The best marketing teams operating at all levels of industry, from small businesses to Fortune 500s, know that the foundation of any elite video marketing program is built on captivating customer stories and testimonies.

The words, “…but don’t take our word for it,” may be ringing through your ears as you think back on the history of customer testimonials, which are as old as the sales industry. The classics never change; sometimes they just need an update, and that’s what the modern video customer testimony is, a fresh take on the great potential of customer stories.

Major companies have made use of video testimonials by way of commercials and infomercials for decades, but they weren’t always an accessible method for small businesses to create with. The advent of the Internet has democratized the way that small companies use testimonials, moving beyond brochures and text-based blurbs to allow for businesses to put real customers in front of the camera to talk about their journey with your product line.

The power of testimonials is apparent: there’s something special about having an actual customer standing before you. It adds a degree of third -party legitimacy that feels stripped of biases or motives, and that resonates as trustworthiness for potential buyers.

With that said, it’s not all roses. Making a high-quality customer story to use for your business requires a bit more planning and finesse than it may seem. Even still, it remains a must-have tool for a business wishing to make a splash online. That’s why we’ve looked at this powerful marketing vehicle and recognized four wheels that propel it forward. Using these four concepts in sync will lead to a full-fledged promotional piece that your company can use over and over again.

We’ve arranged these four wheels around four baseline questions that you can ask yourself when putting together a customer testimonial. They are:

  • What do you need to prepare a dynamic testimonial?
  • Which customer should you approach about interviewing?
  • What should the time and locational context of your video be?
  • What platforms do you intend to promote the finished product on?

Using these four guiding wheels, you should be off to a high-speed start to a successful customer story video. Let’s look at how we can make the implementation going forward.

First Wheel: What do you need to get ready for your customer story video?

The single most important facet of recording a quality testimonial is to not rely on a scripted performance from a customer. Don’t feel pressured to write sound bites for them to reiterate on camera in a contrived manner; your viewers will feel how unauthentic it is.

That said, it doesn’t mean you can skip the preparation. Chase that sound bite, but recognize that by asking the right questions at the right time, you increase your opportunity to nail the video and make the entire process incredibly efficient.

That takes us to our first point of preparation: think about who you want to interview the customer during the video. Maybe you’re the one that’s ready to take on the task: you have the vision of where the video is going. At the same time, don’t be afraid to be honest with yourself. You’ll save a lot of time setting your ego aside and turning interview duties over to a more confident coworker, and in the end the finished product will reflect more positively on you.

  • A good interviewer helps the customer forget that they’re being interviewed by making the conversation flow naturally.
  • They’ll ask product related questions, but in a way that comes across as organic, tying the overall discussion about the product back to a driving theme in the video.
  • A strong interview relies on collaboration to develop appropriate questions in advance and map out how the interview should be conducted, with pre-established cues prepared

Once you have your interviewer landed and your questions and direction mapped, turn your attention towards the logistics of the video. Ask yourself these questions:

  • How many and what cameras will I use? Multiple cameras will nail down the multiple angles necessary for a quality interview.
  • Are the internal mics satisfactory, or will I require better sound equipment to capture the interview?
  • On that note, what’s the budget for the video? Instead of stretching the budget, how can you make the most with what you’ve got?
  • Will you need professional lighting and makeup for the video? What’s the single-day costs for such an endeavor?
  • What are the post-production options, and who will be handling the editing? What software is available to work with to create the best product possible?

Many of the answers to these questions depend on budget, but here’s the good news: video testimonials lend themselves to even the smallest budgets. With a little planning, a single Apple iPhone and pre-installed editing software, can complete the task.

Second Wheel: Who should be the focus of your interview?

This is an equally challenging question that may be the most critical of all for a successful project. You want someone that’s lively, is enthusiastic about your product and a relationship with your brand that matches your goals. They also need to be easily identified with by viewers, and come across as a customer with genuine experience with the product that is relatable. Having data prepared will drive a more believable feel as well.

There are also other considerations to address. If the subject represents a company, you need to ensure that their company is aware of the production and is comfortable with the subject participating; the last thing you want is to damage a relationship through a project designed to build trust with customers. Consider offering an incentive to the company for their participation, either through collaborative marketing or sales promotion.

Third Wheel: Where and when should the video take place?

The answer to this question depends on your goals for the video. Maybe you want to shoot on scene at the customer’s company to illustrate how your product provided a solution. Maybe you want a sit-down interview, interspersed with product action shots. You could interview as a customer first interacts with a product to demonstrate what it’s like to get started, or you could film six months after implementation.

This is all up to you, the aims of your video and the logistical parameters you’re working with.

Fourth Wheel: Where will the video be uploaded?

This question will dictate the length of your video and should help you organize the project. Maybe you want to run a series on your Instagram account; that means video clips should be limited to around one minute. You may focus on particularly pivotal moments of filming during this section, or get creative with outtakes or a brief, captivating story.

If you’re looking to a platform like YouTube, Vimeo or your own website, a longer video (anywhere from 5 to 45 minutes) may be more appropriate. In this scenario, a larger production with a more narrative driven, start-to-finish approach will absolutely be necessary to retain interest and viewers. You can even create this, then hype the video by searching for a half dozen short moments to edit down and put on your Instagram or Facebook feed.

Build your customer story content on the frame of these four wheels and you’ll be amazed at how far it can video testimonies can take your brand!

Sean Gordon has an extensive track record recruiting, hiring, training, and unlocking the talent of people. Sean founded 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. Connect with Sean Gordon on LinkedIn.

Video stock photo by Sutipond Somnam/Shutterstock