One of the most potent forms of marketing for online courses is word-of-mouth referrals.
It doesn’t matter how many adverts you pay for, guest posts you publish or webinars you run, your potential customers want to know what someone else thinks about your online course before they buy.
A good marketer knows that once you’ve hooked a potential customer and they want your product, you need to remove all their excuses or reasons why they won’t buy.
And often their very last objections can be cured with testimonials.
Testimonials are your way of tapping into word-of-mouth marketing by providing a different voice to your own that can step in and whisk away a customer’s concerns just as their purchase anxiety starts to flare up.
But how can you capture such testimonials when you’re just starting out? Well, let’s look at 5 quick testimonial capture hacks you can deploy to get rave reviews early and send sales through the roof!
1. Create a Testimonial Bonus Incentive
Most people are motivated by self-gain. Even if you ask for a testimonial, the chances that someone really wants to leave you one is slim. Sadly, customers only seem to contact you when something goes wrong, so take heart in the saying “no news is good news” if you're not hearing much yet.
But here’s a trick to help flip such selfishness on its head.
If someone stands to gain something from leaving a testimonial, then suddenly their tongue is loosened (or rather their keyboard magically starts working again).
We saw Marie Forleo embrace this testimonial bait technique in the first launch of her now popular B School course, offering a ‘Bonus’ to her students if they filled out a 2-minute survey. She even made this a limited time bonus, to really motivate students to fill out the form!
Fortunately, setting up your own testimonial bait is really easy with our testimonial management plugin, Thrive Ovation.
How To Set Up Testimonial Bait:
Step 1: Begin by creating your Bonus. It might be a PDF, an extra video lesson, or some form of upgrade to your course content. What’s important is that students should feel like this is additional value, rather than something they’ve paid for that is being held for ransom.
Step 2: Create two pages in WordPress, one for your testimonial capture form and one as a Thank You page with the bonus download. Make sure no other pages are linking to your thank you/download page. You want it to be an isolated page that cannot be accessed through any navigation links or organic search → see Step 3.
Step 3: Make sure you are using the free Yoast SEO plugin. This is the most downloaded SEO plugin in the WordPress library, and we cannot recommend it enough. Under the Yoast settings for your bonus download page, click the cog and select ‘No’ under 'Allow search engines to show this page in search results' . This tells the Google bots not to show this webpage in any Google searches.
Step 4: Create a page for your testimonial capture form. If you use Thrive Ovation and our visual editor Thrive Architect, you'll find a new 'Capture Testimonials' element that you can place anywhere on your page. If you're not using Thrive Architect, you can still add it to your page in the native WordPress editor using shortcodes.
Step 5: Once you've added a capture form to your page, click 'Form Settings' in the sidebar and choose the ‘Redirect to URL’ option after a testimonial has been submitted. Now, once a student fills out a testimonial, they will then be sent to this page to download their bonus.
Step 6: Once your Testimonial funnel has been set up, point your students to the page with the testimonial form. Here's are two ways to do that:
- Create a page inside your members area that links to the Testimonial Capture form
- Send students an email asking them to leave a testimonial, and link to the capture form directly from that email.
Voila! After following those steps, your students will only be able to access the bonus after submitting a testimonial.
2. Ask The Right Questions, Get Better Testimonials:
The real value of a strong testimonial for potential customers is to hear the perspective of someone else who was once in their pre-purchase shoes.
Although it’s nice to hear customers say that your course was ‘great’, it's not a very useful testimonial to help overcome purchase anxiety in potential customers.
The more specific your testimonials are, the more reassuring they will be to people on the cusp of buying your online course. Have a look at the difference between these two testimonial examples we received for Thrive Suite:
Becoming a Thrive Member is turning out to be one of the best things I've ever done in my blogging life
Although this testimonial is nice (we definitely appreciate your kind words Joe!), it doesn’t really tell a potential buyer if the product is right for them, does it? This is a lovely compliment, but doesn’t get into specifics.
Now compare that testimonial to this example:
“My biggest struggle was trying to make my website look exactly how I wanted it to look both on desktop and on mobile.
Thrive architect has changed everything for me. What used to take a week only takes a day or two now and the finished product looks better and loads faster.
I would recommend a Thrive Membership, because it includes everything you need to build a conversion focused website. You have the visual editor (Thrive Architect), all the lead-generation plugins, the support forums for customization issues, and the entire methodology in Thrive University and their blog and youtube channels. With the one membership you can learn how to build your site from start to finish even with limited background in design or marketing.”
