Producing Video Testimonials Used to Be a Huge Pain. Here's How We're Fixing It.

Creating video testimonials is time consuming, difficult to coordinate, and expensive. We know. We've spent $20k on one video. Learn how we solved these problems with Vocal Video.

Creating video testimonials is time consuming, difficult to coordinate, and expensive, no matter what video testimonial service you use - and even if you're doing it yourself.

We know. We’ve done it before.

We’ve gone through the pain of coordinating video shoots with dozens of customers, hiring a videographer, and dealing with all the editing and approval back and forth. We’ve also tried DIY approaches like using our phones to film videos of our customers talking at conferences, then the painstaking editing ourselves afterwards.

At one point, our company paid $25,000, not including salaries, to fly our video team to another country to create a single video (more on that later).

From a marketing perspective, testimonial videos have consistently been worth it. They’re some of our most used and useful sales and marketing assets and have driven huge increases in conversion rates from visitors to leads.

But the time, effort, and money involved in creating these assets meant we were never able to use video as much as we wanted to for sales and marketing. So we were always left wondering:

“Shouldn't there be an easier way to create testimonial videos?”

We couldn’t find one, so eventually we built it ourselves. That’s Vocal Video.

In this article, we’ll share the story of how and why we created Vocal Video, including looking at the problems we set out to solve, including:

  1. Video shoots are hard to coordinate
  2. Editing videos takes a lot of time and specialized skill
  3. Creating a video takes a lot of time and energy from everyone involved — not just the video team
  4. Videos are expensive

After we share our video production experience, we’ll explain how we created Vocal Video to address these problems, and show you how some of our customers are using our software today.

Our Early (Painful) Experiences with Video Production and Marketing

Before starting Vocal Video, our founding team of four — myself, Jon, Jordan and Lauren — worked together for more than a decade on SaaS products designed to gather social proof and customer testimonials.

Specifically, we worked on a product called TechValidate, which was acquired by SurveyMonkey, which helps companies collect customer testimonials and case studies and turn them into beautiful marketing assets like case studies, reviews, PDFs, and more.

The TechValidate by SurveyMonkey platform

Those experiences gave us a firsthand look at how valuable social proof was to our customers’ and internal marketing efforts. But that was all about generating written social proof and static visual representations of data. That’s important, but we knew that video social proof was untapped and had a level of connection, interest, and engagement that could be extremely powerful. In short, the kind of marketing asset that could help a huge number of companies make more sales.

There’s nothing like watching a customer explain why they love a product or service.

So, like we said above, we tried all kinds of tactics to create video testimonials ourselves:

  1. Guerilla-style video testimonials that we shot at a conference with an iPhone and painstakingly edited ourselves.
  2. In-house video production with a small team of specialists.
  3. Hiring contractors to shoot high-budget testimonial videos with C-Suite executives.

Video Experience #1: Self-Producing Testimonials with an iPhone and Final Cut

Our first experience with video came when filming early customer testimonials at TechValidate. Our product was new, so it was critical to show it was legitimate, and one of the best ways to do that was with social proof from well-known companies.

Of course, we started with written testimonials, but there’s often a bit of doubt involved with text-based social proof. Anyone who has been on the 'revising' side of a written testimonial knows that it can get a significant 'treatment' before getting plastered on the website. As far as the reader knows, the testimonial they’re seeing could have been written by a marketing manager and attributed to a customer.

See this article for how to use client testimonials on your website.

It’s near-impossible to fake a video though, so we jumped at every opportunity to film happy customers talking about our product.

One such opportunity came during a conference we sponsored. Whenever a customer would visit us at our exhibition booth, we’d ask them if we could film a quick video talking about their experience with TechValidate.

We successfully filmed a few videos that helped get TechValidate off the ground, but they all suffered from the same problems:

  • There was a lot of background noise from the conference happening around us.
  • The videos were relatively low resolution because we filmed them with an iPhone.
  • The overall production quality was mediocre because we didn’t have professional lighting, audio, or a set.

Even worse, editing the videos was a huge pain. None of us were video experts, so Lauren ended up working late for a week to learn just enough Final Cut to create a usable end product.

Video Experience #2: Working with an In-House Video Editing Team

When TechValidate was acquired by SurveyMonkey in late 2015 and we realized they had a full, in-house video production team, we were excited to say the least. Finally, it felt like we had the video team and resources we’d wanted for years.

Unfortunately, the video team was always in demand, so we still never had as many videos as we wanted. On average, each marketing team would maybe get one video per year, when we really wanted more like 12 videos/quarter.

