Video Testimonial Production Playbook
There are many ways to create a video testimonial, all with different advantages, costs and risks. In this Playbook, we’ll explore the different options for producing customer testimonial videos, and how to effectively create video testimonials that get results for your business.
Explore Other Chapters of the Testimonial Playbook
Testimonial Strategy & Planning
Before creating testimonial videos that help close sales, a little planning goes a long way in maximizing their potential.
Video Testimonial Production
Learn how to safely and swiftly create high-impact testimonial videos in a way that’s convenient for you and your customers.
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Getting Results with Testimonials
Get proven marketing and sales strategies for maximizing the value of your testimonials videos in the real world.
Navigate this Chapter of the Testimonial Playbook
Video Testimonial Production Strategy
Before we can begin to discuss a production strategy, it’s important to have completed the work outlined in the previous part of the Video Testimonial Playbook.
Function follows design. By not answering the questions below, you increase the risk of producing videos that don’t perform the way you need them to. If you can’t answer these questions, be sure to go back and review the first section.
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- How do you plan to use your customer testimonial videos? Will you be using them in campaigns? Will they be used as 1:1 sales collateral? Where will they be viewed on your website, through social media, broadcast at meetings and conferences? All the decisions will influence how your videos will be produced.
- How many testimonial videos do you need? The answer to this question could dictate the production method you use. If you’re only looking to produce a one or two testimonial videos you might opt for the more expensive in-person production method. On the other hand, if you need a half dozen videos, you might opt for the less expensive, but reliable remote video production method.
- What’s your budget? There are a range of production methods and some are more expensive than others. What will your budget support?
- Will you be outsourcing the production work, or will you be going the do-it-yourself route? If the latter, have you done an assessment of the video skills, tools, and resources you will need to produce the videos you desire? What will be the cost of all that?
The answer to these questions will have a major impact on creating a production strategy that will provide you with the testimonial videos you need, within budget parameters that make sense for your business.
Testimonial Video Production Tips and Best Practices
A well-made testimonial video will make your prospects feel like they’re talking with a trusted friend who loves the product or service that you provide.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of video testimonial production, let’s cover some best practices you should keep in mind while producing your videos, so that they’re as professional and effective as possible.
1. Testimonials should be believable and authentic
Testimonials should be believable and authentic. Scripted testimonials, or even over-prepared ones, almost always come off rigid, and today’s discerning consumers just aren’t going to buy it.
Testimonials shouldn’t sound like the person is reading from a script. A carefully written script may sound smooth to you, but it often comes off as insincere to a viewer. Scripted video testimonials, even with a teleprompter, also take much longer to record and get “just right.” Conversational interviews result in much more natural videos, with stories that come from the heart, and your customer doesn’t have to stumble through a script.
It should go without saying, but also NEVER use actors to feature as fake customers in your testimonial videos.
2. Testimonial videos should be professional
The quality of the video is important. You want to use a camera that can record in high definition, and you should also use a microphone that is able to record clear audio. A tripod will help keep the camera steady, and a lighting setup that is flattering to the subject is also recommended.
Don’t be afraid to use smartphones or webcams. Technology has come a long way, and these devices can produce footage that is just as good as that from professional video cameras. However, you do want to make sure the lighting is flattering and there are no distracting backgrounds or visual elements.
3. Testimonial Videos should be long enough to tell your customer’s story, but short enough to keep the viewer engaged
The ideal length of a testimonial video is always going to be different, depending on the product or service being featured and the video platform it will be released on. The best way to determine your ideal length is by looking at testimonials for similar products and services, and analyzing their views, likes, shares, and comments.
In most cases, testimonial videos should be about 2-3 minutes long, but determining how long your testimonial videos should be will depend on your product or service, your customers, and the channels you’ll use to distribute your videos.
You can also consider splitting up this content into multiple videos if it’s too long for one sitting! These shorter videos can also be used across a variety of social channels as top-of-funnel and retargeting content!
