Advertisers have known for decades the power of the customer testimonial, as any viewer of late-night television can attest. These testimonials are equally persuasive on other marketing platforms like digital, and today’s tools make them easier than ever to capture and distribute.

The authenticity of testimonials are particularly useful in healthcare marketing, where campaigns like promotions and advertising are rarely used. Plastic surgeons have histories showing off their work in before-and-after photos, but these anonymized images don’t have the persuasiveness of a person willing to lend a human face and voice to endorse the physician.

This humanity is extremely useful when marketing healthcare services. Credentials like medical schools attended, board certifications and other credentials are easy to quantify—but results, bedside manner, and overall experience are at least equally important to patients. That’s why it’s so common for people to ask their friends for referrals. That trust, however, extends rather easily beyond established relationships: 79% of consumers say that they trust testimonials as much as personal recommendations.

Building solid testimonials

Exaggerated wonder, fake shock…we’ve all seen examples of terrible testimonials. These can harm your brand and should be avoided at all costs. The efficacy of a testimonial is directly correlated to its authenticity and the key components of that are empathy, specificity, and honesty.

Empathy. Testimonials resonate with patients when they can relate to the people providing them. “That’s exactly the problem I am having,” and “I’m nervous about that, too” are the kinds of feelings you want patients to feel when watching testimonials. Think about your ideal patient—what she looks like, what her concerns are, and what results she wants—and then reflect those in your testimonials.

Specificity. Avoid vague testimonials that make generalized statements like “I like Dr. Thompson, she is great.” Instead, you want testimonials to be miniature case studies that describe pain points and how your practice solved them. Patients need to be reassured that whatever problem they are having has been dealt with before and resolved positively.

Honesty. Never use friends, family members, or actors in testimonials. It is vital that they all come from real people who are genuinely pleased with your practice and area offering their endorsements voluntarily.

Establish a process to obtain testimonials from satisfied patients

It’s hard to get most people to speak on camera. It’s important to strike while the iron is hot; that means asking patients when they are most likely to say yes and minimizing roadblocks to actually getting it done.

The most important step in achieving this is to always have a staff member trained in obtaining video testimonials on duty. That way, when a patient agrees, you are ready to begin the process immediately and avoid worry of cold feet that may develop later. Keep a small camera and tripod in your office that can be quickly set up to capture the video. These days, it can be as simple as an old iPhone and small consumer grade mini-tripod. Keep an area with a neutral background and good lighting that is away from the noise of the office available to capture these interviews.

Once the interview is complete, be sure to have all the necessary forms on hand for the participant to sign. HIPAA regulations are very strict on using personal patient information in marketing, so make sure you have the permission documented. It is usually best to wait until after the interview has been completed to get the forms signed.

How to utilize these powerful testimonials

One of the great things about video testimonials is that they have so many valuable uses. The most obvious place for them is on your web site, where they boost search engine optimization and reinforce your brand. Testimonials are powerful allies throughout your entire digital footprint. Social media, newsletters, and blogs are great examples of where videos can reach audiences effectively.

You can also leverage the search ability of video to lead patients to you. YouTube is the second most popular search engine on the internet, right behind Google. If you upload patient testimonials to YouTube using intelligent descriptions that patients seeking solutions to specific problems are likely to search for, you can capture some of that traffic. Be sure to include a link back to your web page in the video description field so you don’t lose would-be patients to the YouTube rabbit hole.

In the world of healthcare marketing, little says more to consumers about your practice than the experience of those that came before them. Harness the power of that resource and use video testimonials to help tell your story.

Ken Robbins is the CEO and Founder of Response Mine Interactive, a digital marketing agency that helps health and wellness companies. RMI clients include Liberty Medical, Hoveround, Back Pain Centers of America and MedExpress and Wahoo Fitness.