Video Experience #3: Paying $20k for One Video Shoot

A bit later during our time at SurveyMonkey, one of our best customers agreed to give us a testimonial. The interviewee was a C-Suite executive from a large company, and had a compelling success story to share. The only problem was their location: our headquarters were in the US; the executive was in Australia.

Still, our team knew it was worth the trip, so we paid an excellent videographer to fly over for the shoot. Then we waited six weeks for editing.

The final product was outstanding, and turned out to be one of our most-used assets across sales and marketing. But it was still hard to stomach that we paid $20k for one five-minute video and a teaser version of the final product.

The Problems with Every Video Testimonial Campaign

Each of our experiences was unique, but they all highlighted the same fundamental problems:

1. Coordinating In-Person Video Shoots with Customers Is Ridiculously Hard

Many of our customers were hesitant to take an hour or more out of their day to shoot one video. Even if they did agree, we’d have to find a place to record; schedule and reschedule to fit the customer’s needs; and make sure the video team was in the right place at the right time.

Plus, even when we had an in-house videographer and video producers, they always had more demand than they could handle, so the marketing team had to work around their schedule.

2. Creating a Video Requires Time and Energy from Everyone Involved — Not Just the Video Team

Before each video shoot, we had to find a videographer and give them a brief; come up with questions and a script; find, reserve, and set up a place to shoot; and stay on set to guide the conversation for the video. Then, after the shoot, we’d have to wait for the final product, suggest video edits, and find ways to incorporate the video into our marketing assets. The preparation, filming, and production took our teams at SurveyMonkey and TechValidate weeks if not more of full-time work.

3. Professional Quality Videos Are Expensive to Create

High video costs are a given. Even when we hired contractors for TechValidate, an average video easily cost us five thousand dollars or more to create. When our marketing team had an in-house team with salaries and benefits, the costs were much higher — in the hundreds of thousands per year.

4. Editing Videos Takes Time and Specialized Skill

Professional video editors are great for production value, but we often had to wait weeks for a polished final product. When we tried to edit a video ourselves, we spent hours in unfamiliar tools only to get an average-quality final result.

When we set out to build Vocal Video, we knew we had to fix all of these problems while still keeping the fundamental features that are necessary for an effective and professional end result.

Even though we’d worked with software for most of our careers, we intuitively knew solving this problem would require asking a bolder question than:

“How do we make editing, sharing or collecting videos easier?”

Many tools at the time already addressed each of those individual needs, but creating video was still a burden in terms of logistics, budget, and time.

Instead, we wanted to answer a more fundamental question:

What if there was a way for marketers and entrepreneurs to get effective customer and employee videos without all the headache?

Our SurveyMonkey customers didn’t have to schedule meetings to get customers to fill out a survey. They just sent a survey link and gathered responses.

Could we recreate the same experience for video?

Could we help people create video testimonials with no meetings, no flights, no video crew, no studio, and no all-day video shoots?

We wanted the answer to be yes. That’s why we started Vocal Video.

You can check it out for yourself with a free Vocal Video account.

Vocal Video Chapter 1: Simplifying Coordination and Setup

Before we started to build anything, Jon, Jordan, Lauren, and I sat down and asked two questions:

  1. What features would we need to provide to create a tool we’d be excited to use ourselves?
  2. What pain points do we need to solve to make using this tool a no-brainer?

We used our previous experiences to start answering both questions, but knew that we’d need input from real customers to know for sure. So we built a 1.0 version of our product and started gathering feedback.

This first product was a video collector that lets customers record testimonial videos on their schedule, by themselves, on their own device.

Here’s a quick screenshot of what that tool looks like today:

Vocal Video in action: A preview of what our platform looks like on Mobile along with Desktop & Tablet.
Click here to take a tour.

Our first collector iteration was a bit simpler than what you see here, but we were still extremely focused on the user experience for respondents.

Past experiences creating survey software told us that even the slightest bit of friction could stop a customer from moving forward, and we knew this was doubly true for video because it requires more from the customers. You can answer a survey in your pajamas, but creating a video would require looking at your face in the mirror and changing your shirt.

To reduce that friction, here's how collecting a video from a customer works with us:

  • Create a set of interview questions that you want your interviewee to answer in the video. If you don’t know what to ask, just pick one of our 46 tested templates.
  • Outline any incentives that the user will get for completing a video (you can offer giveaways, donations to a specific charity, or entry into a contest).
  • Create a short message to send your interviewee with the collector link. If you can’t think of what to say, just use our email copy templates. (You can also record a short video greeting to make the experience more personal.)
  • The user just clicks the link, sees the prompt, and answers the questions in a recording whenever they’re ready.
  • They don’t have to download anything and the collector works in any browser. It’s even easier than getting on a Zoom call!

