Make testimonial advertising work for your brand

We’ve all seen cheesy late night testimonial advertising for thigh masters and miracle vitamins. They’re cringeworthy.

But a true, heartfelt testimonial can move mountains for your brand.

Here’s why they’re important. And how you can start building a library of great testimonial advertising for your brand.

Why testimonial advertising works

A brand is comprised of two things:

  1. A promise you make to the consumer on behalf of your product – This product will blow your socks off!
  2. An expectation that the consumer has of your product – I’m expecting that this product will blow my socks off, so don’t let me down!

(Speaking of promises and expectations, here’s how you dial up that relationship with your tribe)

Free brand audit ad

Here’s the problem. It doesn’t sound terribly credible when you deliver the brand promise because you have a vested interest. You’re selling the product…of course you’re going to say it’s great!

Proper testimonials give the brand promise duty to far more credible people – happy customers who don’t have a vested interest in your profitability.

Speaking of branding that balances the personal with the credible, take a look at this post next: The first step in building your personal brand

Why testimonials suck

Every brand steward wants everything about their brand image to be perfect. Unfortunately, perfect often equates with sanitized.

That’s why the majority of testimonials you see look so damn scripted. They are scripted, not to mention professionally lit, professionally recorded and professionally edited.

Funny thing is, the more professional the testimonial feels, the less credible it is. Even the most well-intentioned customer comes off sounding like a snake oil salesman if you put them in makeup, light them perfectly, and put them in front of a set that reminds you of the Young and The Restless.

Guerilla video testimonials

Mike Maddock, owner of Maddock Douglas and a mentor of mine, had a brilliant methodology for getting great testimonials. He would courier a client a Handycam video recorder, ask them to put it on their desk and point it at themselves, and have them answer a few questions he’d sent over.

The sound quality passable, but not professional. The images were often wonky. But the the candid quality of the recordings made them intriguing. We knew these people were speaking from the heart.

A great testimonial can be captured by simply having your client shoot a selfie video on their smartphone, using a lavalier mic connected to the phone to capture great audio.

You can take this one further. Send your clients a lavalier mic that works with a smartphone (I recommend the Boya – it delivers brilliant results for $25), and have them shoot a selfie video. All they need to do is send the video to you when they’re done – no need for costly couriers.

Another great way to get low-cost, effective video testimonials is to record yourself in conversation with your client. Every video platform, from Zoom to Teams, has great digital recorders that can capture the video conversation.

(That reminds me. If you’d like to know how to crush your video introductions, click here.)

If you can shoot pro testimonials, don’t

Isaac Tolpin, the co-founder of ConveYour, a great online education platform, gave me a very good reason to not shoot pro videos.

He told me that investing time, money and energy in professional video (in the case of his clients, shooting online education courses) led to the inability to throw a project in the trash and do it again. The antithesis of constant improvement.

The same holds true for testimonials.

If you book a client into a pro shooting session, pay thousands for a videographer, sound person and editor, then discover you missed a vital bit, you’ll most likely have to live with the mistake. If you had your client shoot a selfie video of themselves, it’s easy to ask them to shoot one more little clip.

When to get testimonials?

The short answer is ‘now’.

Most of us don’t gather testimonials regularly. Instead, we wait until there’s a big pitch, then blitz our clients to say something nice. The results are terrible, wooden testimonials.

The right time to capture testimonials is now, and all the time. Don’t wait until you need them, to gather them.

For example:

  • Whenever I finish an engagement, I ask the client for a written testimonial on Linkedin.
  • If a customer posts a nice comment about your product on social media, ask them immediately if they’d mind giving you a two-line testimonial that captures what they just said.
  • If you’re in a meeting where a client is praising the way a project turned out, ask them to talk into your smartphone to capture that sentiment. Need someone to edit it? FreeUp and Fiverr have awesome, affordable editors standing by.

Making this a habit guarantees you’ll have a treasure trove of testimonials when you’re pitching a new project, putting a new website together, or sending credentials to prospects.

Want more powerful brand insights specifically for your brand? Book a free brand audit with me. We’ll analyze the power and consistency of your messaging, analyze your media, and provide you with a checklist of items you can implement immediately. No charge. No strings attached. Just click here.

This post was first published in 2020, but was updated in 2022 just for you. 

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