Video Testimonials: The Ultimate Guide
As a marketer or salesperson, the customer testimonial is one of the most effective tools you have at your disposal.
What makes testimonials so powerful is their ability to build trust and confidence in your product or service. Short of talking face-to-face with one of your satisfied customers, nothing converts a prospect into a customer faster.
Taking Testimonials to the Next Level with Video
When your prospects are able to put a face with a name, and see your customer’s passion for your solution – with their own eyes – that trust and confidence gets amplified, many times over!
Follow this guide for everything you need know about using video testimonials to generate new business; from strategy and production to promotion and optimization.
There’s a lot of ground to cover, so we’ve broken it down into 3 parts. Use the table of contents to find the topic you’re most interested in, and jump right in.
Be sure to bookmark this page or download the .PDF for future reference!
Table of Contents
Download the Complete 3-Part Guide in .PDF format
Why Customer Video Testimonials Are So Effective
There’s not a whole lot of trust out there, these days.
We live in a post-truth world. A world of alternative facts, where cherished institutions and favored brands alike, are now scrutinized like never before.
Who are you going to believe?
Well, in the case of brands, it’s often the testimony of other customers that sways us, one way or another. It’s called social proof, and it’s one of the most powerful weapons in a marketer’s arsenal.
Ask yourself this question: When was the last time you made a major purchase decision, without first checking out reviews for that product or service?
That’s social proof, and research shows that it’s powerful force, when it comes to online buying. In fact, 85% of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation.
Customer video testimonials are a great example of social proof at work.
A good video testimonial captures not only your customer’s story of how they use your product or service, it also captures their passion for how you’ve helped them. It’s not at all unusual to hear customers say things like:
Their product has completely changed the way we do business. . .
I don’t know what we would possibly do without their help…
Working with them has really elevated my reputation, and the reputation of my department, in the minds of the rest of the company. . .
A good interviewer knows how to elicit deeply-felt, emotional responses like these, from satisfied customers.
Customer video testimonials take online reviews and case studies to a new level, by getting to the emotions that lie beneath the usage story, success metrics, and satisfaction of the typical written testimonial.
When properly deployed, either on your website or in 1:1 sales situations, video testimonials can be especially effective at moving prospect to the next stage of your marketing funnel.
Since they are typically deployed at the bottom of your funnel, they are often the last piece of content that prospects see, before deciding whether or not to buy from you, so it’s important that you get it right.
So, What Does a Good Testimonial Look Like?
One of Our Favorite Testimonial Video Examples
In this video, we hear Rafael tell his story: the challenges his organization faced, his search for a solution, what factored into his decision, and the positive effect it had on his life.
The focus remains on the customer and his experience for much of the testimonial, only mentioning the company name when it relates to the problems faced and the solutions role in fixing those problems.
There’s no ignoring Rafael’s passion for what he does, and his satisfaction with Impexium’s solution, and that passion sells.
Video Testimonials Rank High on the Value Spectrum
When you look at all the different activities your customers can participate in to help you win and keep customers, video testimonials are typically found at the high end of the value scale.
In fact, short of speaking directly with one of your prospects, sitting for a video testimonial is probably the most helpful thing an existing customer can do to support your sales efforts.
Which is why we recommend customer testimonials to those who want to get into video content, but need to deliver a big win, in order to get the rest of the company on board.
The high-value nature of testimonials means you should be looking for ways to use video testimonials wherever it makes sense.
There are a range of less valuable activities your customers may participate in that may eventually lead up to doing a video testimonial, like jointly issuing a news release when they become customers, speaking at your annual meeting, or liking, sharing and commenting on your social media efforts.
Whatever those activities may be, it’s important to have a plan for moving customers through that spectrum of activities, until they finally arrive at sitting for a video testimonial, and ultimately speaking with your prospective customers, in person.
Video Testimonial Best Practices
The most important step in any video marketing project is establishing a strategy for individual videos, and for your broader video marketing effort.
Videos that are not part of a guiding strategy, and based on best practices, are doomed to fail.
For customer video testimonials in particular, it’s crucial that your video efforts be part of a broader customer satisfaction/reference program.
If you’re not working systematically to take care of your customers, understand their satisfaction levels, and continually work to encourage them to testify to their satisfaction in support of your sales efforts – video won’t save you.