This tool helped solve three of the biggest pain points we’d encountered in our previous video experiences:

  1. It removed the need for long, in-person meetings. Creating a video is totally asynchronous. This let’s companies get video testimonials from any customer anywhere in the world.  
  2. Provided easy-to-use templates and suggested questions so marketers wouldn’t have to spend hours preparing for each meeting.
  3. It reduces cost dramatically since there’s no need to hire an expensive videographer or travel to a site or rent a studio.

So this collector solved some fundamental problems with collecting customer video testimonials, next, we set out to tackle editing.

Vocal Video Chapter 2: Reworking DIY Video Editing

Making video collection asynchronous and location independent as explained above was transformative. Now, companies could get testimonials from customers anywhere in the world, without coordinating in-person shoots.

Still, editing those videos was extremely time-consuming and skill-intensive. So we entered the second phase of building Vocal Video and focused on one thing: editing and post-production.

The barebones requirements for a video editing tool came to me in classic “Eureka moment” fashion. That is to say, while I was doing something mundane and completely unrelated: scrolling through Twitter.

As I scrolled, I noticed that all of the most attention-grabbing videos used many of the same components:

  • Subtitles so videos could be consumed without sound.
  • Logos in the intro, outro, and subtly placed throughout the video to reinforce branding.
  • A CTA at the end to prompt action.
  • A believable message coming from an authentic subject.
  • Graphical elements to break up each video and keep them engaging.

These elements became the inspiration for the editing features in Vocal Video.

We also knew users would still want to edit the end product without hours of tutorials or a steep learning curve. So we built a drag-and-drop video editor and designed it to be easy for marketers, HR teams, and other pros to use without any video editing experience.

Here’s the editing interface you’ll see in Vocal Video today:

Vocal Video in action: A preview of what our platform looks like while editing and creating your own personalized video testimonial.  eo.
Click here to take a tour.

Now, whenever someone fills out a collector, Vocal Video will automatically insert the footage into a post-production template that includes:

  • Subtitles
  • Your logo and branding
  • The interviewee’s name, title and company
  • Animated slides that display the questions the subject is answering (see the blue squares above)
  • An optional background soundtrack (use one of ours, or upload your own)

Together, automated video production, ready-made themes, and a simple editing experience  solved the third pain point we’d experienced when creating videos at TechValidate and SurveyMonkey: Editing videos takes time and specialized skill.

Now, it no longer does.

At this point, we also felt that because Vocal Video could handle video testimonial creation from beginning to end, it also solved for the final pain point: cost.

Rather than having to hire a pro to shoot video, edit the footage, and add special effects, Vocal Video customers could handle the entire process themselves, in less time than it would take to write a blog post.

Transform Marketing Campaigns with Authentic Customer Videos

Created with Vocal VideoTranscript

Slowly but surely, our efforts paid off, and today we serve companies of all sizes who need to expand or replace their existing video testimonial creation efforts.

Clients at world-class brands like Google, GM, and Sunrun - and thousands others, use Vocal Video alongside who dedicate massive amounts of resources to video, but want to expand to create videos at a previously impossible scale.

We also work with startups and entrepreneurs who want to add credibility to their marketing, hiring, and PR campaigns, even on a shoestring budget.

Today, the Vocal Video platform features include:

  • A user-friendly video collector tool to make video coordination asynchronous and eliminate the need for on-location shoots.
  • 46 collector templates and email scripts to make set up and production easier for your staff.
  • Pre-built video templates and a drag-and-drop editor to make editing a non-issue for generalist marketers and others.
  • Automatic generation of polished videos from raw footage, with subtitles, branding, animated transitions, and soundtracks.
  • Easy-to-create Video Galleries including walls of love and video galleries.
  • Built-in ad-free video hosting and responsive embedded video players — no need to pay for business video hosting to showcase your videos without ads or competitors popping up in “related” videos.
  • Affordable pricing to make ongoing testimonial collection realistic for in-house marketing teams, to employ all the time, even if they can’t afford to spend thousands per video.

If your team wants to get the benefits — in marketing and conversion rate — of customer testimonial videos without the time and resource headaches of normal video production, give Vocal Video a try.

We believe we’ve built a platform that will give you all the tools you need to create a video, from filming to editing. You don’t need to hire a contractor, spend a ton of time organizing video shoots or editing footage, and you certainly don’t need to sign up for a costly video testimonial service. Send a link and boom: get professional videos. It’s that easy!

You can sign up for a free Vocal Video account today — no credit card info required. Plus, every plan includes unlimited collector responses. Check it out it out today.

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