Great customer stories and video testimonials are the engine behind most marketing efforts today. Social proof is key to generating brand awareness and a best practice for moving prospects through the funnel. By empowering customer advocates to speak on your behalf, your audience will trust it more. And you can show your prospects that you not only understand their challenges, but also have the right solution to solve them.
Video Production Options by Need
When it comes to creating a powerful video testimonial, there are two main possibilities:
- ask your customers to record a testimonial themselves with a smartphone or a computer camera—also known as User Generated Content (UGC),
- or hire a specialized crew to shoot a professional video testimonial for you.
Both are part of a sane marketing strategy, and they complement each other.
UGC is for short videos. A few seconds to a couple of minutes max. They highlight a specific product or service aspect and focus more on immediate user experience than on hard data. For example when our team has deployed a new collaboration suite, I could hear all around me tidbits like: “I feel like I know my colleagues better”, “it’s so easy to see when others are available or in a meeting and open a chat box or call without intruding”, and even “I love the emojis”. These are the things my software vendor would have loved for me to capture.
But there are also more complex videos, like those focusing on hard measurable results at the business level. Or those featuring a company exec that discusses the entire adoption journey and solution impact on employees, customers, partners, environment, and bottom line. And while the world is changing fast and we forcefully learn how to be on video with a living room in the background, these videos still need some sort of a crew. It used to be a marketer, a videographer, a sounds specialist, a lights specialist, and set director all traveling to the customer HQ. It is more laid back nowadays. Maybe the video guy looks after the sound and light too. Maybe the marketer learns how to direct. Either way, the costs for an experienced team is significantly higher than post producing UGC.
Professional Video Testimonial Production Process
Professional customer testimonial video production can be complex, but it can deliver incredible results for your sales and marketing efforts. The number of videos and the topics are planned ahead of time by your marketing team based on the sales priorities of the fiscal. Formal advocate recruitment is needed because the time investment for the advocate is quite serious. It can be anywhere from an hour in a studio plus commute to a full day of welcoming your video team, booking a meeting room for several hours, and walking you around the estate for filming b-roll. Possibly entertaining you for dinner too. It can take several weeks of planning and logistics but, on the bright side, this process allows you to manage the project deeply, get everyone on the same page (of the script), and get commitment at each phase to ensure that everything runs smoothly, and you aren’t wasting time or money along the way.
If you have an in-house video team, they need to coordinate very well with marketing and most likely need the assistance of an office admin for logistics. But they will be familiar from other projects with the brand guidelines and have a better grasp of expectations.
On the other side of the coin, if you work with a marketing agency, you leave it to them to handle everything from identifying the right advocate for the interview, to briefing, planning, arranging logistics, shooting the testimonial with their video production team and post production. In addition, agencies have established processes, have best practices from other clients that can benefit you, and there’s no investment in equipment.
Professional Video Testimonial Production Costs
There’s pros and cons to each of these paths, but the timeline and costs are not that different. It can take 6+ weeks from launching a project to having a final video back and the investment could range between $10K to $100K per asset depending on
- Length of the video
- Experience of the crew
- Quality of the equipment used
- Need for complementary equipment like drones
- Complexity of the concept, set, storyline, and script
- Travel and accommodation costs for the crew
Let me break that down into project phases:
1. Pre-production (planning)
In the planning stage, all details are discussed and organized according to the purpose of the video testimonial. This stage also includes recruiting the advocates, location scouting, obtaining filming permits if needed, and making travel arrangements prior to the shoot. A professional script writer or marketer will shape the storyline and propose interview questions or a script.
This is mostly strategy, content creation, and project management with typical rates of $100 to $250 per hour. But the hours can quickly add up beyond your budget if you don’t know what you want. Clarify your message, your expectations, and the role of the deliverable in your marketing strategy. When you communicate with the team be clear about your requirements to avoid headaches.
2. Production (filming)
During the production phase of a professional customer video, there are several aspects that can influence the process, outcome and the price. These include the number of interviewees, video length and complexity, type of gear used, number of days of filming, location, and number of crew members required to make the testimonial video happen.
A crew can be a two people team or a helluvalot bigger. Depending on how complex your production is, the crew might include a script writer, a producer, a set director, production assistants, camera operators, sound technicians, interviewers, electricians, lighting operators, and video editors.
In addition to the team itself, there’s also the equipment to consider. Even if you hire a crew that already has all the necessary equipment and doesn’t need to rent it out, the cost will eventually be passed onto you through the invoice as a protective measure. This covers the initial investment as well as the equipment wear.
A basic list of the necessary gear might include anything from the basics like camera, lighting kit, portable digital audio recorder, tripod, grip, mic, headphones, teleprompter, light reflector, lenses, lavalieres all the way to more complex gadgets like drones. The more experienced a video production crew is the more specialized their tool kit will be, from extra flash memory cards and batteries, down to the most specific gear for “impossible” shots.
Equipment cost can run anywhere from $25/hour to $100’s/hour and the operators can ask anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars per working day depending on their level of experience in the field.
Styling might also make your speakers get more comfortable and ensure they look great on camera. As everything in the testimonial will impact your brand directly, if you have the budget it might be a good idea to hire a hair and makeup professional for the day.
Even if not always necessary, these types of preparations take skill and time which naturally add up to the final price line. Video production or event artists generally charge $75-$125 per person for hair and makeup.
And if none of the above has scared you yet, don’t forget about the actual filming location. Do you need a studio or a specific venue? If it makes your video stand out among others in the industry and it wows your viewers, eventually bringing in the big bucks, then there’s no destination too far or too expensive. However, the location’s price tag will also be factored into the overall cost of the testimonial production. So, expect to pay between $1200 and $2200 per day for renting out the location. The more exotic the place the higher the cost. Flying out an entire production crew to a designated shooting location also involves travel, accommodation, and meals for the entire crew.
3. Post-production (editing)
The post-production phase is where your testimonial comes to life. The editing process includes reviewing all the raw footage, trimming and arranging the material into a story, adding sound and branding elements, interlacing b-roll, adding graphics and effects. That can cost anywhere between $50/hour to $250/hour whereas more complex 3D graphics and animation could double the price.
If your asset needs extra touches, stock footage can uplift your video but the price can range from $35 to $169 per clip depending on quality and file format. And if your testimonial requires a narrator or voice over that can also mean an extra $100 to $400 depending on the experience and availability of the voice artist.
Special sound effects or soundtracks are also important in the post-production of a video testimonial as they combine with the story line or script delivering the core message with energy and power as well as helping viewers get in the mood of the characters. A quality audio file for video starts as low as a few dollars and could go well into $100’s for custom audio track.
Once the video has been finalized, what follows is the rendering, uploading and transferring stages. If charged separately, as hourly rates, that would cost an additional $30 to $75 per hour, but most of the times these are included in the overall price.
The crew and equipment costs vary a lot. You can have a few small studios in a location near your corporate event and film tens of video testimonials over a couple of days. Or you can have a small crew travel for one video. But then the testimonial will be longer, you would most likely film b-roll, or film extra interviews to use the transcript in other forms of content
Clarify requirements and budget wisely. Often costs get out of hand because of internal politics and misalignments that cause countless review rounds. You should consider that the production costs could go up depending on the number of cuts, edits, and feedback sessions required. Any additional requests or effects for the video that will reflect your brand’s image might also influence these rates.