Video is a great way to tell your business’s story. However, being too self-promotional usually feels tacky and lacks credibility. You’ve probably found yourself turned off before by a company that was sipping a bit too much of their own Kool Aid. You can shower accolades on your own product for days, but when it comes down to it, it means a lot more coming from the people using it. That’s where testimonials come in, and video is a perfect medium for sharing customer experiences.
From simple text testimonials to video interviews to more complex customer stories like Mailchimp’s, there’s a way for anyone to make testimonials that suit their unique needs and capabilities. We talked to a few different companies that are using video testimonials well to put together this post: adaptive learning platform Knewton, EDI and GDS provider Redtail Solutions (@RedTailEDI), and email marketing platform Constant Contact.
From asking for testimonials to conducting conversations to how to use your footage, read on to learn more!
Many initially hesitate about collecting testimonials because it might be hard to find willing people to talk about your product. But it turns out that it’s not really that difficult, and when it comes down to it, you don’t need to get a ton of people — just enough to have a solid, small collection.
Knewton’s Robbie Mitchell (@superstrong) told us that when they shot video testimonials for their online Math Readiness course, they had actually intended to make more than they did, but the initial videos that they shot were so strong they haven’t had to do another one for that particular course. They became the Math Readiness videos.
For those videos, Knewton worked out details with campus administration to film a bunch of people one-on-one. Because the product was doing well, when they went to film in the classrooms, the instructors had no problem with them pulling some students out of classes.
Constant Contact did shoots by product, rather than needing new videos for any particular thing. For example, they shot three videos for their email marketing tool, and three videos for their event management software.
John Matera of Redtail Solution, whose testimonial story started at a trade show, asked people if they wouldn’t mind saying a few things on camera about the EDI and GDS company. He was surprised by how readily people accepted his invitation.
Don’t be afraid to contact some people and see where it goes. You, too, may be pleasantly surprised with the results, and you don’t need to get that many people to say yes!
As with most videos, preparation for a testimonial shoot starts well before you have your interviewee on camera. Our own Chris Lavigne, who has shot testimonials for a number of companies as well as our own How They Work series and interview videos, suggests providing high level concepts of what you’re going to talk about before the conversation, but not giving the interviewee your exact question list. When people are worried about marketing speak and hitting everything perfectly, it’s unnatural and robotic. It’s about capturing a natural, believable, authentic response.
“When people are worried about marketing speak and hitting everything perfectly, it’s unnatural and robotic. It’s about capturing a natural, believable, authentic response.”
Redtail Solutions had similar advice: no script, just a page of high-level bullet points, generated by listing the company’s main value propositions. According to Matera, people said things that they couldn’t have written: "If you’re confident that the person is familiar with your offering and enthusiastic about it, all you need is a simple bulleted list of potential topics to jog their memory. Using very high-level points is best, so they formulate their own thoughts and don’t look at the sheet during shooting."
Knewton, too, kept things pretty general: for students, they simply asked what they thought about the course. Uniquely, the students didn’t know that the interviewers were associated with the course since it was administered through the university, nor did they have time to prepare for these interviews ahead of time since they were pulled out of class to participate. Constant Contact agreed that giving an idea of what they were going to be asking, but not specific questions, was the best route.
Overall, testimonials hold more weight in that person’s workspace as opposed to bringing them to you or having them on a generic background. Visually, that tells the viewer that you just grabbed them from their desk and you’re picking their brain — it feels spontaneous and sincere. In these situations, capturing additional B-roll footage of them using the product can add authenticity and relatability to your testimonial. Constant Contact shot their testimonials in the interviewee’s work environment.
However, sometimes, it’s more convenient to get testimonials somewhere else, such as a trade show or conference, where you’ll happen to be in the same place at the same time as your interviewee. For Redtail Solutions, this meant that his first testimonials were shot in a conference room at a trade show in one or two takes. These first testimonials were pretty crude, but nonetheless effective, and he has since moved on to on-location shoots with users. In terms of equipment, Matera suggests that getting a portable digital audio recorder to have a separate audio source is a priority – especially for nogisy environments.
“Have a conversation: it’s more about getting emotional responses than weird one-liners or soundbites. Sometimes that’ll get you way off track, but sometimes the tangents are the gold.”
When shooting unscripted videos, letting the camera run and editing later tends to be the best way to go. Ask the subject to repeat what they were saying if there were stumbles, noises, or misspeaks, but otherwise, keep the conversation rolling and allow plenty of time for people to warm up. Matera uses a "trial ending," saying something like, "You did great, that wasn’t too bad, was it?" After that, the person will completely relax and you’ll get some of your best content from the casual interaction that follows.
Don’t worry about sticking to the script or order of questions, but finding the moments where that person is really jazzed up. Have a conversation: it’s more about getting emotional responses than weird one-liners or soundbites. Sometimes that’ll get you way off track, but sometimes the tangents are the gold.
Once you have your testimonials footage ready to go, how can you use it? The first thought, of course, is the standard testimonials page, probably somewhere near where people may be buying your product. Redtail Solutions uses their testimonials both in emails and on their website, and recently opened up their video gallery to search. Knewton, too, uses testimonials on their website, using different cuts of the videos where it makes sense, and have additionally found them useful at conferences and trade shows.
But testimonials are good for more than just driving conversions.
For example, Knewton found them to be an excellent feedback mechanism. Through doing the interviews, they picked up on a pattern they hadn’t noticed before: that over and over again, students zoomed in on the same benefit, the fact that it let them finish the class in as little time as they wanted. Knewton has also used testimonials internally.
"We put those faces all over the place so we always remember the context in which our products are used," said Mitchell, further explaining that Knewton hopes to make more testimonials and use them in places they didn’t expect, including their own office. "It’s really important as an education company and as a technology company to put faces to everything."
Okay, maybe that was a lot to take in! Here’s a summary:
- Ask people to participate! It’ll probably be easier than you think.
- Before the interview, give them an idea of what you’ll be covering, but not your specific questions.
- Shoot your testimonial in the other person’s workspace if possible. If not, don’t worry - a generic testimonial is better than no testimonial.
- During the interview, focus on having a conversation. You can always edit that conversation later!
- Use your testimonials on your website to convey credibility to prospects, but also as an internal motivator or feedback mechanism.
- Use the analytics from your testimonials to improve them, whether through a new shoot or a re-edit.
Where have you used testimonials before? What are your suggestions for shooting great testimonials? Where have you seen testimonials that really stood out?