4. Testimonials should connect emotionally with viewers
Testimonials should connect emotionally with viewers, their struggles and needs. Telling a compelling customer story is what makes a testimonial effective, and good storytelling isn’t about benefits and features. Using a story structure like the Hero’s Journey helps viewers on connect with the customers in your videos on a deeper level, by helping them envision themselves in the customers’ shoes.
5. Nail the basics of lighting, audio and focus
Your testimonial videos don’t need to make it into any film festivals, but it’s important that you nail the basics if you want to keep people watching.
Ensure that the lighting is even and soft. A room well-lit with natural light is all you need, but additional lights can give you extra control. Next, make sure that you have clean audio with no background noise or clipping of speech. The camera should also be focused on the subject; if you are shooting at a distance or in low light situations, this may require some trial and error to find the right focal point.
6. Edit your videos to make them more effective
While it’s possible a prospect might be interested in a full director’s cut, most people will want something more concise and engaging. You should, at minimum, add the customer’s name and title in a lower-third graphic, but also another animations, visuals and music to keep people watching longer.
Going into a testimonial video interview with a storyline in mind can help you direct the conversation, and “shoot for the edit,” so afterwards you can quickly edit together a compelling customer success story that serves your business needs.
Ways to Record and Produce a Video Testimonial
Choosing the right production method is a matter of balancing convenience, control, quality, and cost.
You will want to adopt a production method where these four values are present at levels that you can live with, and sometimes that will involve trade-offs. It’s often said that with enough money, anything is possible, and that’s certainly true here.
It’s possible to adopt a methodology that essentially runs itself, producing high-quality video where you’re in command of everything. Of course, that’s going to cost a lot of money.
Conversely, you might choose a methodology that is more affordable, but have to sacrifice quality, convenience, and control.
How much control do you need over the process and what sort of demands will that make on your time? Is that sort of control something you’re willing to pay for in terms of time invested? Or are you willing to give up some of that control by outsourcing some of the work, which will cost more money?
It’s all a matter of what’s important to your business.
1. Crowdsourcing with Video Testimonial Software
The least expensive way to produce testimonial videos is to crowdsource them. In other words, you put the word out to your customer community that you are collecting testimonial videos and would like them to submit videos that they have recorded on their own personal devices. This method is not only cost-effective, but also very convenient.
Unfortunately, you have relatively little control over the process, once you put the word out, and the quality of the videos your customers submit (if indeed they submit any) will vary enormously. Send all the detailed instructions you want, many of the videos you receive will be in the wrong format, be too long or too short, be out of focus, etc. And it’s likely the messaging will be all over the place because no one is enforcing that part of project. You just have to hope the customer gives you what you need.
For these reasons, this is a production method we can only recommend for projects on a limited budget.
In recent years, testimonial apps have been released to help with the crowdsourcing process. These apps offer a bit of control over imagery, audio, content, and duration, by guiding the customer, with a series of prompts and other tools, to provide the appropriate video footage.
They’re also usually open-ended in their availability and don’t require a campaign structure to pull them off. Want to contribute a testimonial? You can do so at your convenience.
This is a strong option for business-to-consumer applications, like collecting simple testimonials for low-cost consumer goods and retail establishments.
Of course, the increased quality and control come at a price, but it’s a price worth paying in most cases.
2. Streaming Video with Zoom or Skype
This methodology became very popular as a result of restrictions arising from social distancing measures. The production method here is to capture streaming video from services like Zoom or Skype.
Like crowdsourcing, this method has the advantage of being inexpensive. It’s also relatively convenient and there’s greater control over the actual content, due to the two-way communication that can take place, between the customer and an interviewer or director. The real problem with this method is quality.
You’ll also give up some control when it comes to the interview process. You can wright very clear instructions for the type of testimonial you want people to leave, but I assure you, your customers will stray from those instructions and no human being will be there to get them back on course.
