One of the most widely-used genres of video for business is the customer testimonial video. They can be powerful tools in the marketer’s toolbox because they offer a forum for other people to talk about your business. This gives you that all-important persuasive advantage known as social proof. The idea of social proof comes from Robert Cialdini’s book “Influence”. Social Proof states that people are more likely to believe something is true if they perceive that other people (especially their peers) believe it is true. A customer testimonial video can be that last hurdle that a would-be customer or client needs to clear in order to take action and buy from you.

But simply picking a customer and putting them in front of a camera isn’t enough. You need to go in with a plan. Here’s a list of the 4 essential elements that every successful customer testimonial has:

1. Relatable Subject Hero

Who you choose to be in your testimonial is important. They’re the hero of the story. Ask yourself the following questions before you make a selection:

  • Have you developed a good relationship with this customer already? If not, they might come off as nervous or off-putting during a video interview. Make sure there’s good will between you and the person you’ll be asking to appear on camera for you[/li]
  • Does your hero’s values match with your audience’s values? People are more persuaded by those they perceive as their peers. Matching up subject to audience will allow your video to be more effective.
  • Is your hero articulate and warm? It sounds harsh but the reality is not everyone is a rock star in front of a camera lens. Being on camera can feel unnatural and cause some people to become closed-off, withdraw, or visibly nervous. Be careful to select a hero who is warm, inviting, and can represent your organization well.

2. A Compelling Goal

What does our hero want to achieve? Success? Saving money? More freedom? Be sure to articulate before-hand what our hero wants to achieve and to have them articulate that during the interview. The audience won’t be able to identify and root for the hero if they don’t know what the hero wants. It helps if this goal is similar to your audience’s goals, which will make our hero even more relatable.

3. Struggle

Once a compelling goal is established, we’ll want to show what obstacles and challenges are getting in the way of our hero successfully accomplishing her goal. Revealing real struggle will cause the audience to root for your hero even more. This is also the opportunity to zero in on what pain your company solves. Showing that pain through the eyes of the hero makes it come to life.

4. Transformation

Transformation is perhaps the most important element of the customer testimonial (besides #5 below). Transformation shows that whatever our hero was struggling with or fighting against has been defeated. Good transformation stories not only show what was defeated or overcome, but what it gives the hero (i.e. “I’ve saved so much time” becomes “I’ve saved so much time, and now I can be home to watch my daughter grow up”). In great stories, the hero emerges at the end as a different person. The old has fallen away to make room for the new.

5. Your Company is the Mentor, not the Hero

This is the mistake that many companies make. Don’t try to force yourself into the story. Remember, the hero is the customer. The appropriate role for the company is the mentor. In Joseph Campbell’s idea of “Hero’s Journey”, the mentor is someone who comes alongside the hero, not in front of them. The mentor keeps the hero focused on their goals and gives them clarity and direction. Be a mentor, not a hero.

Here’s a couple of examples we’ve produced that show the above elements put into action:

Example 1: Counsyl Customer Story

Example 2: BNI Customer Story


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Bullhorn Media – A video production company serving the Nashville area. We understand that great marketing has always been about great storytelling. And great storytelling is what we do. 


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