Nobody wants to buy what you’re pitching.
It’s simple psychology. You’re making a pitch. Thus, you have a vested interest that makes your pitch partisan, and your audience cynical.
But what happens when one consumer tells another your product really is that good? Money.
In my opinion, nothing does the job better than simple testimonial videos.
Wait. You just shuddered when I said ‘testimonial’, didn’t you? Images of smarmy infomercials rose in your gullet like undercooked pork.
Guess it’s time to address some misperceptions.
Testimonial videos are fake
When you see those car commercials where ‘real people not actors’ foam at the mouth over the latest boxy sedan, you have to assume the testimonials are fake. Or at least the ‘real people’ are, ahem, coached. Because let’s face it, no real people would spew saccharine like that, unless they were guided, and probably promised careers in reality TV.
How to avoid the fake testimonial? It all comes down to asking the right questions, in the right way. More on that in a minute.
Testimonial videos are expensive
Turning on a camera used to cost a fortune. I’ve shot my share of million dollar commercials, and hundred thousand dollar testimonials.
Those days are gone. Good riddance.
What isn’t gone is the misperception that shooting videos is complicated, and cost prohibitive.
Happily, technology and the gig economy have put great video in the realm of the DIY’er. Pro-grade cameras are cheap. Great editors / title designers / soundtracks, ditto.
But what about great directors?
That’s you, my friend. Which leads us to the final myth.
Testimonial videos are hard to shoot
No they aren’t. They just take a bit of practice. And (as I mentioned above) practice is cheap.
How to get started?
If you can set up a camera on a tripod, put your subject in a nice setting with natural light (I love gardens and cafes, personally), wire them for sound with a lavalier, and hit record, you’re halfway there.
In fact, there’s only one more, slightly tricky bit.
What to say?
If you asked me to talk about a product, I would stumble and stammer.
If you put me on the spot with a bunch of questions, I would stumble and stammer.
But if you just had a chat with me, I would have a chat with you. Nothing could be easier. And nothing makes for a better testimonial.
Here’s how I get to that natural delivery.
I start my testimonial sessions with warm-up conversations. No cameras, no notepad, no nothing. I ask my interviewee to tell me stories about their relationship with the product. How they met, how the friendship is going, and how they see it going in the future.
At this stage, it’s important to simply build a bond of trust and comfort. That way, when I switch on the camera, it becomes invisible.
Next comes the camera work. I try to have the camera on a tripod looking over my shoulder, so the real focus is the conversation I’m having (again) with the interviewee.
I usually use a wireless remote to start / stop the camera, making it impossible for the subject to know if they should be ‘on’ or simply relaxed. Very quickly, they shift to relaxed and stay there.
More often than not, I shoot the entire interview to capture the messages I think will resonate with viewers. Then I turn the camera off, shift the camera angle a bit (bringing it in closer, or off to the side) and do it all over again.
It isn’t a tedious process. Each time, the interview lasts about 5 minutes. There are no spontaneity killers like the proverbial ‘that’s great, now say it with more passion’.
The miracle of editing
I’m not going to talk about graphic design or soundtracks here. Those are subjects unto themselves.
What I am going to talk about is editing.
Editing is not expensive. You can find editors who will assemble your footage into a 1 to 2 minute testimonial for a few hundred dollars.
But make no mistake. A good editor is an artist. It’ll probably take you a few tries to find one who intuitively understands what you’re looking for.
To raise your chances of success, you need to give your editor three things: first, you need to tell them the point of the story; second, you need to highlight sections of the footage that capture your key messages (ideally 3 or less); and third, you need to reassure them that you want them to add their own interpretation and ideas.
Finally, you need to treat the first cut as a straw dog. There may be good stuff, and there may be bad. Treat the bad as a pushback point. Explain why you don’t like it, and always offer a better alternative they might work with. This is a partnership – simply saying ‘I hate it’ is completely counterproductive.
Remember, cheap is good
As I mentioned before, big budgets lead to paralysis by analysis. Small budgets are your ticket to happy experiments.
Don’t fret if your first testimonial looks rough. I shoot a few every month, and each time I improve. As corny as it sounds, this is a journey.
Finally, never, ever lose sight of the fact that your potential customers like seeing people they can relate to talk about your product in a natural way. They aren’t fussed by sub-Hollywood quality (although good sound is a must. Again, another subject for another time).
So get out there and turn that camera on. As long as you want your business to improve, you’ll be shooting.
If you’d like to meet the folks I work with when I shoot, or talk about the gear I use, drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org
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