As far as lab assistant jobs went, it wasn’t the worst out there.
For example, I could have been in the primate lab cleaning cages. Or dealing with mysterious fluids in the taste and smell lab.
Yeah, my job was far more pleasant – to stand on the main quad and collect responses for consumer research at the school of management.
Except to an introvert like myself, flagging down busy strangers and asking them to fill out a questionnaire (with no reward to them) is pretty much the worst thing ever.
Mostly as a way to get the heck out of there as fast as possible, I obsessively tested different “approach” lines to see what would get the most people to participate. And for me, the winning words turned out to be:
“Hey, will you answer three quick questions? It only takes about twenty seconds.”
Maybe they just pitied the desperate look on my face, but pretty much everyone was willing to take twenty seconds to answer “three quick questions.” (Definitely no one is interested in “filling out a brief survey,” so please don’t ever say that, ever.)
I still use the “three quick questions” magic words – only now I use them to help people get good testimonials for their websites.
Have you ever gone to other websites and thought “My work is awesome too, how in the heck are these people getting such great testimonials when mine all sound like infomercial bland speak?”
There are three types of testimonials that are particularly effective. And there are three quick questions you can ask people to nab one of each. Let’s go over them, shall we?
But first, here’s one successful way I’ve found to approach people:
Sure, you can grab spontaneous testimonials from emails, Facebook comments, and blog comments (The Modern Tog wrote this great article showing a good use of Facebook comments). Just check with the author before lifting their words.
But sometimes these random collections of words don’t cover what you want them to cover, or they’re not written in the language that’s best for your website.
Sending a short survey is a reliable way to get the words you need. You can create one now to send to all your past clients, or you can send it after you finish working with people on an ongoing basis.
However you do it, when you send it, please don’t say “can you fill out a brief survey.” A more successful approach may be:
Hey! I was wondering: I know it helps potential clients feel comfortable hiring me when they see that others have had positive experiences working with me. Would you mind answering three quick questions for me? It’ll take about two minutes.
Don’t be afraid to ask people for this kind of help. Most of the time they’re happy to do it, they just won’t take the time unprompted.
There’s nothing slimy or salesy about asking people what they thought.
The critical points to include in your message are 1) that they’re helping other people (because it really does make us feel safer when we see testimonials), 2) that this will be quick and painless, and 3) an estimate of how long it will take (the shorter the better).
You can include your questions in the body of the email, or use a free tool like Google Forms or SurveyMonkey to keep the responses all in one place. You can also link them to a one-question Facebook thread so you can screenshot replies (with their permission).
Now, on to the questions that get action-inspiring testimonials:
Question #1: “What was your biggest fear before hiring me? Did it come true, and if not, what happened instead?”
In a sense, it doesn’t matter how good of a service you provide if the potential client is afraid.
If they’re afraid that you won’t really deliver. If they’re afraid it’s not the best use of their money. If they’re afraid that their family won’t cooperate. If they’re afraid that THEY are somehow the exception, the hopeless case.
Showing them that other potential clients had the exact same fear and that it didn’t come true is a testimonial that will sell.
If you’re antsy about asking people about their “fears,” fine. Use “concern” or “worry” instead.
But finding out what people were afraid of, and showing potential clients (in past clients’ words) that they need not worry is one of the most powerful persuasion tools you have at your disposal.
If there’s a particular concern you’re hoping to address, don’t be shy about modifying this question to ask directly:
“Before the session, were you worried about how your kids would behave or act? How did the session really go?”
“Did you have concerns about spending money on photography? How do you feel about the purchase now?”
The idea is to capture a before-and-after snapshot to allow prospective clients to compare their fears with actual clients’ reality.
Question #2: What, specifically, was your favorite part of _____, and why?”
If you’ve followed this blog for awhile, your spidey senses should see this one coming:
Concrete, tangible examples sell. Vague, intangible words do not.