Video Should Be Part of a Broader Satisfaction or Reference Program
There are a variety of methods for gauging your customers’ satisfaction.
Research methodologies, like the Net Promoter Score, seek to boil down customer satisfaction to a single number, while more traditional satisfaction research efforts can provide a more contextual understanding of customer satisfaction.
No matter which methodology you choose, you should always be testing programmatically for customer satisfaction, both for individual customers and for your customer base as a whole.
Use your research to find satisfaction gaps, and then work as hard as you can to fill them.
This will have the twin effect of creating happy customers, and identifying customers who are the best prospects for your video testimonials and other reference activities.
Don’t Treat Customer Video Testimonials as a Novelty
This advice goes for all your video projects, but it has special application for testimonials, because customers are involved.
For best results, you should invite customers to sit for a testimonial, every time they cross whatever threshold you’ve established for customers expressing certain satisfaction level, or willingness to support your sales effort.
By treating video testimonials as part of a larger customer satisfaction/reference program, you will be much more successful at securing a steady stream of these most valuable marketing resources.
How to Recruit Customers to Participate in Video Testimonials
It’s not at all unusual for clients – even satisfied customers – to turn down requests to sit for a video testimonial.
In our experience, refusals are the result of one or more of the following three factors: satisfaction, complication and stress, and finally legal obstacles.
It All Starts with Satisfaction
It should go without saying that, if your customers aren’t satisfied, they’re not going to sit for a video testimonial.
That’s why it’s so important to understand where each of your individual customers stands on the satisfaction spectrum.
Customers at different stages of that spectrum should be asked to participate in reference activities commensurate with their satisfaction.
And, since sitting for a video testimonial is a pretty big ask, it should be reserved for customers who are near the top end of that spectrum.
Select Customers from Different Verticals and Persona Types
It’s tempting to ask only your most complimentary customers to sit for a testimonial video, but that strategy may prove a little shortsighted.
If you serve a wide variety of different verticals, or if the people who actually buy from you come from different persona types (i.e., job titles, roles, etc.), you’ll want to make sure that all of them are represented, as best you can.
Of course, not all verticals or personas may have a representative champion, when you begin shooting testimonials.
That’s another reason why it’s so important to have your testimonials driven out of a broader satisfaction/reference program, which will allow you to target the customers you need, to represent the different verticals and personas you serve.
Make It Easy and Stress Free
For customers sitting for a video testimonial, it can be a pretty big deal.
It involves scheduling, interview preparation, equipment setup and, if you’ve hired an agency to help you, talking to a stranger about the story of your relationship with them.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to make your customers’ participation as easy, and stress-free as possible:
- Preparing your customer for the interview, by letting them know what to expect at different stages of the engagement. Who will do what, and when it will happen?
- Send them sample questions, in advance. No one likes to be surprised on camera.
- Give them time to prepare answers to questions that require a little homework. If you’re looking for metrics, you client may need a little time to gather them.
- Provide them with recommendations on wardrobe, makeup, and on-screen presence. (Your video marketing agency should be able to help you with this. Here’s the document we send to interview subjects.)
- If possible, shoot the video at a location convenient to your customer. This is often – but not always – at their offices.
- Go to where a number of customers are gathered. Annual user group meetings, and industry trade shows offer the opportunity to interview multiple customer in one location, with minimum hassle for the customers.(Be sure to set formal appointments for each customer. Just showing up at an event with a camera, in the hope that customers will give you a quick video testimonial, does not work.)
Of course, all the preparation in the world won’t get some interview subjects over the terror of having to sit for a video shoot.
For people who don’t mind lights and cameras, it seems like an unreasonable phobia, but there’s actually some science behind it.
How We See Ourselves on Video
When we see ourselves on video, our true image, we’re seeing a reverse image of what we’re used to seeing in the mirror.
The rest of the world sees our true image as normal, but for us, there something just not right about how we appear on screen.
This discomfort is similar to the discomfort some people have for clowns. They know it’s a human being underneath all that makeup, but there’s something just not right about it.
Wistia has a great blog post about the phenomena that you might want to share with a nervous customer. Beyond the science, there are other things you can do that might help.
