How to Get Customers to Agree to Sit for Video Testimonials

After being asked to produce customer video testimonials for new clients, I’m often asked for my advice on getting customers to agree to actually sit for the video.

As a vice president of marketing for many years, I’m well aware of the challenges of getting customer to, first of all, agree to do a testimonial, and second of all, to do the testimonial on video.Get Customers to Agree to Sit for Video Testimonials

Based on my experience, the reluctance to sit for a video testimonial is usually the result of one or more factors, that may include both business and personal concerns.

Testimonial Interview

Here then are some suggestions for getting customers to leave their concerns behind, sit down in front of the camera, and tell everyone how much they enjoy working with you, your company, and its products and services.

Not sure what you’re missing out on with video testimonials? Learn why often video testimonials are the best marketing video you can invest in.

Nothing Happens without Customer Satisfaction

It should go without saying that if your customers aren’t satisfied, they’re not going to provide you with a video testimonial.

So, before you reach out to potential candidates you should make sure that they’re satisfied with your work.

As I said, this should go without saying, but several years ago, one of my clients’ customers sat down in front of our cameras and proceeded to tell me everything they hated about my client’s company.

Not good.

In vetting customers, it’s good practice to ask them, beforehand, how they might answer a few sample questions:

  • If I were to ask you how satisfied you are with our products and services, what would you say?
  • What might you say to someone thinking of doing business with us, about what they can expect?
  • If a colleague were to ask you if you’d buy from us again, what would you say?

The vetting process often reveals pockets of satisfaction that can be leveraged during the interview.

A customer might love one of your product’s features, and not like, or even understand another, or be very satisfied with some of your services, and not at all satisfied with your other services.

If that’s the case, it’s possible to construct a testimonial interview that focuses on what the customer likes, and avoid what the customer doesn’t like.

But, if you go down this path, it’s very important that you advise your client that the interview will cover some things and not others.

Failure to do so can leave the client feeling deceived. They thought they were going to talk about their satisfaction with your product, and the only thing that shows up in the video is how satisfied they are with a single feature. Also, not good.

As a final thought on this point, when a customer reveals that they’re less satisfied than you thought with the work you do for them, it’s an opportunity for you to make things right, even if it’s not possible to do so before the scheduled interview.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with postponing the interview until the customer feels able to give you a glowing review.

Ask for Nothing but the Truth — but, Pull the Plug If the Truth Isn’t Favorable

Some very good customers will have no problem bending the truth for you. They’re probably not going to outright lie for you, but they’ll emphasize some things, and help you steer away from others.

They get it. They’re sitting for the video testimonial because, at the end of the day, they believe in you and understand their vested interest in helping you win more business.

Other customers will tell you that they will sit for your interview…

But they’re going to “tell it like it really is.”

You’ll also hear things like, “I’m going to be brutally honest.”

These are warning signs that the customer thinks the purpose of the testimonial video is to provide the market with an unvarnished review.

That’s obviously not what companies are after when they publish testimonials. If it were, companies would publish their net promoter scores which, of course, they don’t.

When you encounter a customer like this, it’s imperative that you inform them that you’re only after the truth, but that if the truth isn’t something that would encourage other customers to buy from you, you’d rather wait until it is.

NEVER ask a customer to embellish for you.

They almost certainly won’t agree to, and you’ll have a trust problem with that customer for a long time to come.

Provide Questions for the Testimonial Ahead of Time

If customers aren’t properly prepped for the interview, it’s as if someone from 60 Minutes just showed up at their door. “You’re not going to ask me any questions I can’t answer, are you,” they will frequently ask me.

By letting the customer know that you’ll provide them with all the questions before the film crew shows up, you’ll dramatically increase the likelihood of customers agreeing to the testimonial.

Even if you don’t yet have the actual questions that will be asked, letting them know the general direction of your questions will put their minds at ease.

If your questions require the customer to do a little homework, by all means give them some advanced warning.

Most people don’t walk around with the latest statistics, in their heads. Give them the time they need to provide you with an informed answer.

Go to Your Customer to Shoot the Testimonial Video

There are some testimonial formats that may require your customer to show up at a studio or some other location, to shoot your testimonial. But, it makes it so much easier for your customer — and much more likely that they’ll agree to sit for the video — if you go to them.

It’s possible that your customer’s offices are so small (or unattractive) that shooting a video there just isn’t practical.

It’s also possible that there’s something going on at the customer’s location (e.g., board meetings, promotional events, etc.) that puts that location out of bounds.

If that’s the case, arrange to meet that customer at a nearby venue convenient to them — not your film crew. Nearby hotels and shared workspaces frequently make rooms available, for a minimal fee.

Be sure to request a floor plan BEFORE you lease anything, so you can find the best location for your video shoot.

Go to Where Your Customers Gather

User group meetings and other customer gatherings often create wonderful opportunities for shooting multiple customer video testimonials.

Plus, you might be able to negotiate a lower price from your agency, because they won’t have to travel to multiple locations, set up and tear down multiple times.