Do you see the difference? The second one is extremely specific, and takes the reader on a journey.
So how do you encourage your customers to leave testimonials like this? You have to ask them specific questions.
Customers are not marketers. They don’t know what your marketing hurdles are and what they could do to best help you, so they think a testimonial is merely stating that a product is great. But you need better than great for your marketing... you need specific. The way to do that is to prompt them with the right questions.
And here’s some good news for you: we built Thrive Ovation with exactly that strategy in mind.
How To Ask The Right Testimonial Questions:
Step 1: Outline a few questions that, when listed one after the other, tell a complete story of a student’s journey with your course. The arc of that story should start by asking what your customer’s problem was before taking your course, and end by asking how the course helped them to overcome that problem.
Step 2: Place your list of questions on your Testimonial Capture page. If you’re using Thrive Ovation, then under the 'Form Settings' you can simply click the plus sign to add each new question to the testimonial capture form. You can add as many as you like!
Step 3: Provide some placeholder text in the answer box to help students leave a testimonial quote that will make sense to future readers without having read the actual question.
For example, you don’t want students to write ambiguous answers like “It was just what I needed." You want them to write something clear for any reader like “The Online Photography masterclass was just what I needed”.
This is how the student facing form will look:
The result? Your capture form will prompt students to write answers to each question, creating a more complete testimonial. Don’t worry if they write too much, you can always trim it down.
Do It Even Better!
We have a free online video course at Thrive University all about how to Harness the Power of Testimonials. Sign up for the course now to learn additional strategies around how to make your testimonials even more compelling.
3. Set Customer Expectations with Launch-Discounts:
I’m sure you’ve seen launch-discounts before. It's when a product is heavily discounted from it’s normal price for a short period after it launches.
In a product-launch funnel, launch discounts are a great marketing strategy to create buzz, collect your first set of customers, and gauge the market response to your offer.
But providing a launch-discount is also an opportunity to ask for more in lieu of the full price. By positioning your course launch as a special beta program, you can easily ask students to fill out and return a product survey once they’ve completed the course.
The trick here is to set their expectations up front when the customer is still considering the purchase. Agreeing to complete a survey in a few weeks time in exchange for a substantial discount seems like a great deal, and also justifies why you are offering your course at a lower price.
Making this request explicitly clear to students opens the door for you to reach out at a later date and ask for sales boosting reviews, testimonials or feedback.
How To Trade Discounts for Testimonials:
Step 1: Set a normal price for your online course. Make sure you communicate what that full price is in all of your marketing content.
Step 2: Slash that normal price in half for the first 72 hours that your course is live (or however long you want your launch-discount to run for), and make clear mention on your sales page that this is a beta-launch discount.
Step 3: Use a Scarcity Countdown plugin like Thrive Ultimatum to shut down your discount offer once the timer reaches zero.
Step 4: Include this in your copy: “For the next 72 hours, you can join this program at the 50% off launch-discount simply by agreeing to fill out a feedback survey upon course completion and permitting us to use your answers in our marketing”.
Step 5: Remind your students about this agreement again after they purchase. Once they have moved through your course, reach out to them and ask that they follow through on the request to fill out your Survey.
‘Survey’ is the secret word here. It’s both an opportunity to gain feedback and get testimonials if your customers have had an experience worth sharing.
4. Collect Testimonials From Social Media
Often, your students aren’t actively looking to share their feedback with you, but rather with each other. This means they might take to Facebook or Twitter to share their thoughts. If you see such a social media comment that you’d like to harness, what can you do?
Screenshotting is one way to present a testimonial from Social Media, but before long you may end up with loads of screenshots stuffed away in a folder on your hard drive. I guarantee you that’ll get tricky to file through and keep organized over time.
But if you use our Testimonial management plugin, Thrive Ovation, then the solution to this problem is easy: you can import such testimonials onto your WordPress website directly from Social Media platforms.
The advantage here is that Thrive Ovation records the name and image of the social media poster and automatically adds them to the testimonial you're capturing. You can then sprinkle that social proof across your website with ease.
How To Save Testimonials From Social Media:
Step 1: When you find a comment on twitter or facebook, click either the date next to the comment or the drop-down arrow provided to open a menu with a few options in it. Choose ‘copy link’ from the menu.
Step 2: In Thrive Ovation, choose ‘Import from Social Media’ and paste the link. Thrive Ovation will automatically pull in their profile picture, name, Social Media handle and their comment. You can make any edits right there in the import section.