For example, let your customer know that you’ve chosen them for this project because they are a perfect example of a professional, likeable, knowledgeable human being, whose experiences with your company other industry professionals would like to hear about.
You might also suggest that they speak with somebody at your video marketing agency who can reassure them that their job is to make them look great on camera, while delivering a terrific, professional performance.
With the right coaching, you should be able to get your customer to tap into that fear, to help them deliver a knowledgeable, passionate video testimonial that everyone can be proud of.
There’s No Way Around Legal Restrictions – or Is There?
There are some companies that prohibit their employees from providing testimonials or other endorsements for their vendors.
This is frequently the case in the association world, where the restriction may actually be memorialized in their bylaws, or other guiding documents.
When you encounter this restriction, you may try recasting your testimonial as a docu-testimonial.
A docu-testimonial emphasizes the work your customer does, rather than the products and services you provide.
Often shot as part of a series of docu-testimonials, these videos focus on how your very smart customers are solving industry challenges faced by so many other companies.
Although it may never actually be mentioned in the video, they’re solving those problems with your products and services.
There’s a trade-off here.
Great testimonials frequently feature lines like, “we love using Product X, because it saves us so much money,” and, “yes, I would be happy to recommend Product X to anyone trying to solve a similar problem.”
Well, with a docu-testimonial, you may have to forgo great comments like that, in order to get a key account in front of your cameras.
But, think of it this way. Will anyone watching that docu-testimonial on your website not understand that it’s your company behind that customer’s success?
Not likely. Plus, a series of docu-testimonials can actually give your company a PR boost, as you “selflessly” promote solutions to vexing industry challenges, and highlight the groundbreaking work of innovative customers.
How to Conduct a Great Customer Testimonial Interview
So, you’ve got a customer willing to be the subject of a video testimonial. What questions will you ask, to create a testimonial video that prospective customers will find informative and compelling?Everyone loves a good story, and wants to imagine themselves in that story as the hero, like the customer in your video testimonial, who saves the day for himself or his company. Click To Tweet
I’m a big believer in scripts for most video applications, but customer testimonial videos is not one of them.
There’s nothing wrong with sharing your questions with customers in advance, but to the extent possible, you want your subject to respond as naturally and spontaneously as possible.
Watching as your customer thinks through the question and the response, can be very compelling.
Start with the Story
Everyone loves a good story, and wants to imagine themselves in that story as the hero, like the customer in your video testimonial, who saves the day for himself or his company.
Much has been written about the traditional arc of the hero’s journey, which I won’t go into here. Suffice it to say that a lot of that hero arc can very easily be replicated in a good video testimonial.
It looks a little like this:
- Things were just fine, until we started having a big problem with this industry issue.
- We ignored it for a while, but finally had to address it.
- I tried to solve the problem by doing this, that, and the other thing, but nothing worked.
- Then I met Company X. They told me that I could solve the problem if I approached it in a different way. It was a bit of a risk, but we went forward with their suggested solution.
- There were challenges, both external and internal, along the way, and there were some people who didn’t believe we could do it, but we met resources who helped us overcome those challenges.
- It was a lot of hard work, and there were some setbacks along the way, but we finally solved the problem, and now things are so much better.
- As a result, my boss and my peers see me in a new light, and I’m enjoying newfound respect in my company.
When customers tell their story in this way, it can be extremely compelling.
Prospects watching the video will frequently see themselves in the role of your customer, and will want that same glory and vindication for themselves, despite all the hardships along the way.
What of extreme importance to remember in all of this, is that you must cast your customer – not you, or your company, or its products and services – as the hero.
In this story, you and your company are the mentor, who helps the hero along the way.
Build the Hero Story with Your Questions
Getting your customer to give you the material needed to replicate the hero story in your video testimonial is a matter of asking the questions that elicit the proper response.
For the story outlined above, you might ask:
- What were things like before you encountered the big industry problem?
- What is the big industry problem and where did it come from?
- How did you first try to solve the problem? Did those measures work?
- How did Company X come into the picture? What was their suggestion to solving the problem?
- What was it like trying to implement that solution? Was it easy to do? How long did it take? Who pushed back? What challenges did you encounter along the way? Who helped you make it happen?
- How are things going now that the problem is solved?
- How does it feel to know that you solved the problem? What does the rest of the company think about your efforts?
