Jan 31, 2018
Testimonials are critical to growing a successful tutoring business. Put simply, understanding who, when, and what to ask can be the difference between your business thriving and having to look for a new line of work.
My email inbox is a disaster. Every minute, it seems, a new solicitation rolls in from a bank, utility company, or credit card asking me to fill out a survey or to recommend something to my friends and family. In some cases, I’m offered a financial incentive to cooperate, but often the request is simply, “Please tell other people how amazing we are because … well, we’d really appreciate it!”
I trash most of these queries immediately, and it’s not just because I’m busy and definitely not because I dislike the product. In many cases, I’ve already recommended it to my community. What bugs me is the arbitrary timing of the request and the way I’m being asked.
As tutors, we can (and really must) do better.
Before we get to the mechanics of getting your clients to provide meaningful tutor testimonials, it’s important to acknowledge that word-of-mouth, parent-to-parent recommendations are the fuel that drives independent tutoring businesses. That might be because we live in a hyper-stimulated ad-addled world, the interpersonal nature of one-on-one tutoring, or the notion of age-specific role modeling.
Whatever the reason, tutors need referrals to grow their businesses. And while word-of-mouth recommendations are gold, written testimonials are extremely important, too. They can be expertly placed on your company website or neighborhood-based webboards, or even personal blogs. Written testimonials are not only easier to solicit, control, and test: they can often lead to word-of-mouth recs down the road.
So, how do you win at the testimonial game?
There are three key questions to ask yourself:
The simple answer here is: home in on clients who have benefited the most from your services. If you’re in the test prep game, that might be the students who saw the greatest score jump from their pre-tutoring assessment to the final test. If your tutoring is more schoolwork-focused, potential candidates could be the kids who saw the biggest triumph over math-phobia, or who gained the most in academic self-confidence in a certain subject.
But don’t focus exclusively on clients who can easily and concretely tout your value-add as a tutor. That can limit avenues of future referrals. Clients you may have spent the most time “managing” with phone calls, emails, and texts can be just as likely to spread the word about your services to their friends.
But beware: if your testimonial request is too broad you risk alienating potential referrers. Ensure that your request is individually tailored to each client, which is the clearest way to convey your genuine interest in them or their child.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Identify the top 10-20% of your customer base who you think appreciated your work the most, add in any families who frequently corresponded with you, and craft highly customized testimonial requests for them. (READ: Specifically, name the parent, the student, and at least one subject area in which you lent support in your request.)
The various spheres of tutoring (such as test prep, single-subject school support, general tutoring, organizational, college counseling) tend to confer their own unique marketing strategies, with some commonalities. In a perfect world, you ask a client for a testimonial at the height of their affection for you, usually on the heels of a great exam score, class grade, college acceptance etc.. But acknowledging that while you may not hit the exact bullseye, is it better to ask earlier or later in your tutoring relationship?
In my experience, it’s far better to be early than late.
Here’s why: tutors’ relationships with students and parents are constantly evolving. Asking a parent (or a student) to write you a testimonial before they’ve experienced the full splendor of your academic contribution might unearth useful feedback, which you can use to help the student soar even higher. If a parent fails to respond to your request, or delivers a tepid line or two about your work, you know you can (and frankly, must) do more with their child. Remember, you don’t have to publish every testimonial you receive, and the feedback alone could be of even greater value to improving your tutoring and expanding your business.
If you ask too late, however, you can seem desperate and you’re much less likely to receive a reply, let alone a glowing one. A parent whose child you’re no longer tutoring has less incentive to sing your praises.
KEY TAKEAWAY: Once you’ve identified the core group you’re going to canvass for testimonials, consider how long your tutoring work is likely to span and try to catch clients/parents before or shortly after a successful academic moment. A month or more post-tutoring and you’re not likely to get the love you’re after.
This is probably the trickiest of the three. On the one hand, loading up a testimonial request with lots of specific questions can come off as pushy,conceited, or tedious. Yet if your request is too open-ended, you run the risk of folks not knowing exactly what you want them to say, and ending up with useless testimonials.
Here are some questions to get you started:
These are just a few, and since you’re already carefully customizing your requests, you can tailor your questions even better which will improve your chances of getting valuable testimonials and feedback.
KEY TAKEAWAY: While the framework of your ask is important, your success in generating testimonials has more to do with reaching out to the right clients at the right time. Carefully craft the prompts, but don’t get too wrapped up in constructing the perfect questions because it’s the people and the timing that matter most.
Testimonials are essential to cultivating a robust client base for your tutoring business. While there’s no substitute for being an extraordinary tutor (and human) if you want people to recommend you, thinking carefully about how you approach requesting testimonials can supercharge your business. Ideally, people are referring you to others, and delivering glowing testimonials of you, without having to be asked. Until then, a little well-timed nudging can go a long way.