Since the mass adoption of video-conferencing software, there’s been an adjustment in the minds of viewers as to what constitutes acceptable video quality. People are now used to consuming streaming video and it has become much more acceptable as a legitimate way to distribute video content. It also has the advantage of being viewed as authentic, a quality in more demand these days.
These services have gone a long way to democratizing video, and that’s a good thing for most everyone.
As noted, the real problem with streaming video is quality. Video imagery and audio suffer greatly when they are streamed through the internet. Achieving acceptable quality depends on so many different protocols and devices, it’s amazing that the quality is as good as it is.
Different webcams, the relative strength or weakness of participants wi-fi connections, and even general internet traffic all have an effect on the quality of streamed video.
In the worst cases, you can lose video and audio entirely for part or all of the recording. Even in the best cases, you’re left with a video with inferior imagery and audio.
You can mitigate some of these quality issues by editing your streamed recording. Removing dead air can help, as can adding animated text at appropriate times. It also helps to go into each recording with a plan for what you want to accomplish with that video recording.
Too often recording sessions are open-ended and thus, too long. By having, if not a script, a timeline for how you plan to move through the content is a good idea.
3. Shooting On-Location with a Camera Crew
Video production companies typically use the production method most people are familiar with.
- A camera crew is sent to a predetermined location, usually a customer’s home or office. They set up their equipment and interview one or more people. A producer ensures that the interviews stay on track.
- While they’re there, they may also capture some b-roll footage of the location, the interview subject at work, or other footage that places the content of the video in context.
- Once the shooting is done, the film crew packs up all their equipment and leaves the location.
The advantages of this method are many. Control and quality can be superior.
The film crew will more than likely be using high-end video, audio, lighting, and other equipment. If you hire an experienced film crew, they will produce excellent quality video and audio for your project.
However, the downside of this method is that it can be very expensive and inconvenient.
For starters, you’re going to have to hire a film crew in every location you want to film in or, more typically, fly the same film crew around the country, or even the world, to every location in which you want to film.
Additionally, in order to do their jobs correctly, the film crew will be underfoot at your office or location for the time it takes them set up their equipment, record their footage, tear down their equipment, and leave. Many shoots can last an entire day or more. The impact of that inconvenience should be taken into consideration.
Finally, at the time of this writing, social distancing restrictions are still very much in place. Those restrictions will ease at some point, but people are still likely to be a bit weary of film crews sharing their space as they go about the business of shooting video for you.
4. Full Resolution Remote Directed Video Capture
Remote video capture has come a long way in recent years, making it possible to capture professional-quality video and audio safely, quickly, and affordably.
Now, with the ability to effortlessly have a trained Remote Director communicate with a subject through their smartphone or computer, it’s easier than ever to create video testimonials that make your customer look great in a professional, visually-appealing and technically-sound video.
It is for this reason that we recommend this methodology for all but the most ambitious testimonial video production requirements.
Full resolution remote directed video capture take remote video capture to the next level, by using customers’ smartphones or webcams as capture devices – with no streaming of captured video involved, the footage retains its full resolution – up to 4K.
There are no film crews to schedule, much less fly across the country to spend hours in your location shooting video for you. The entire process is conducted remotely and can be scheduled easily in a matter of minutes with absolutely zero disruption to your customers’ homes or offices.
And to convenience we must also add safety as a consideration. Remote video is completely touch free and safe.
Because there is a live director present for each shoot, you have complete control over how content is captured. A Remote Director briefed on the content you are trying to capture, can steer the capture session in the precise direction you desire, just as if the director were on location with a film crew.
Remote video captures footage using the built-in resolution of the smartphone, typically in 1080 or 4K. Footage is stored on the remote device and is only uploaded to a private cloud after the video is captured.
There is no streaming involved, resulting in a high-quality, high-resolution image, accompanied by high-quality native smartphone audio.
