Your edit has a charismatic interviewee, beautiful B-Roll, snazzy motion graphics and a catchy music bed. Yet for some reason, the video just isn’t clicking: why is your customer testimonial broken?
The answer might be narrative structure; or lack of it. Narrative structure can be thought of as the order in which your messaging points are presented to the viewer, and the content of those messaging points. Not only do you need the right building blocks, but you need to place them in the right order too — or else your whole testimonial could come crashing down.
Intro: The overall biggest and best benefit
Despite massive statistical evidence to the contrary, most folks (editors and clients alike) assume that every viewer is going to watch a video to completion, paying rapt attention all the way through. Just consider your own viewing habits for a second — how often is that the case? Don’t give your audience a reason to click away in the first few seconds — hook them with the very best sound bite you have — that nugget of gold where your subject succinctly conveys why they’re such a passionate advocate for your product or service. This should be a memorable, high level statement — the one thing you want the viewer to take away from the entire video. Don’t hold on this to the very end, because frankly, a substantial number of viewers simply aren’t going to make it there.
The pitfall entrapping many a video is spending these precious first few seconds having the speaker introduce themselves and give background on their company or organization. Besides the fact that this information transfer can be accomplished with a simple lower third/chyron graphic, the issue with this approach is that you haven’t given the viewer any reason to care about who this person is or what they have to say. Job #1 is to establish an emotional connection and speak to your viewers needs and desires. They’re watching your video to quickly determine if they think your product or service could solve their problems; unexciting background on a stranger doesn’t help get them there.
Rising action: What was life like before “X”?
With your viewer hooked by your opening statement, it’s time to jump into the time machine and find out what life was like for your “hero” (your interviewee) before “X,” aka a time before they started using the product or service in question. Why is it important to spend precious seconds of your video discussing the past? Because all stories, even testimonials, are ultimately about a central character embarking on a journey to overcome some kind of challenge. Be sure to have your hero lay out what life was like (inefficient, frustrating) before — and why the old way was untenable and needed to change. There’s an element of conflict in every good story, and this is the section to build some narrative tension in what is otherwise likely an overall bubbly, positive piece. What was your interviewee yearning for? Why were their previous problems significant? Don’t shortchange this part of the story, otherwise your viewer will be less appreciative of the turnaround that follows.
Climax: What is “X,” and why do you love it?
With the time machine back in park, now’s the moment to get back to the meat and potatoes of the video. Here, your hero should explain in concrete terms (but importantly, still in his/her own words!) what the product or service actually is, (E.g., “Bionic is a great tool that automates the entire media buying process.”) as well as a few of the best sound bites on why they love it. Define the product/solution, illustrate what separates it from competitors and illuminate all unique benefits. If there’s ever a time to get into jargon and deep detail in a :90 testimonial, this is it. Speak to the specific, nuanced concerns or questions you know a viewer in your particular industry could have.
Falling action and resolution: What is life like now with “X?” What does the future look like?
Believe it or not, it’s already time to start wrapping things up for your typical :90 testimonial. In the final section, pull the strands of the story together by communicating how life has been improved at a high level for your hero — more effective and efficient, less distracted and stressed. Everyone wants a partnership or product they’ll be able to rely on for a long time, so end on a note that shows your existing customers are excited at the prospect of remaining with you for years to come.
That’s it! Now you have a narrative structure to return to time and again for your Customer Success Stories, no matter the industry, client or product. Obviously, make sure you ask the questions posed at the top of each section in order to elicit the kinds of responses you need as building blocks. If you don’t ask about it, you can’t be confident your interviewee will cover it. And that’s what this formula is about; being confident that you’ve captured all of the elements necessary to tell a pixel perfect video customer testimonial — every time.
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