by Sean Gordon, founder of vidREACH.io
Whether it be an established Fortune 500 company or a growing upstart business, modern marketing programs are built on the backbone of video marketing campaigns. More often than not, these campaigns excel by capturing the thoughts and journeys of loyal customers as they work with company products in exemplary or innovative fashions.
With that said, customer testimonials are hardly a new concept. All the way back to the early days of print advertising, businesses made ample use of customer quotes and images of individuals using products themselves, demonstrating the real world application of their products. Fast-forward to the mid-20th century, and television and radio have completely transformed the game. Savvy businesses found unique ways to work in customer opinions and testimony into their marketing constantly, paving the way for the rise of the Infomercial Era, a time where businesses big and small could bid for timeblocks on television to demonstrate their products, often with audience or customer feedback and participation as a focal point.
All of this paved the way for customer testimonials as a commonplace and integral strategy for 21st century social media-based marketing. If infomercials provided an opportunity for upstart products and innovators, the Internet greatly democratized the process to the point that anyone with a cell phone and some creativity could create a strong social media presence. Now businesses rely on video shares, often with real customers directly in front of the camera sharing their experiences with a given product line.
The strength of testimonials falls in the power of having a real person convey their experiences in front of a camera. It adds validity to the product: you can be as enthusiastic as anyone about your company, but there will always be a hint of skepticism. For somebody else to care enough to share their glowing review of a business? That holds a different degree of weight that resonates with prospective buyers.
While a cell phone camera may be all you need to get started, the path to success isn’t always the easiest. It takes some work: acquainting yourself with editing software, planning out the experience, reaching out and scheduling customer interviews, setting up shots, each representing a step in the process of video marketing necessity. However, once you get into the swing of things, the rewards to be reaped our fantastic.
So how do you get started? I’ve outlined four driving concepts and things for you to think about as you navigate the journey of customer testimonials, listed as:
- What are the logistical resources necessary to capture the experience?
- How do I approach customers about playing a role in my customer testimonial video?
- What’s the space of the video, and how do I navigate it?
- What should be my focused platform for the finished product?
With heavy consideration for these four sets of questions, you’ll be on the path towards customer testimonial success. Let’s take them step-by-step, starting with our first question.
1. What are the logistical resources necessary to capture the experience?
The first, and arguably the most critical part, of constructing a powerful customer testimonial is to strike a balance between adequate preparation and inorganic scripting. What that means is that you want to avoid writing out lines for your customers at all costs, or scripting moments in the video to the extent that they feel inorganic to the viewer. Remember: the purpose of the customer testimonial is to establish legitimacy, and overscripting can kill that intent.
However, you don’t want to show up to a meeting with your customer with your camera in hand, ready for nothing other than winging it. Establish the narrative you want to pursue, then think of interview questions that can guide the ship’s sails in a direction you’re aiming for. Aim to film much more than you’ll use; you’ll likely find during filming some gems of feedback that may totally reorient the video in a completely new and exciting direction.
In addition, you need to think long and hard about who will either narrate or serve as an interviewer for the video. Don’t overlook this part! You need someone who can hold a conversation, who has a degree of charisma, who won’t dominate the conversation. You also have to be introspective and self-aware; if you’re not the right person for the job, that’s totally okay! Reach out to a particularly outgoing coworker and see if they’d be interested in helping out. It’s all your vision in the end, but that doesn’t mean you have to be a part of every facet.
Some things to remember about interviewing:
- A strong interviewer will guide the conversation, but let the customer speak their mind, stepping in only to lend a hand in direction
- The interviewer will keep the conversation on topic, focusing questions on products and their uses in an organic method
- A powerful interview will work with well-constructed questions in advance, preparing to talk about the content in a way that uncovers hidden gems of info
When you figure out who will conduct the interview, start to dive into the details of materials and resources needed for the task. Consider these questions and ideas:
- The first, and most important, question: what’s your budget? What resources will serve as company investments, and what costs will be sunk?
- How many and what types of cameras will I need? One may suffice, or you may want multiple angles for a more stylistic feel.
- Test the mics on the camera out in advance. Are they adequate for your goals? If not, can boom mics be added?
- Depending on budget, are professional lighting and/or makeup an option?
- When you move into post-production, what editing software will you use to produce your video content?
Budget will guide the answer to most of these questions, but when trying to extend your monetary resources, consider selling your company on the idea of certain tech as an investment and a company asset. Mics and cameras can be used over and over, holding value beyond a single campaign. Regardless, you can get the job done with little to no resources; you just need to be practical and creative.
2. How do I approach customers about playing a role in my customer testimonial video?
This question may be the most important of all to the success of your customer testimonial. First and foremost, you want someone that’s very familiar with not just your company and your business relationship, but also how your products are used in their situation. It helps if they’re charismatic and personable, with a great smile for the camera. They also should be easy to identify with for prospective buyers; you want your audience to feel like that could be them in the video. Ask that they be prepared with numbers and data to support their claims of how your product has helped.
Incentivize the experience for customers, offering a discount in exchange for their time. Or, if possible, consider collaborating with their marketing team on the video for dual-approach video content marketing. On that note, be aware of the relationship between your companies, and ensure that their company and your sales team are well-aware of the content of the video before publishing.
3. What’s the space of the video, and how do I navigate it?
This is referring to where you’ll shoot the video, which may seem like an easy question. Just know you have options. You might take the classic sitdown interview approach in a cozy room (maybe modify and occupy a meeting or seminar room). You could ask to go on location to see your product in work at their company, doing a tour of the space so the audience can visualize the use. There’s also a third path, going to a neutral space at a local coffee shop for a true conversational feel. All are great options and will depend on scheduling and what you feel works best.
4. What should be my focused platform for the finished product?
Before we address this, let me reiterate: record as much as possible. Sometimes new video users only shoot for the length that they intend their video to be, only to discover later on that they met for three hours, recorded five minutes of video, and only about a minute of the content is compelling. Keep recording, knowing that even if you intend to release a series of one minute videos on Instagram and end up with an hour of content that you can repackage it and make ample use of it.
As you look to your platform, this will shape your post-production. If you’re aiming for Instagram, minute long videos are a great way to drive content and an awesome way to advertise in feeds. Quick blurbs, short stories, they all work. Use outtake footage for your story to hype the video, then release on a daily basis for serious content. If you’re looking to YouTube, understand that their algorithm is starting to reward longform videos more and more. This is where a thirty minute sit-down interview might be the move. It all depends on where you intend to go, and where your company is already funneling it’s customers.
These four questions aren’t comprehensive, but they’ll get the wheels turning as you start to integrate customer testimonials into your video marketing strategy. Cover these four bases and you’ll be off to a fantastic headstart on the path to video marketing success!
Sean Gordon founded vidREACH.io to engage candidates, prospects, customers and employees – all on one platform. Sean has created new lines of business, reinvigorated stagnant company cultures, and mentored hundreds of employees who have gone on to do great things.