We’ve been over this in detail, but telling a client that your sessions are “fun” is not particularly motivating. However, telling them you’ll host “a watermelon picnic with 100% pure laugh-till-your-abs-hurt family time” will give them a clear picture and let them decide for themselves whether it sounds like fun.
“Fun” is vague and somewhat untrustworthy (what you and I each think of as “fun” probably differs a great deal), but a concrete example helps them feel and see what it’ll be like for themselves.
It is the same for testimonials as it is for any writing.
If someone says “Susie is a wonderful photographer! We had so much fun!” it is nice, but it doesn’t help the prospective client determine if Susie is a wonderful photographer for them.
But if the testimonial gives a specific example: “With jelly beans for the twins and bubbles in her bag, Susie made the session a blast from the minute we got out of the car. Our kids wanted to go back and ‘play’ with her again the very next day!”
Asking someone to give a specific example instead of just saying “what did you like” helps prospective clients picture all the great things working with you will bring.
#3: “If you were to recommend us to your best friend, what would you say?”
Remember how it’s important that when you write, you sound like an actual human? Well, preferably your testimonials sound human, too.
The thing is, if you ask a client for a testimonial, they usually want to do “a good job” for you. Which often results in them morphing into corporate-speak mode faster than you can say Bueller. They think it makes it sound more “official.”
They’ll churn out a “Joe is a friendly but reliable professional,” when really, you want them to write about you the way they would talk about you to a friend.
Not irritatingly so (Joe Photography 4eva!!) but with a regular voice (“Joe immediately became ‘one of the guys’ and for awhile we forgot he was even taking pictures…that is, until he knocked our socks off with a spectacular albumful of wall-worthy shots!”).
However you do it, give them permission to speak like they would when sitting across a coffee shop table with their friends.
Note: The exact wording of these questions will vary depending on who your clients are. The idea is to ask questions that will get at the following:
1) Comparing feared outcomes to the awesomeness that REALLY happened,
2) Pulling out concrete examples to make your prospective clients’ eyes shine, and
3) Giving them warm permission to speak in their normal voice, not their “official” one.
Now, go ask your three quick questions!
P.S. Oh, and by the way? Once you have the testimonials, be sure not to waste them!
P.P.S. Tangent alert:
One of my goals for 2014 is to meet more of you in person. Because if there’s one thing I learned in 2013, it’s that sometimes you just need someone to know you, to look you in the face, and to tell you a truth you were afraid to admit to yourself.
Sometimes it’s a nudge to pursue something you really want to do, but are afraid to. Sometimes it’s someone co-brainstorming a way to market something that you think folks would never pay for, but secretly long to offer. Sometimes it’s someone just sizing up your strengths from an outside perspective – like that perfect stylist who just knows the right haircut for you, even though you wouldn’t have thought of it yourself.
One of the people who helped me the most in 2013 was Kristen Kalp. She has a gift for truth-telling and helping people see beyond self-imposed limitations.
So when Kristen told me she was renting out a mountain retreat for 600 people and hosting a summer camp-esque, shoes-optional business “conference” there complete with an eternal s’mores flame and a Ferris wheel,
of course I agreed to speak at it. (Especially when she agreed that Groucho Marx glasses were clearly going to be a necessity for my presentation, and said she’d supply a pair for each audience member.)
I’d love to meet you and give you a huge hug at Brand Camp.
In fact, if you use this (affiliate) link to check it out and decide to come, we may end up being bunkmates.
And since I’m an introvert, that’ll probably involve geeky stuff like exchanging handmade bookmarks, passing junior-high-style folded notes, and plotting to TP a rival cabin (tip: always bring dark PJ’s to summer camp!)
Whether you want to come to camp or not, hurry over anyway, because tomorrow (Thursday) there’s a free “Mo’ Money Mo’ Meaning” class that you should check out (click this link and scroll to the bottom). A recording will be available later.
I hope to see you there. And if not there, then stay tuned….P4P will be hitting the road in 2014.