Testimonial videos can be an extremely effective way to close a sale. They can also be extremely bland and useless, when not done well. 

A testimonial video can be a key addition to your consideration stage marketing content. A hesitant prospect needs to be reassured that they are making the right decision in hiring your company or buying your product. Seeing the success of someone else in their shoes might be the final push they need to sign on the dotted line.

The problem with testimonial videos is that they need to ooze authenticity to convince anyone to buy. Prospects have finely attuned BS meters when watching a testimonial. Anything that feels scripted, forced, or unnatural could have the opposite effect. These tips will help you get a video that works.

Six tips for authentic testimonial videos that close deals

  1. Don’t be paralyzed by the hunt for the perfect customer. Choose the person who’s willing to go on the record for you.

  2. Let the interviewee speak naturally.

  3. Try to avoid giving interviewees the questions in advance.

  4. Paint a picture of a person, not a customer being interviewed.

  5. If budget is an issue, try user-generated content.

  6. Slight imperfections make the perfect testimonials.

1. Don’t be paralyzed by the hunt for the perfect customer. Choose the person who’s willing to go on the record for you.

The best testimonial is given by the person who is willing to record one. We’ve seen marketing teams get paralyzed when the sales or account team gives them an “imperfect” client to record the testimonial. That client might be a smaller company or a different industry than your current target persona, or maybe they use your product in a slightly off-label way.

There are two ways to look at this issue. First, you can always record a new testimonial when that perfect client is ready to talk. Second, it’s better to have a testimonial video than to not have a testimonial video.

B2B buyers are smart. They know that the person in the testimonial isn’t supposed to be an exact replica of their experience. They want the reassurance that your company can deliver. If you have someone willing to say that on the record, that’s amazing! Take advantage of it.

2. Let the interviewee speak naturally. 

It’s so hard to resist the urge to cue a testimonial subject, script talking points, or ask them to restate something. (When you say, “That was great! Can you just say that again, but instead of ‘Globatech was a great partner’ can you say ‘Globatech Solutions Limited, an Acme company, was a great partner’?” I promise the restatement will be unusable in the video.) 

We here at Umault have dealt with a lot of legal departments, and we know that they would be terrified to read this tip. Right at the top, too! But here’s the deal: Tell your video team all the caveats that your legal team will be looking out for, and allow them to look out for it as well.

You have two main lines of defense. First, the director, who should be the person asking the questions. If this person is well prepared, then they know how to ask questions to get the answers you need. A skilled interviewer knows how to rephrase questions to get interviewees to give answers in a different way later in the interview.

Your second line of defense is post production. An editor will be pulling 60 seconds of footage out of a 30 minute interview to make the final video. A whole lot of awkward sentences will be on the cutting room floor.

3. Try to avoid giving interviewees the questions in advance.

The thing about most people is that they are nice. When someone does a favor for you — say, recording a testimonial video — they want to do a good job. They will often ask for the questions in advance so they can be prepared.

It sounds great in theory, and marketers often don’t think twice about sending the questions. However, sending the questions in advance is almost as bad as scripting the piece. The interview subject, still trying to be nice!, will write down their answers to your questions. They’ll practice them in front of their partner at dinner, or in the shower the morning of the shoot. And they’ll show up in your interview chair with a scripted piece.

Instead, tell the interviewee the general topics you want to cover. For example, “We’d like you to talk about the on-boarding process, our customer service, and the business results you’ve seen.” That gives the person a chance to be prepared with anecdotes and relevant numbers, but they won’t have a canned answer in the bag for each question.

It also allows the director or interviewer to adjust questions on the fly. A good interviewer will want to ask follow up questions or add on questions based on what the person is saying. If the interviewee is too attached to the prewritten questions, it might throw them off when the interviewer goes off script. It’s better for them never to know the script in the first place.

4. Paint a picture of a person, not a customer being interviewed.

Viewers want to know there’s a real person behind the opinions they’re hearing. Think about the type of product or service you are creating your testimonial for. If, for example, you work in the pharmaceutical or medical industry, it is incredibly powerful to show a person outside of a doctor’s office in a testimonial. If they allow you to film them at home, or with their family, viewers get a complete picture of the person whose life was improved.

You may be thinking that your product is irrelevant to a person’s out-of-office life. Give yourself some credit! Listen to the person’s story as they give the testimonial. Did your staffing agency give them the ability to take additional time off work for parental leave? Or did your remote desktop service allow someone to work from home more often, taking away their long commute and giving them two hours of their day back that they used to learn to paint? Yes, these aspects of the story aren’t as focused on business results, but keep in mind that the person watching this testimonial is, believe it or not, a person. When paired with business results, an emotional or personal angle speaks to people as people.

At the very least, film the testimonial in your client’s office, not yours. Plopping a person down in front of your logo in your conference room is the surest way to put a viewer in a skeptical mindset.

5. If budget is an issue, try user-generated content.

A video production day can be expensive, especially if you want to create a series of testimonials. If budget is a concern, try recording testimonials remotely.

User-generated content (a.k.a asking someone to record themselves on a smartphone) or a Zoom interview oozes authenticity. It doesn’t have the polish of a professional video shoot, but that’s the point. Besides, most viewers will excuse the lower video quality when they can tell it was recorded via webcam, especially since the pandemic.

If you go the Zoom recording route, you should still have a director interview the subject to ensure you’re getting the content you need. Then hand the footage off to a professional video editor to bring it together. 

If the goal is quantity of testimonials, we recommend this method over cattle call testimonials recorded at conferences. Those testimonials are often too rushed and sound especially forced.

6. Slight imperfections make the perfect testimonials.

As you are creating your testimonial, resist the urge to make it a perfectly polished brand asset. A testimonial is not your company’s brand or recruiting film. It needs to encourage a potential customer to get over their doubts and give you money. One of the key things you can do is allow the customer to share their doubts and hiccups in the process with the viewer.

Your interviewee may share a story about a time something went wrong in the process, or a doubt they had when you started working together. As long as they can talk about how you then made it right (and they wouldn’t be giving you a testimonial if you didn’t), then that’s a powerful thing to include. It validates the prospect’s doubts, and assures them that you will work to make them happy when something inevitably goes wrong.

Sprinkling these details in your testimonial makes it believable and effective. And that’s the goal, right?