Video Testimonial Do’s and Don’ts for Health Clubs

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The “perfect” customer is willing to go live online with a video praising your club. Here’s how to avoid the classic blunders and get the most out of those opportunities.


Let customers use their own words

A recent client of ours had several customers who were willing to tell their stories on camera. And the stories were all 100% positive. Unbelievably so. In fact, they sounded scripted. Not surprising, since most of the questions sounded like these:

  • Would you say you’d recommend (Health Club Name) to your friends?
  • When you first signed up for (Program Name), tell us what you liked about the instructors.
  • Was the (Setting) warm, inviting, and enjoyable?

What’s wrong with this? Most of your prospects want to hear the authentic voice of your existing customers. They can tell when you’re trying to coax something positive out of a customer. It doesn’t sound authentic.

Leading questions that hint at the answer you want will never sound as authentic as the unscripted, unprompted, unrehearsed words of your customers.

Pick a quiet, relaxing setting

Choose a location free of distracting sounds like the squeak of basketball shoes on wood floors, traffic, people diving into pools, or customers entering and leaving.

You’ll also want to remove background visual distractions such as customer traffic, member check-ins, or opening and closing doors. If you don’t, people will stop watching the testimonial and start wondering why the woman in the green dress is so upset. (She misplaced her cell phone.)

A casual, relaxing setting will produce a better testimonial too. More formal settings make your customer uptight about what they’re saying — it’s performance anxiety. They’ll start editing their responses in real time, trying to say only positive things in order to ensure a good, usable video. Which of course it won’t be, because it will have lost the feel of authenticity.

In fact, the more casual and one-on-one you can make the interview, the better.

Keep it brief

The shorter your videos are, the less time you’ll spend re-shooting them. It’s also less likely that someone will unintentionally walk in front of the camera or interrupt for directions to the locker room. It’ll be faster to edit, if you absolutely have to. And it’ll be easier to upload them to YouTube, your website, and Facebook.

Shoot multiple videos if needed. You can always edit them together, and it keeps size down.

Phones are okay, but…

It’s definitely okay to use your smartphone for a quick testimonial interview, if you use the production quality tips provided below.

However, practice, practice, practice before you meet with your customer to record their testimonial. Fidgeting with the controls on your phone is a great way to stop your customer’s momentum in its track.

Check out a tripod for your smartphone, and if your club has a professional or prosumer-level video camera with a tripod and professional-quality microphone, that’s even better.

Pay attention to production quality

Pay attention to lighting, focus and the environment or setting.

You need plenty of light. However, harsh, fluorescent light shining on an oily face isn’t going to look as good on camera as a warm, soft light, daylight, or even light shadow.

Make sure you’re shooting in high-resolution and that image stability is activated — that reduces the “jiggle” if you’re recording without a tripod.

Try to pick a naturally-lit room or corner out of the main traffic flow, preferably one with a comfortable place to sit and a solid-color background. That will literally show your customers in the best light and get rid of a lot of distractions for those viewing the video. Plants can help soften the sound, too.

If you’re fortunate enough to have an attractive “photo spot” outside your building, use it. Just remember to check outside noise levels first.

Avoid rooms full of hard surfaces which typically echo. That’s why it’s not great to shoot testimonials on the basketball court unless you’re going for the “ptoing” sound of a bouncing ball or the squeak of shoes on polished wood.

Sure, video production software can fix some of these things — we can remove image “jitter”, equalize sound volume, remove some background noise, and use special software features to eliminate visual clutter and distractions. But it’s ultimately a case of “garbage in, garbage out.”

Avoid editing and special effects

If you’re producing your own customer testimonial video, avoid edits when possible. Generally, unless the customer’s using profanity, has completely lost their train of thought, or suddenly sneezes violently, there’s little reason to stop the camera rolling.

If you do have to edit, simple crossfades work best. Avoid swirls, shutters, checkerboards and other fancy transition effects. A title slide or two is OK if absolutely necessary. Just remember, this testimonial is about your customer’s story, not all the fancy effects available in the video software.

Videos look more authentic when they’re not perfect — as long as viewers can easily hear, see, and follow what the customer is saying.

Produce the video in a widely-used format

For website, YouTube, and Facebook videos, one of the most portable formats is MP4 – H.264 AVC 1920×1080. This is a widescreen format compatible with YouTube, Facebook, and most websites.

The codecs (software that allows you to instantly stream and play the video) for this format are widely available, work well with both linked and embedded videos, and are usually built into most operating systems, browsers and apps.

Use the video in your marketing

Everywhere! Not just on your website, or only on YouTube.

Consider how the video fits your club’s brand, its message, and your overall sales and marketing plan.

  • Is it a feel-good story? Local girl makes good? Victory over adversity?
  • When, where, and why does it make sense to inject the video into the dialogue with your prospective customers?
  • How does the video help reinforce your message, deal with objections, and seal the deal?

Answer these questions with your video and you’ll get way more mileage out of it than you ever thought possible.

Like customer reviews, video testimonials can be a critical and very effective part of your club’s marketing message — and one that uniquely matches your prospects to the real stories of others like them.