Step 3: If you are using Thrive Architect, simply drag and drop the 'Display Testimonials' element onto your page. If you're not using Architect, you can easily configure a WordPress display shortcode in Thrive Ovation that will work anywhere.
You can now select a single testimonial, a collection of testimonials, or dynamically display testimonials based on tags. Your new Social Media testimonial will be located at the top of your list.
Step 4: Choose from any of the pre-made Testimonial templates in Thrive Ovation and customize the colors to suit your branding or design needs:
How easy is that? You’ve gone from spotting a Social Media testimonial to importing it, cataloguing it in your library, adding a picture, and displaying it beautifully on your website in under 3 minutes.
Do You Need Permission To Copy From Social Media?
The law is a little bit hazy on this one, but best practice is to always seek permission. Yes, the original commenter owns the copyright to their own tweet or facebook post.
Fortunately, if they're willing to write a positive testimonial on social media where anyone can see it, they probably won't mind giving you permission to display it on your site. Reply to their comment thanking them for the kind words, and ask if they'd mind if you shared it on your site.
5. Record Your Video Calls with Customers
Although written testimonials are super valuable, having a few video testimonials can really help potential customers pull that purchase trigger.
From a visitor’s perspective, video testimonials are incredibly honest and an opportunity to hear someone who was in their position speaking openly about their experience with your product.
But likely, your students won’t often go to the effort of setting up a camera, microphone and lighting to shoot a high-quality video just for you! So your job is to make the logistics of all that as easy as possible for them.
And doing all that is as easy as… having a conversation.
Requesting a Skype or Zoom ‘feedback call’ with successful students is pretty simple. Just ask them if they would be willing to chat with you about their experience after completing the course.
And because online courses can sometimes feel a little impersonal, it’s actually a cool opportunity for students to speak directly with the course creator. Don't discount that... if they enjoyed your course, it will be valuable to them.
Fortunately for you, services like Zoom and Skype now make it super simple to record those video chats.
Now, let me be clear that you should never record a call without getting permission first. But if you follow the steps above to create bonus incentives or discounts for students in exchange for their video testimonial, you’re bound to have some eager volunteers.
Video Testimonials Don't Have To Be Fancy
Note that your video testimonials don't need to be high production quality endeavors. A video recorded from a built in laptop camera + microphone is perfectly acceptable to display as a testimonial on your website.
How To Collect Easy Video Testimonials:
Step 1: Contact students that have completed your online course, or who are part way through and enjoying the program. Offer a free bonus coaching call and feedback session with them in exchange for a video testimonial.
Step 2: Set their expectations ahead of time. Ask them if, at the end of the coaching call or feedback session, you can record them answering a few simple questions about their experience with your course? Again, never record anyone without permission.
Step 3: The latest versions of both Zoom and Skype now have call recording features built into them. By pressing record, it will notify both people on the call and record the audio and video of your chat.
Step 4: Prepare and ask questions that illustrate the entire journey the student moved through, from their problems before the course, to why they signed up, and what they have learned since completing it.
Step 5: Edit the recording to remove your questions. Your video testimonial is now ready to upload on your website!
By doing this, you’ve managed to provide extra value to your students through a 1-on-1 call, whilst also collecting extremely valuable video testimonials.
Now It’s Your Turn To Grow Your Testimonial Library
Testimonials are a massive conversion-boosting necessity for Online Course creators.
And because the best time to trade discounts for feedback is during your initial course launch, make sure you prioritize getting such testimonials early. It may be the deciding factor in the ultimate success of your product.
Once you have a library of valuable testimonials, you can then use them in multiple locations across your website. Place them on your sales page, ‘about’ page, homepage, and even include them in your email marketing and social media campaigns.
If you haven’t created a testimonial management strategy for your online business yet, you need one ASAP. Fortunately, that’s exactly why we built Thrive Ovation to help you.
If you’re curious to learn more about how Thrive Ovation can help boost the social proof of your products and business, watch this short video to see exactly what the plugin is capable of:
Are there any other great hacks for collecting testimonials you think we missed? Leave a comment below and tell us the slickest way you’ve seen someone ask for a testimonial!
P.S. Thrive finally has an Instagram @ThriveThemes!
If you're on Instagram, make sure to follow us and tune into our new account tomorrow as the marketing team is on assignment abroad and working in-person together. Get ready for some "behind the scenes" fun!