This is perhaps the most compelling argument in favor of remote video production. Because there are no film crews with expensive video and lighting gear that have to be flown around the country, remote video production can be dramatically less expensive than traditional video production.
As with many recent disruptive technologies, remote video production leverages the internet to reduce or eliminate costs.
We offer a remote video capture solution designed specifically for customer testimonials called Remote Directed Video (RDV)
RDV makes it easy to create professional and effective video testimonials with customers around the world, with help from a Remote Director.
Watch this video to learn how businesses use RDV to create effective professional testimonial videos – safely, quickly and affordably →
Cameras for Customer Testimonial Videos
The ability to achieve focus, good lighting, and quality audio is a function of your ability to use your video, lighting, and audio equipment properly. So, spend the time necessary to really know what your systems can do.
There are many camera options that will support your needs, but this is not the place to dive into the details of different camera systems. So, we’ve narrowed it down to four different options that will work well within different budgets: webcams, smartphones, prosumer cameras, and professional cinema cameras.
Webcams are a great option for streaming video. Most everyone has access to a webcam, these days, as they ship with most laptops. It’s also very easy, in most cases to add them to a desktop system.
Some webcams can capture high quality video, but most people still have 720p webcams, and the higher resolutions ones are often limited by the video capture software that end users have installed.
Shooting with smartphones is by far the easiest, least expensive option, with the highest video quality available to most people. Assuming that you already own a quality smartphone, the cost here is limited to accessories, like tripods and external microphones.
Shooting with a prosumer camera increases your costs, but also gives you more options for improved imagery. External audio solutions will give you more control over what your videos sound like, and a basic three-point lighting system will allow you to shoot creatively in limited natural lighting conditions.
A professional cinema camera will give you even more options. Prices for these cameras have been steadily falling, but the costs are typically more expensive than anything in the prosumer category. You can combine your camera with a state-of-the art external audio system and make almost limitless use of professional lighting packages.
It costs more to buy equipment like this, and it will probably require more than one person to operate.
RDV: Quality with Minimal Equipment Costs
With Remote Directed Video (RDV) there are almost no equipment costs other than the iPhones, iPads or webcams that your customers already have and know how to use. We will send your customers a small kit consisting of a tripod and a lavaliere microphone, which greatly elevate the production quality. Learn how we make it convenient and cost-effective to create testimonials with RDV.
Coordinating Effectively with Your Customers
Regardless of which production strategy you adopt, you are going to need to line up customers before you begin shooting.
Getting your customer to provide their testimonial video (even if they’ve already agreed to) is often the most time consuming part of a video testimonial production, and requires multiple follow-ups.
Once you’ve completed the task of getting some customers to agree to participate, you will have to complete a series of largely administrative tasks to get them in front of a camera:
- Explain to them how your production process works and what exactly they will have to do to complete their testimonial contribution.
- Ship them any equipment they will need. (With the exception of on-location video production, participants will have to provide their own device and other video gear.)
- Schedule them for their video shoot and manage what are, from our experience, typically one to two reschedules. (People are busy.)
- Shoot the video.
Since this is largely an administrative function, these tasks can most often be managed by administrative staff, provided that you’re only processing one or two customers at a time.
If you are managing a lot of customers at once, the process can be pretty daunting.
Make sure you have the capacity and processes in place to handle the flow. For example, we use an appointment scheduling tool to make it easy for people to schedule remote shoots during available times in our Remote Directors’ calendars.
Making Your Life Easier
RDV’s Customer Coordination add-on removes the burden of contacting, scheduling, reminding, and sending materials to customers. We keep everything running on time by tracking the progress of participating customers, while the Release Management add-on ensures that legal releases are signed by customers. Learn how RDV can help save you time managing the acquisition of video testimonials.
Getting Permission from Your Customers
It’s possible that a customer who had previously contributed a testimonial video that you are sharing on your website decides that he or she is no longer happy with your product or service and would like you to remove that video from your website. You would, of course, comply with that request immediately. After all, you’re not in the habit of infuriating your customers.
