Throwback Thursday—How to Create a Great Customer Video, Part I: The Case Study Interview

Compelling customer video testimonials are an important part of any modern marketing campaign. Yet superior case study video interviews require equal parts planning and magic. In a YouTube world, how do you capture the best customer sound bites on camera?

Before I learned to interview customers on camera, I hired experts. I watched and learned. After working with seasoned professionals on dozens of projects, I took on the job myself. Below are a few of the lessons I gathered.

1. Set the scene: Planning and preparation are essential.

  • Identify your customers—Understand that many customers are awkward during on-camera interviews. As a result, I schedule more interviews than I need to compensate for the few that simply don’t deliver the goods. I work closely with my sales and product team to identify our happiest, most charismatic customers. There are no guarantees, but these customers usually deliver the best interviews.
  • Prep the interviewer—Develop a list of potential case study interview questions and the ideal sound bites or quotes you’d hope to capture. And share your marketing messages with your interviewer. All of this guides the interviewer.

2. Make contact: Connect with your customers.

  • Call your customer—Pre-interviews over the phone are important for two reasons. First, they offer a helpful first impression of the customer’s charisma and confidence. You get a sense of how somebody might respond during the on-camera interview. Second, a pre-interview reassures the customer and signals what kind of questions he or she will face. Make the questions simple and straightforward to help reduce any anxiety the customer may feel. Take time during the call to describe the interview specifics and goals. Also, reassure the customer that he or she will have an opportunity to review and approve a draft cut of the video.
  • Prep the customer—I find that sharing an exhaustive list of directions on wardrobe and more will only intimidate your customers. Be careful not to overwhelm and distract them: “Wear clothes that you’d feel comfortable wearing while speaking in public.” And if you plan to use a green screen: “Don’t wear green.” Anything else is just detail.

3. Calm the customer: Ease the tension.

  • Most customers have never been interviewed on camera. Sitting in front of bright lights as a crew fusses over the shot makes most people anxious. That anxiety rarely translates well on film. I have seen the most polished public speaker freeze up when cameras and glaring lights confront him.
  • A good interviewer can combat this anxiety by engaging in plenty of friendly banter to put the subject at ease. Ask your customers to describe their jobs. “Why do you like your job?” Spend at least 10 minutes asking questions about the person, not the work. Even if you don’t intend to use the footage, focusing on the conversation will strengthen the interview.

A good interviewer focuses on the customer and conversation, leaving the cameras, lights and microphones for the crew to manage. I find that the best interviewers will laugh and smile, drawing out the customer, who soon follows suit.

By Dan Ahern