videos of authentic customer testimonials are of critical importance in a company's marketing plan

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This story was originally published on Aug. 14, 2018, and is brought to you today as part of our Best of ECT News series.

Most of us understand how overwhelming it can be moving to a new city. Surrounded by a host of options for dining, shopping, daycare, leisure time, auto mechanics and everything else under the sun, making an educated decision on where to go involves some groundwork. So what is there to do?

While many of us will start by going online and checking out reviews for businesses on popular aggregate sites, our choices more likely may stem from a conversation with a new coworker or neighbor for recommendations ranging from a great dentist to the best gelato in the area.

The fact is that we hold social proof from our friends, family and even complete strangers with incredibly high regard.

Based on a Nielsen research poll, “92 percent of people will trust a recommendation from a peer, and a remarkable 70 percent of people will trust a recommendation from someone they don’t even know.”

The words of a peer are understandable; there’s an unspoken social contract involved. When you make a recommendation to a friend, you’re doing it based on trust in your relationship and with the implication that you will see each other again, so a poor recommendation inevitably will resurface in future meetings.

Why do we value the personal opinions of relative strangers so highly? A big part of it is visual evidence, which takes social proof one step further. Customers place far more trust in a review when they can see another customer speak, feel the emotion and sincerity in their words, and determine from body language and context clues the extent to which they’re being genuine.

This is what makes video testimonials such a critical facet of any business marketing plan. There’s incredible brand value to be found in sharing real customer documentation of an experience with your product and service. With the explosion of social media branding, quick testimonials that clock in at under a minute are ready-made for sharing on social media platforms and can attract a wide audience of potential customers.

So how do you manage to find customers that are willing to sit down and record a video of them selling your product for you? Sure there’s greater finesse to it, but ultimately for this to work you need passionate customers that really are willing to preach the virtues of your brand.

Fortunately, it’s not quite as big of marketing hill to climb as it may seem. Following are five awesome strategies to take advantage of when obtaining and circulating real-life, genuine customer testimonials.

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1. Find Your Fans

Before you can think about creating or distributing customer testimonials, you have to find customers who are loyal to the brand. This won’t be as hard as you think. One option is through creating social media contests, which are a great way to get customer-created content on the fly through the use of an entire campaign — more on that below.

If you’re looking to create a testimonial to display on the front page of your site, producing in-house is a great way to go.

Reach out to large-scale buyers of your products and send a request asking if they’d like to take part in testing an upcoming product, or if they’d like to tour your facilities. Offer a discount on their next purchase in exchange for them coming to a lunch at your office and having a quick on-video conversation about your products.

Be up front about creating the testimonial and try to find a customer that really would appreciate you taking notice of them. (This can lead to both a great testimonial and to your sales team being thrilled with the stronger connection.)

Remember to have all the technical side set up beforehand. Do a quick trial run with a colleague to make sure your camera, memory and mics are good to go. If everything goes to plan, all it should take is a lunch meeting to get a fantastic, shareable customer testimonial for your business.

2. Ditch the Script

Once it’s time to record, it’s completely OK to have some semblance of a plan in place. Maybe you want to touch on a few points of concern, like price versus competitors or quality. Maybe there are a few things you don’t want to talk about, like mentioning specific competitor names or special rates that are negotiated on a per-contract basis. These are all completely acceptable terms to run through prior to shooting the video.

With that…