Typically, this is exactly how such thing happen. They ask. You comply.
There are, however, less cordial exchanges in the world of contributed content and, in order to have everything on the up and up, it usually a good idea to obtain a talent release from customers appearing on camera for you, just in case things take an ugly turn, for whatever reason.
A talent release form is an agreement between you and the on-screen talent that appears in your video(s). It transfers to you the rights to use any performance that was made in conjunction with your video. Without a signed actor release form, you do not have the right to use an actor’s image, voice, or performance, and you can’t sell or distribute your video without those rights.
Commonly, talent release forms also allow you to create promotional materials with your talent’s name, face, and voice. Plain and simple, it’s a general release form that authorizes you to put on-screen talent in your video project.
There are countless examples of talent releases on the internet that you can have your lawyers modify to suit your purposes. Ask your customers and all on-screen talent, to sign and return a copy for you to keep in your records.
Hands On: Video Testimonial Production
Shooting testimonial videos can be as easy or as complicated as you’d like to make it, and the internet is filled with good technical information about how to shoot in-person testimonial videos.
The search term “how to shoot testimonial videos” returns 1,290,000 results. The advice you will find there covers a vast range of options for capturing good footage, but they can all be boiled down to three main components:
- Make sure your subject is in focus.
- Make sure your subject is properly exposed.
- Make sure your subject is understood.
Viewers will forgive many sins, but when any of these values are missing from your videos, you run the risk of turning off prospects or even harming your brand image.
Conducting a Customer Testimonial Interview
Having someone to interview your customer – to dig deep into their challenges, their search for a solution and eventual triumph – is just about the only way to reliably produce testimonials that tell an authentic narrative and serve your business needs.
Your ability to interview customers and direct the production will depend on your recording method, as covered in a previous section.
The Hero’s Journey
The Hero’s Journey is the story arc employed by everything from Homer’s Odyssey to Star Wars, and it’s a favorite way for us humans to connect with and learn from stories.
In its very simplest form, the Hero’s Journey begins with the protagonist figuring out that he has a problem to solve or a challenge to meet. He flounders around haplessly, trying this or that solution, but all to no avail.
He then meets a mentor who shows him the way out of his predicament, but the solution isn’t always easy.
After struggling, he is finally rewarded with success and returns to his ordinary world, where life is better for all his struggles.
The full journey has many more steps, but these are the steps that are most easily employed in a good testimonial video, to keep viewers engaged and connected to the customer story being told.
Your Customer is the Hero
It’s crucial to remember that your customer is the hero of his or her own story. Not you or your company.
It’s your customer who uncovers the problem, flails away trying to fix it, meets the mentor, and ultimately solves the problem or meets the challenge. Your customer is the hero and the story is told from the hero’s perspective, and not yours.
Rather, you and your company are cast in the supporting role as the mentor, guiding the customer through the hero’s journey.
When conducting an interview with a customer, it’s important to at least ask questions that get you to:
- What was it like before?
- How did we help?
- What are things like now?
Potential buyers want to hear a story they can relate to. Ultimately, you want these buyers to be thinking, “this person was struggling with the same problem I had, and this company helped them solve that problem.”
The Hero’s Journey is the best way to get them there.
The Hero’s Journey + RDV = Increased ROI
We have adopted the Hero’s Journey as our story-telling methodology and have adapted it to the idiosyncrasies of remote video interviews. With RDV’s more efficient interview style, we can produce more effective testimonial videos faster and less expensively. Learn more about Remote Directed Video (RDV) production for video testimonials.