Of course, you will have to adapt these questions to the solutions your company provides, and to how customers are using those solutions to solve their problems.
You’ll have to know when to ask for challenge and success metrics, and how they help illuminate the beginning and end of the story.
You’ll have to know if, when and how you ask for information about the internal challenges your customer faced in solving their problem.
Finally, you’ll have to know when to go for an emotive response, and when to just stick to the facts.
Pull your story together this way, and it will be informative and compelling. Your prospects will see themselves in the hero role, and will want to replicate that story for themselves and/or the companies they represent.
The Truth and Nothing but the Truth
When you ask customers to be the subject of a video testimonial, some of them will get it, and others won’t.
The customers who get it will understand that the purpose of the video testimonial is to attract new customers and keep existing customers. To do that, the testimonial has to paint you, your company, its products and services, in a favorable light.
Now, there are some companies, product and services in this world that positively delight every customer who has ever encountered them. If you work at one of those companies, you can skip to the next section.
On the other hand, if you’re like the rest of us, you know that, despite the best intentions and hard work of everyone involved, some companies fall a little short.
Features aren’t as robust as your customer would like them to be, the implementation had a few hiccups, and the people on your support team could probably use a good talking to.
The customer who get it, will take all this into consideration, before agreeing to participate in a video testimonial.
They will know that, despite the occasional problem, your company does a good job for them, and that it’s in their best interest to help you get more customers, so that you can add to your feature set, improve your implementation process, and hire some really outstanding support people.
The customer who don’t get it will agree to sit for your testimonial, but will make sure you know that they’re going to, “tell it like it is.”
They’re not going to sugar coat anything for you, spin anything in the right direction, or look back on their experiences with rose-colored glasses. And, that’s their right.
But, customer like that should not be asked to sit for a testimonial.
Rather, suggest to those customer that it sound like you’ve got a way to go to make them satisfied enough to help you with a testimonial, and that once they’ve reached that level of satisfaction, you’ll schedule something.
What you don’t want to do is suggest that they bend the truth for you. If a customer wants to do that of their own accord, that’s fine. But, never, ever suggest it yourself.
If you do, the customer is more than likely to turn you down flat, and there’s a chance that word will spread through your customer base, like wildfire. Avoid that approach at all costs.
No video testimonial is better than a reputation for producing deceitful customer testimonial.
I hope you will forgive me for saying this, but my experience tells me that many people who insist on telling it like it is will never make good testimonial subjects.
They want everyone to know how about the herculean efforts they had to make to get your product to work the right way, and how much better things would be if they were running your company.
They’re more interested in using their experience for leverage with you in the next rate increase discussion than they are in helping you get new customer.
They’re certainly not the sort of people you want to trust with a discrete offer to bend the truth. But, that’s just me.
Get Your Customers Thinking
Some customers are better than others at telling the story of their work with your company. Some are more thoughtful than others. And, some folks are just downright boring.
To jog even the most complacent customer into more thoughtful, animated responses, you might try asking the occasional off the wall question. Questions like these:
- If Company X were an animal, what animal would it be, and why?
- What one word captures the work Company X did for you, and why?
- If you had to describe Company X’s product to an eight-year old, what would you say?
I know these questions sound crazy, and you may not even use the answers to these questions in your final testimonial video, but they can be very helpful for getting customers to think about your company and the solutions it provides, from a completely different angle.
Give it a try. You may be surprised at the answers you receive, and the renewed energy and thoughtfulness your customer brings to the rest of the interview.
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of video testimonials, how to establish a video testimonial content strategy, and what it takes to build a compelling story around your customer’ experiences.
In the next chapter, you’ll learn how to shoot and produce testimonial videos that do your customers’ stories justice.
Here’s just a taste of what’s coming up:
- How to pick a location for your testimonial video
- How to establish and control a productive film set anywhere
- How to select a style for your testimonial videos
- Video framing, lighting, and video equipment
- And how to take your video testimonials to the next level in post production.
At Thoughtcast Media, we do a lot of testimonial videos for our clients. It’s one of our specialties, and we’d love to tell you about it.
We offer an all-inclusive, fixed-price video testimonial service, that make sense if you need only a few videos. We can also build an entire custom program for you, if you’re looking for a truly strategic solution.
Whatever your needs, we’re here to help.