermore, given the nature of modern attention spans, short and focused blurbs will always gain more readership than longer ones.

Offer Examples

To help your clients craft potent testimonials, be prepared to offer them a few examples of the testimonials you are looking to feature on your site. Be sure to describe the attributes of a good testimonial. And make sure that your suggestions are relevant to the students and parents you give them to. Obviously, you don't want to solicit a testimonial about overcoming a learning disability from a student who never did any such thing. 

Share a Brag Sheet

Another strategy to consider is providing clients with a brag sheet about your test prep efforts. Include a quick list of the different types of work you have done with the student and highlight the specific types of gains you want to feature. Left to their own devices, the successes your client may choose to celebrate may not be the ones with the most marketing potential for your test prep business. Again, the client may or may not use the tips you offer, but providing the support will increase the number and quality of testimonials you receive.

How to Edit a Testimonial

If a client does deliver a flowery and prosaic ode to your test prep skills, find ways to selectively pare the testimonial down into a smaller, more easily digestible bite. Visitors to your website aren't likely to read more than three sentences per testimonial. So be careful to avoid overloading the page with huge blocks of text. Also, be sure to proofread the testimonials to avoid creating opposite impression you had intended. 

Show Your Appreciation

In the end, your clients will choose whether or not to follow your lead. Clients appreciate any effort you put into making it easier for them to help promote your services. Be sure to thank your clients profusely for their testimonials. 

Remember, It's NOT About You!

As we described in our free Ebook, Seven Marketing Mistakes Tutoring Companies Make -- and How To Avoid Them, many tutoring companies fail to expand because the star tutor becomes indistinguishable from the value the tutoring company delivers. This can really get in the way of real growth for your company because new clients demand to work with a specific tutor.

Don't allow your testimonials to work against the growth of your business. If it's ALL about you, then it's not about your test prep system, results, features, and benefits. And it's not going to be relatable to parents and students who read it. Frankly, you'd benefit more from a testimonial in which a student highlights how your tutoring helped them achieve more than they ever thought they could.

One classic example is the "I thought I was terrible at math..." testimonial. These work for the same reason that infomercials begin with asking, "Are you tired of all those annoying whatevers clogging up your whatever?! It's a nightmare -- and EXPENSIVE!" These infomercials begin with an experience that's personal, relatable, and specific. Most parents and students who read this type of testimonial will find it instantly relatable. This primes them to listen to the testimonial's next line: the solution you delivered.

Variety Matters

Your gut instinct may be to feature as much positive feedback as you can on your test prep website and in your promotional materials. However, a tailored collection of testimonials is likely to have a better chance of grabbing a prospective client’s attention than an endless list of redundant praise.

It is never a bad idea to get as much feedback as you can, but be selective in what you choose to feature.

To maximize the appeal and effectiveness of a set of testimonials, try to target exemplars from some of the following different categories:

  • Clients who achieved massive score increases
  • Clients who were accepted into prestigious colleges and universities (The Ivy Leagues are always a plus!)
  • Clients who overcame learning challenges or disabilities
  • Clients with unique stories or circumstances (tugging on heart-strings never hurts!)
  • Showing the versatility in your test prep efforts through a diversified set of testimonials is a surefire way to get noticed and stand out from the competition.

Turn your test prep success into marketing gold!


These testimonial strategies can help you leverage the power of word of mouth and turn a single strong season of test prep into a thriving test prep business.

Of course, if you're really serious about growing your test prep tutoring company, then you'll have to host free practice tests to capture the leads in your market. And if that sounds like a lot of work to you, then you're in luck. We've put together a step-by-step guide to help you launch the most effective leads generator in the entire industry: free practice SAT & ACT Tests. 

Free E-Book: How to Generate and Convert Leads by Hosting Free Practice SAT Tests

Free E-Book: How to Generate and Convert Leads by Hosting Free Practice SAT Tests

Get it Now

NOTE: we're talking about REAL practice tests here, not fake tests or SAT/ACT diagnostic tests.  If you're even considering using fake tests or a bogus hybrid diagnostic, then you'll want to read this before you make that mistake! 

What are some of your strategies for both gathering and utilizing client testimonials? Share your experiences with our readers in the comments below and on social media!

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Matt McCorkle