Testimonials work

5 Tips for Capturing Testimonials With the Power to Sell

Companies and video producers have been using testimonials as a part of their marketing strategies since the beginning of direct response television. Through the years we have seen actual customers or “actor portrayals” give opinions about products or services in the hope that what they deliver on camera is compelling enough to make the consumer take notice or make a purchase. The art of capturing a true, real-life testimonial is actually that: an “art.”  If you haven’t experienced being a testimonial first-hand, it is a terrifying experience to have a bunch of strangers, a camera and bright lights, all staring at you hoping you say something interesting enough, so the director can break for lunch. CEOs of Fortune 500 companies, who give speeches to hundreds of employees for a living, have cowered at the very thought of saying anything in front of the camera. So how is the average consumer going to get through this ordeal and say anything that seems remotely exciting about this product they absolutely fell in love with? As a marketer, how do you pull out those compelling responses we know that brand enthusiast has inside them? You’ve done your due diligence; you’ve selected your on-camera talent through email submissions or social media reviews. You’ve narrowed it down to the chosen few, and now you’re ready for… lights, camera, action. But what happens when you realize that camera is now a terrifying factor and what you have in the edit suite is nothing but talking heads that are cold and stiff? They say what you want to hear, but there’s no life, no energy and no compassion. Your production money is wasted!

Here are five simple tips to ensure your testimonials are not only genuine, but something you can use for more marketing avenues besides television.

1. The Conversation
Any director of quality testimonials will tell you it starts with the off-camera conversation. Start by talking about anything, with the exception of what you are going to talk about in front of the camera. Simple everyday questions like what they had for breakfast? Where did you grow up? Just like a pitching coach on the mound to calm down his pitcher in a pressure situation, you want to warm them up and create an area of comfort. If your testimonial feels comfortable, their answers will come across sincere and honest, which will resonate with your audience.

2. The Trust Tree
Just like a good car salesman that can sell ice to Eskimos, the same can be said for a director. Talented directors can envision that shot or the scene to make everything pop on the screen, but getting someone to say something in a way that makes people stop and take notice is a different animal. Once your testimonial is positioned in front of the camera, the lights are lit and the camera is rolling, it’s time to create an environment that is like having a conversation with a lifelong buddy. Man or woman, it’s the same formula no matter if you’re discussing incontinent supplies or a kid’s toy.  Feel free to get off topic with your questions, until there is a sense of comfort in your testimonial’s answers. Their responses may very well surprise you and help bring a higher level of credibility to your products.

3. The Repeat
Listen! Listen for key selling points within your testimonial’s responses. Let his or her answers be lengthy and detailed, because there might be little nuggets of marketing gold hidden within their experience. Asking a testimonial to repeat a certain section of their answer does two things: 1) It allows you to shorten a response and 2) you can get them to add more energy and excitement to what they just said. So, a director might say: “What you just said about your favorite feature was awesome! Can you summarize that into about 12 to 15 seconds and put a little emphasis or energy into the ease-of-use?” You now have captured a lengthy, well thought out testimonial you can edit into what you need for television and a short, compact, energetic response that is great for intros, transitions or online reviews.

4. The Environment
Depending on the item or service you are trying to sell, the environment you conduct the testimonial is just as important as the person delivering the responses. Look for little things that can be distracting to the audience, like background objects, pictures on walls and household decorations. Less is more in this case. You want the focus to be on the person delivering the answers and not a family photo in the background. And this is just a pet peeve, but electrical outlets in the background suggest the producer is just too lazy to get the right shot.

5. And Most Important… SMILE!
When you see someone smile it’s contagious and it brings an energy to what you are trying to pitch.  If you see someone happy, energetic, and smiling, it makes an audience take notice. If that person is happy with their experience, then why can’t that product or service do the same for me? You will be surprised at how much easier it is to have a person say something convincing when you ask them the question and say, “Remember to smile.”

Having conducted thousands of testimonials for campaigns in countless categories, the one constant is this: every person is different. As a marketer you need to adapt to each one if you want to get the maximum return on your production budget. As old truism states that word-of-mouth is the best advertising, but in today’s world of social media and the latent desire within everyone to influence others, the new truth is: a great testimonial, and the desire to be one, exists in just about everyone. Use these tips and push your producers and you might just tap into testimonial gold.


Colleen and Shayne Ferrier About the authors: SCF Direct’s Shayne Ferrier is an accomplished writer/producer/director with over 20 years in the Direct Response TV area. Considered an expert in producing effective content, Shayne has proven himself in all aspects of video production, including capturing compelling testimonials. His broad category experience makes him indispensable in launching any campaign.  Shayne’s clients include, but are not limited to, Training Mask, Toyota, Rockport Shoes, Iron Mountain and MIT. He can be reached via email at Shayne@goscfdirect.com or by phone at 801.850.3867

SCF Direct’s Colleen Ferrier is a seasoned direct marketing expert with more than 15 years of field experience specializing in guiding integrated direct-to-consumer campaigns with an acute focus on her client’s investment return. Her broad experience over the last decade and a half has included management oversight of marketing, operations, TV video production, and international distribution. She has been instrumental in leading teams through the process of producing/directing some of tv’s most success DRTV campaigns including GTWORX, Little Giant Ladder, and Pillow Pets. She can be reached via email at Colleenferrier@goscfdirect.com or by phone at 801.455.7629.