That said, there are some major pitfalls to be avoided, when you decide to shoot multiple customers in the same location. Here are a few:

  • Just because you’ll have multiple customers in the same geographic location, doesn’t mean that they’ll all agree to sit for a video testimonials.Follow the same process you would normally follow to secure customer participation in advance.
  • Have a formal schedule and follow it. Grabbing customers off the trade show floor almost never works out.Plus, customers are busy at trade shows and other meetings, and might have to pass on a content session they were looking forward to, in order to sit for your video. Schedule in advance.
  • Shoot your videos in a private room, where access, sound and lighting can be controlled. If you’re working with an agency, run the location options past them, so that they can help you select the ideal location.
  • If your video testimonials typically contain b-roll footage, make sure that there are opportunities to capture usable b-roll at the meeting location.Alternatively, you can ask your customers to provide some b-roll from around the office, to lend perspective to the video you shoot onsite.

In many ways, shooting customer testimonial videos at a meeting can be more challenging than arranging for a single video shoot.

Be sure to put in the same amount of pre-shoot effort you normally would, and you should be able to get what you want, often at a lower per-video price point.

Let Customers Know What to Expect

In addition to providing your customers with the questions ahead of time, you’ll ease their minds greatly by telling them what else they can expect from the experience.

People who don’t make a habit of sitting down for video interviews, frequently want to know what they should wear, how early they should show up, who will actually be conducting the interview, and all sorts of other seemingly random information.

Your agency may have a document that helps customers prepare for the experience. If not, it’s easy to create an FAQ containing typical questions your customers may have.

Add to the document, as you encounter additional questions. (We supply our clients with a short document, Preparing for Your Testimonial Video Shoot, which answers the questions we’re typically asked.)

Some People Are Terrified of Video

“I’ll give you a testimonial, but I won’t do it on video.”

Have you ever heard that before?

Like public speaking, some people are terrified of appearing on video.

Why is that?

Well, it has to do with confirmation bias, and with our familiarity with our mirror image (the way most often see ourselves), and lack of familiarity with our true image (the way everyone else in the world sees us).

The same phenomenon applies to how we perceive our own voices. We’re used to hearing our voice rattling around in our own heads, while the rest of the world hears our voice, as it travels through the air.

You recognize your true image and your true voice as your own, but there’s something that’s just not right.

So, how do you get a customer to overcome their fears and sit for a testimonial video? Here are a few things that we’ve seen to work:

  • Provide your customer with all the resources already mentioned above, to remove any concerns that they may be blindsided or inconvenienced.
  • Reassure your customer that you wouldn’t ask them to sit for the video if you didn’t think that they weren’t a perfect example of a professional, likeable, knowledgeable human being who radiates all the great cultural values that both of your firms hold dear.
  • If you’re using a video marketing agency, ask someone there to place a call to your customer, to talk them down off the ledge. They’ve probably dealt with hundreds of nervous nellies, and can assure your customer that they’ll make them look like a million bucks on video.

Our friends at Wistia have written a great blog post on what’s known as the familiarity principle. You should check it out, and maybe send a link to your next reluctant customer.

Give Up the Direct Approach and Go for the Halo Effect

Some customers are actually prohibited from participating in the testimonial process.

In some cases, the prohibitions are actually written into bylaws or other governing documents. (This can be a pretty common occurrence for associations and other non-profits.)

In cases where customers can’t participate, despite their best intentions, you might try recasting your testimonial as a documentary video on an industry-related issue.

Make your video about an issue the market is struggling with, and then highlight your client’s approach as the way to solve the problem.

If possible, include footage from other testimonials to show how multiple companies are using the same approach to meet industry challenges.

But, keep it generic to encouraged participation. Don’t mention your company or product brand name.

Focus on the how companies (your customers) are solving problems with products like yours.

You’ll more than compensate for the loss of branding by being able to include customers who wouldn’t normally be able to lend their names to a formal endorsement.

Plus, there will be little doubt that it’s your product the customers are talking about.

Do a good job, and your customers may even add the video to their own websites, as proof of their savvy business acumen.

Make Video Testimonials Part of a Formal Customer Reference Program

Social proof has never been more important than it is today. All companies rely on the good word of existing customers to attract new customer, and nothing conveys that good word more effectively than video.

Whether you use Net Promoter scoring, or some other method, you should always have your finger on the pulse of customer satisfaction, and the willingness of customers to stand up for you, either through one-on-one reference calls, or by lending their names to testimonials or other forms of endorsement.

Producing customer testimonials takes some doing, and creating them as an afterthought or a novelty is rarely successful.

A better approach is to tie testimonials and other social proof statements to formal satisfaction thresholds.

As customers demonstrate greater levels of satisfaction, they are invited to participate in greater levels of endorsement for your company and its products.

By monitoring satisfaction levels, you and your customers will be much better prepared when the time comes to ask a customer to sit for a testimonial video.

Producing customer testimonials takes some doing, and creating them as an afterthought or a novelty is rarely successful. Click To Tweet

If It Weren’t Hard to Do, It Wouldn’t Be Worth Doing

It’s not always easy getting customers to agree to sit for a video testimonial. But, that’s what makes video testimonials so special.

On both the business and personal fronts, video testimonials capture what customers really think about your products and services. Video brings out the best in people, and it’s worth the extra effort to get your customers to participate.

We’ve done everything we can to make producing video testimonials as easy as possible, with our turnkey customer testimonial video service. This includes coordinating customers, and prepping them to deliver to stellar performance, for when we show up to record.

Video testimonials close deals (when done right). Find the right kind of production company to help tell your customer's story.

Most businesses need outside help to get testimonial videos done right, so it's important you partner with a production company that can help you achieve your goals.


Download the Video Testimonial Buying Guide and get it done right!