How to Film Your First Customer Testimonial Ted Carstensen
To create a successful customer success testimonial video, you need to consider two primary areas of focus. I’ll call them strategic story production, and technical production.
An effective customer testimonial can provide you with several great evergreen pieces of content which can be invaluable to your marketing, sales, and even recruiting operations. Meanwhile, a poorly executed customer testimonial can damage your relationship with that customer, and worse, have a negative impact on your inbound flows.
“Video should be treated like any other piece of content, start with the end in mind” suggests Francis Adanza, Head of Marketing for Testim.io. “What exactly do you want the viewer to do after watching a testimonial? What will the viewer get out of watching it and why should they care?”
With all that in mind, it’s important that you take your time with your first video testimonials to make sure you get them right. Before you start down the video route, I would suggest you do at least one strictly written testimonial to give yourself a bit more vision into what works and what doesn’t for your product and customers. If you’re ready to jump into video, read on!
Strategic Story Production
This step is arguably more important than the technical aspects of this process. You can nail the technical production of a video testimonial, but if you’ve chosen the wrong customer to highlight, you may as well have stayed home. When you set out to make your first customer testimonial videos you of course need to have customers, or at the very least some prominent beta testers.
Your first video testimonial must feature an actual customer who is deriving real value from your product – an authentic connection to your product cannot be faked on camera.
Francis suggests that “you need this to feel natural for the viewer, so don’t write an explicit script for the customer. Let the customer describe their operational reality using their own words. This will not only make it a more sincere video, it’s also an opportunity to capture words they actually use when talking about these issues internally. Then you can use these keywords for promoting the video as well as other SEO, SEM and retargeting efforts.”
Take a look at all of your existing customers, consider how their business challenges and the way they use your product align with your buyer personas, and ask yourself ‘which of these customers would I like to have 10 more of?
Once you’ve decided on your customer, it’s time to prepare a series of questions that will lead your viewers along the journey this customer took to your product. These will vary across customers and products, but in general the story goes like this: how it was, challenges, inciting incident, how it is now, and a moral.
You should be targeting around two minutes for these videos, which is a surprisingly short time to tell a great story. When writing your script, keep this target length in mind and use it as a forcing function for focus and brevity.
How It Was
This is where you let your customer describe the situation they were in before they found your product. Let them share how they were spending time and money on a problem that wasn’t core to their own business.
This is a great opportunity for you to draw connections between your viewer and the customer on screen. In as many ways as possible, have them outline the business challenge they were struggling to solve.
Here you should have your customer outline the other solutions they tried and failed with, ending with the moment they discovered your product, and how that changed everything.
How It Is Now
Hopefully you’ve picked a happy customer to put on camera. This is where you let them describe how their work has improved, their lives have improved, and how it wouldn’t be possible without your product.
Not to put too fine a point on it, but the moral of the story for your potential customers is simple: don’t waste any more time or money, we have solved your problem, buy our product.
Francis shared some tips around building an effective story, and suggests you “spend some time dissecting other customer success videos. Is the message obvious? Does the customer sound believable? Did you get any value for watching it? Would you follow through on the CTA?”
One of my favorite examples of a story driven testimonial-like video is this Sandwich Video for Slack, check it out:
A customer testimonial video is both an opportunity to promote your product, and an opportunity to let your customer promote their own business. In the Sandwich Video, both teams and their products are given a chance to shine. You make an expert tool for expert operators, so inspire confidence in your own product by elevating your customer in the eyes of your viewer.
Now that you’ve got your customer selected and a great story framed in your script of questions, it’s time to move on to Technical Production.
If you’re a small startup, I wouldn’t advocate that you spend an arm and a leg on a professional production company to produce your first customer testimonials. Sandwich Video are pros, but they certainly aren’t cheap. Try a few yourself and test their impact before making a larger investment in technical production. You can produce a great looking and sounding video without breaking the bank.
There are a handful of steps to the technical production process including pre-production, production, editing, and delivery.
Pre-production is seriously important to pulling off a successful shoot, so please don’t underinvest in this part of the process. Here’s a list of things you’ll want to hammer out before production starts:
- A solid script of questions, shared with your interviewee for feedback and revisions before they arrive.
