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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. I bet you found this blog post because you’re trying to get new clients.
Testimonials are only one part of the story, though. What if your whole site worked like a charming, star employee to persuade your favorite kind of client to hire you?
There’s a fast-working, award-winning class that helps you make the right changes, based on who YOU want to have hire you: How To Build An Absolutely Irresistible Photography Website.
Why not go grab the free sample chapter?