How & Why to Use Testimonials in Higher-Ed Marketing

Female college studentsWhen students face the decision of which school to attend, they not only require more information than needed for lesser decisions. They also often conform to others’ opinions. It’s a big decision that involves big research. And adolescents tend to look to their peers for cues concerning the correct decision. Adolescents are especially actively seeking social proof to assist them in decision-making.

Higher ed marketing professionals can help connect prospective students with the confirmation they require to find the right school. We often attempt to persuade them with well-written value propositions and flattering claims about the institution, but students are probably skeptical if your school is always complimenting itself.

If you’re not supplementing your content with confirmation or social proof, some prospective students will altogether dismiss what your institution has to say. One of the best and easiest ways to counter this is through the use of testimonials. Testimonials validate any claims by providing evidence from actual students or graduates that the institution’s message is indeed accurate.

When utilizing testimonials:


Choose testimonials that provide evidence that back your claims.

The testimonials should support and enhance your institution’s message.

Provide varied perspectives.
Testimonials should be carefully chosen to represent a variety of unique and specific details. Avoid using generic or impersonal comments that can be perceived as having the same voice or holding no authenticity.

Choose personas that will connect with prospective students on a personal level.
By utilizing testimonials from students or graduates who are most like your target audience, those testimonials become easily relatable and build a trusting rapport.

Focus on the student/graduate experience and success rather than your institution.
Make it less about the school and more about the student. How are current students and graduates benefiting from attending the school?

Provide personal details.
Revealing details about the person sharing a testimony, such as name, academic program, graduation year, or a photo of the student whenever possible, can add great value. Show your prospective students who the writer is and why their opinion matters. Otherwise, the person’s opinion might hold little significance.

Use short video testimonials in addition to written testimonials.
Video can add a lot to the authenticity of testimonials. It helps by putting a face and personality behind the opinion, helping the viewer to form a stronger personal connection. Avoid a scripted demeanor to maintain authenticity.

Add testimonials to other content.
Rather than clumping all of your testimonials together on one dedicated page, include them at various touch points whenever a little bit of coaxing might be needed. Your school can improve conversion optimization by placing testimonials near lead-gen forms or other calls to action.

How have you seen success with testimonials? Share your tips in the comments.

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Dusty Steinbrink

About Dusty Steinbrink

Dusty is a Designer and former Front End Developer on the Fathom Creative team. He is a graduate of Kent State University, with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Visual Communication Design and a concentration in two-dimensional design. He also holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Lake Erie College and has studied clinical counseling and consumer psychology at a graduate level. His expertise lies in creating dynamic designs that are strategy-driven, conversion optimization, user experience, and thought process analysis.

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