- A well-lit and quiet room to record in. Stools are better than rolling chairs as they prevent your guest from rocking, sliding, or spinning.
- A small thank you gift for your interviewee. We like to give our guests macarons.
- The equipment you’re going to use, including extra batteries or charging cables.
Once you’ve got these items locked down, it’s time to schedule your production date and time.
The first step in day-of production is preparing your room. Don’t wait for your interviewee to arrive before you start testing audio, video, and lighting. Instead, give yourself an extra hour to set everything up so that when your guest arrives you can focus on making them comfortable before you start rolling.
At the low end of the production spectrum, use two iPhones in tandem to capture audio and video. Place one on a tripod (don’t go handheld!) to record video, and place the other next to your interviewee just out of frame to capture audio. This will allow you to get a great looking shot without sacrificing too much on sound quality.
Remember that great audio is as important as video quality – without great audio, your viewers can’t follow the story you’re trying to tell.
A few other items to remember if you’re running these shoots yourself:
- Take photos of your guest in the same space you’re filming them. High quality photos come in very handy for blog posts, tweets, and other collateral down the line.
- Don’t have your interviewee look directly into the camera, instead, sit just to the left or right of the camera’s position and have them look at you.
- Make sure you’ve got good light on your subject. You can use desk lamps and extra iPhones in flashlight mode to help eliminate shadows.
- Make sure you’re in as quiet of a space as you can find. Try to run your interviews in a space without folks talking in the background, and as far from loud appliances like A/C and coffee grinders as possible.
Check out these tutorial videos from Wistia for more production tips and low-budget hacks.
If you’re ready to step up to a more professional shoot, Thumbtack and Videopixie are two of many great sites you can use to hire a local videographer. A competent videographer will be equipped with professional cameras, lenses, lighting, and sound equipment – everything you need for a high quality production. Make sure to get a few estimates before making a decision, and plan to line up two to three different interviews back-to-back on shoot day to make the most of your investment.
Alternatively, if you’re enrolled in the Heavybit Program, reach out to me directly and I will be happy to provide one on one guidance and technical support for you and your team throughout this process.
After you’ve filmed, it’s time to edit. If you’d like to try editing yourself, there are lots of free or affordable editing apps available in the App Store. As I mentioned before, try to keep your video around two minutes long. If you’re having trouble making that happen, it’s likely that your story isn’t focused enough and you should revisit the strategic production section above.
A few things you’ll want to add include basic titles and some theme music to help drive the storyline. Titles let you say two things in the time of one; there’s no need to show an interviewee introducing themselves if you can drop in a lower-third instead.
For tunes, we’re big fans of PremiumBeat at Heavybit, they’re a fantastic resource for affordable music to use in videos and podcasts. Take some time to find a sound that’s supportive of your message and story, but that doesn’t distract from it.
As before, if you’d rather not try your hand at editing, Thumbtack, Videopixie, and Fiverr are great options for finding a quality editor.
When going into the editing process with a contractor, the more organized you are the better – you’ll save tons of time and money by spending a little extra time on the project up front. Go through your footage and identify specific in and out points you’d like your editor to use when assembling your video. This will save you hours of back and forth headache and get you to a better video faster.
I almost always recommend you use YouTube or Vimeo to host and serve your first video marketing assets. As a small startup you should be focused on your own product, not on building robust video tech in your app or website. With Vimeo and YouTube you get the benefits of built in distribution and dead simple but incredibly reliable and compatible embedding. YouTube and Vimeo each have their own benefits and drawbacks that I won’t go into detail on here, all you need to know is that at this stage both will work for your needs.
Add keywords, a strong title, and any necessary credits to the video and then embed it on your site. To start you can absolutely use a standard blog post to share your story, but as you grow you’ll want to build a dedicated home on your site for your customer stories. Here at Heavybit we call our customer stories Member Spotlights, and they live in a special place on the site.
That’s it! Now that you’ve published the video, share it on social, post it to supernodes like Reddit or Hacker News, and start gathering feedback for the next one.