My latest recommended listen is “Selling the Invisible: A Field Guide to Modern Marketing” by Harry Beckwith.

“Most companies and expert services such as lawyers, doctors and accountants think that their clients are buying expertise” says Harry. “Most prospects for these complex services cannot evaluate expertise. They cannot tell a really good tax return, a clever motion, or a perceptive diagnosis. Your expertise is assumed, but they can tell if the relationship is good and if the phone calls are returned. If you’re selling a service, you’re selling a relationship.” I agree but prefer the word “experience” because, as Google defines it, it is “practical contact with an observation of facts or events.”

But given the endless number of horrifically predicable “BRAND” videos that continue to show up on YouTube, most companies seem blissfully ignorant of this fact. Bombarding their audience with why THEY think THEY’RE great. Do people really think that this biased, self centered-video is of any value? Do they know this type of video is actually hurting the perception of them? I guess they think they’re impressing people with these facts and figures. WRONG! This type of video is so cliché, so passé, one stock company even made a parody of one:

SIDE BAR: While funny, I’ve always wondered why a stock video provider would associate itself with Kendra’s effective damnation of a generic brand video. They are not helping their cause because great, usable stock video, that cannot be recognized as “stock”, is incredibly hard to find and why I dissuade clients from the use of it unless they get some help sourcing it. Authenticity is king. NOTE TO READER: Shoot your own REAL stuff and REAL people! Your investment in authenticity will not go unnoticed.

I honestly believe that a “brand” video like the above sample is usually the result of a company being too lazy, cheap or ignorant to create something real. I can just hear the powers that be uttering the words “IT’S GOOD ENOUGH”. Ugh. Yeah – good enough to put a torpedo through your brand. But what’s even worse, if they do go to the trouble of bringing in a video crew, more often than not, its nothing but a train wreck of staff proclaiming how great they are and why they think so. Do they really think anyone believes them?!?! News bulletin, they don’t! What a colossal waste of money and a waste of their audience’s time – assuming someone even bothers to watch it.

The only thing that should be coming out of your staff’s mouths are actionable insights that will help your prospects. Positioning staff as Thought Leaders they want to hear from on a regular basis because of the value they gain, not braggards or wind bags. More on that in my next blog.

Given the importance of a great working relationship, I believe the single most effective type of video, is customer testimonial video. And if you are just starting out, this should be the first type of video you create. However, this is not time for do-it-yourself. Think about it. How comfortable do you think it would be to be from your best customer to be sitting across from you, already a little nervous about being on camera and being asked, “OK Bob, why do you think we’re great?” Have a third party do the interviews.

Harry goes on to say “The first step to marketing a service is getting the service right. Find out if you have it right. Survey your clients. Ask! A basic principle in life applies to surveying clients: Even your best friends won’t tell you, but they will talk behind your back. Make it so that your clients can talk behind your back and then you can learn from what they’re saying.” In this particular context, Harry was referring to customer survey’s. But I would argue that the process of capturing a testimonial is just another form of survey. But thanks to audio and video that convey emotion, it’s a survey on steroids.

Another bonus of this testimonial process is that it keeps contact with your clients. And while you hope everything you get back is great, if it isn’t, it gives you an opportunity to you learn from and correct possible problem areas. Harry continues “It keeps you from coasting. It keeps you from wondering if or what you’re doing wrong. It tells you what business you’re in and what people really are buying.”

Finally, there is a clear advantage to having a seasoned interviewer talk to your customers. Unlike a survey with check boxes or written answers, which could really just be scratching the surface, or use words that need clarification, an interviewer has the ability to interpret and react to responses. Harry agrees saying “An experienced interviewer can be more conversational and relaxed with the subjects and can probe deeper. Finally, a person’s voice conveys feelings that written words often obscure.” Not to mention what facial expressions and body language will reveal.

When people are trying to decide whether or not to engage, social proof from unbiased sources is what they want and exactly what video testimonials provide. While text testimonials may be easier to post, as the saying goes, success only comes before work in the dictionary. And people tend to be sceptical of written testimonials. Who’s to say you didn’t write them yourself? Video, done properly, legitimizes, even authenticates what your customers think of you. It depicts the type of experience someone can expect as your customer. And short of bringing your raving fans with you to a presentation, video’s ability to capture and share emotion gives it the power of a personal appearance. The next time you’re presenting and have an objection, you can respond “You know Mr. Prospect, customer X had the same concern, and this is how we addressed it…” Jeffrey Gitomer calls this SALES TRUMP. And if you extend the use of that video to your web site and social media, video has personal appearance power 24/7.

So, if you’re not investing in client testimonials on video, you’re making your job harder than it has to be. Every business has clients willing to share their success stories and, when you pick the right ones, you make selling effortless.