80 percent of Americans research online before ever hitting the “Buy” button. and reviews as well as customer testimonials are powerful methods to bring the prospect one step closer to buying from you.

I see lots of websites in Cincinnati with a page of glowing reports of their products and services, features and benefits. Unfortunately, most of those testimonials are signed “S.P.” or “Mary C.” Are they real people? You’re not really sure. Given a company that uses these kinds of customer comments and one that uses video testimonials from customers, guess which one is going to have more engagement? I hope you said video.

Customer testimonials on video are usually the first kind of web content a business owner thinks about. If done well, it’s like your customers are an additional sales force for you. Here’s the difference between doing it yourself and having someone do it for you:

1. Sound and lighting must be perfect. You want the viewer to hear every nuance and not have to strain to listen to something a tiny microphone picks up from 6 feet away. Also, don’t ask your best customers to sit in front of a camera if they don’t look their best. Bad lighting ruins more videos than you think.

2. NEVER ask someone to read a prepared script. Even if the customer himself wrote it, this is not genuine.

3. Ask open ended questions. Find out what was going on before they found the business, what led them to the business, and why they keep returning. If they’re uncomfortable being on camera, get them to talk about their hobbies or kids first. It will warm them up and they will begin to free associate your business with their thoughts.

4. It’s okay for them to ramble as they’re giving their testimonial. Although, this is the spot where all the do-it-yourselfers get in trouble. What if the customer comes up with a gem in the middle of all the other stuff? The viewer watching the video might not stay around that long. In the newspaper industry – it’s called “Burying The Lead”. A skilled video editor can take that gem and form the rest of the testimonial around it. The difference being one is something that might get watched, and the other is one that will create an emotional connection. Which do you think creates more sales?

5. I know there’s a lot of discussion over which is right and which is wrong, but I do not believe a customer should give a testimonial looking directly into the camera. Let the camera be the onlooker while they tell the story to an off-camera interviewer. It’s much more comfortable for the customer, and a lot easier to watch for the viewer.

You wouldn’t allow just anyone with a paintbrush to paint your house. So make sure you have a professional direct and edit your video testimonials for maximum punch and effectiveness in your marketing tool kit.
— that’s a wrap.

Ron Harper is the founder of Videos On Your Website, a Cincinnati digital marketing firm specializing in video web content for businesses.