Telling Your Customer’s Story: A Software Example
So, what does the Hero’s Journey look like for a software company? Here’s a very short script, from a customer’s perspective:
I noticed that our renewals were beginning to slip. I tried spending more on advertising, increasing the number of emails sent to existing customers, and beefing up our social media presence, but nothing was working. Then I met Mary at Acme Software. She explained to me that customers tend to renew more frequently when the communications sent to them are personalized and that their software could help with that. So, I decided to take a gamble and give their software a try. It didn’t go well at first and implementation was a real challenge, but Acme stood with us through the whole process. We began to see our renewal rates start to climb almost immediately, and now, after six months, our renewal rates are higher than they’ve ever been. I would strongly recommend Acme Software for anyone struggling with sinking renewal rates like we were.
When told from the vendor’s point of view, the story isn’t nearly as interesting:
Last year, I got a call from Bob, at Widgets International. He said she that her renewal rates were falling, so I told him that our renewal module was the best in the industry. I sent him some pricing and after going back and forth with him a couple of times, he decided to give us a try. Implementation was flawless and in no time their renewal rates were through the roof. Widgets International is a very happy customer.
Ask yourself, which story is more interesting, more believable, more engaging, more compelling?
Editing Customer Testimonial Videos
There are a variety of different options for editing your own videos, and they all involve the use of video editing software.
There are almost as many software packages for video editing as there are camera types, so you’ll have to do your research to find one that works for you with regard to complexity, ease of use, capabilities, and cost.
Full-featured editing software, like Adobe’s Premier Pro or Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve can do almost anything you might want to do, and some very famous filmmakers use these systems to edit their video. On the downside, however, the learning curve for these software packages can be steep and may take years to master.
Web-based video editing software, like InVideo and Adobe Spark, have been optimized for ease of use, but can be lacking in features.
In the end, it’s all a matter of what you need and how much time and money you’re willing to invest to get it.
Outsourcing the Editing of Video Testimonials
Fortunately, video production is largely a modular effort, meaning that it’s easy to separate the different stages of the production process, keeping parts of the process for yourself and outsourcing other parts to professionals who specialize in those functions.
Outsourcing options are readily available for every stage of the video testimonial production process, including strategy development, video capture, and editing.
For editing, you’ll find plenty of freelancers through online marketplaces like UpWork and Fiverr. Turnaround is usually pretty fast, but pricing varies. Like most things, you’ll pay more for an experienced pro than you will for someone just getting started.
You’ll have the best outsourcing luck if you very thoroughly describe what you’re trying to accomplish. Creating a creative brief works best for this purpose.
You will also want to insist on a very thorough review process, to ensure that you’re getting exactly the video you want. As the old saying goes, “the most expensive video you produce is the one you have to shoot twice.”
Turnkey Video Testimonial Production Packages
We can manage the entire video production process for you safely, quickly, and affordably. Everything is managed centrally, eliminating the need to integrate different processes with different vendors. By managing the whole process under one roof, our customers enjoy economies of scale that aren’t available with more distributed processes.
Producing Video Testimonials at Scale
We’ve already discussed the challenge of preparing a large number of customers to participate in individual testimonial video shoots. Another challenge presents itself when you’re shooting multiple testimonial videos, and that is consistency across videos.
While you want your videos, especially your testimonial videos, to have a genuine feel to them, you will also want them to be somewhat consistent, especially if they are all being used in a particular campaign.
This holds true for look and feel, but it is even more important with regard to content.
If your main product has three unique differentiators, it’s important that all of your testimonial videos address at least two of them. This will magnify the effectiveness of your videos by demonstrating a shared benefit among your existing customers.
If, on the other hand, your testimonial videos all highlight different features and benefits, with no messaging consistency from one video to the next, your videos will suffer a collective hit, forcing customers to have to view all of your video in order to understand what your product is about.
Centralized Production for a Consistent Look and Feel
Whether your customers are located across the country or around the world, your testimonials can have a consistent look and feel with RDV.
Strategy, remote capture, and editing and overall project management are all handled by the same team of marketing experts, directors, and editors. Learn how you can streamline the production of video testimonials with RDV.
In the next section…
Video Testimonial Results
Learn what it takes to maximize results and your ROI on customer testimonial videos.