Why Problems Help Your Testimonials

Recently I’ve seen an uptick in organizations placing testimonial videos on YouTube.    

You’d think this would be a great thing, right?

Well, yes and no.

You see, traditionally, customer testimonial videos were part of an actual, in person conversation.  They were shown in one-on-one meetings, in board rooms, in conference rooms, in auditoriums.  And they were put into context by the people showing them.

Putting these videos on YouTube, you take them out of the realm of conversation - and place them in the realm of questions.


YouTube and Your Website:  The Realm of Questions

You might be wondering what I mean by that.  Well, people head to YouTube (also to your website) to see if they can get information they need to make an informed decision. 

Audiences are asking, will this X (donation, product, consultant, software) bring me closer to solving my problem.

And this is where I see organizations fall down. 

In their testimonial videos, they fail to outline the problem they are solving.  Instead, a testimonial becomes an accolade.  “This solution/organization/product/company is great!”

Audience response:  “Well, that’s great but will this solve MY problem or MY concern…”


Don’t Be Afraid to Bring up Problems

Problems sell. 

If you are a mission driven organization, you may be reluctant to think of what you are doing as selling.  But you are selling ideas.

In fact, you actually exist, because of the problems are you tackling and your ideas on how to fix them.   

If you can’t effectively tell people what problem you are solving, you can’t effectively let people know how your solutions helps.

Oh, and by the way, you can't be general.  To be effective, you need to get specific about the problem and your views on it.


Here is a very simple FORMULA for an effective testimonial,

along with STEPS on how to get this information.




Think of this being for a production company that sells healthy alternatives to toxic products.

1.     Tell us about the problem: 

Ask your customer what prompted them to purchase your solution?  What was life like before using your solution? 

2.     Tell us about the solution: 

What did they do to solve the problem and why?  Yes, they purchased your product or service to solve the problem but how do they describe your solution and what did they value?  How did it solve their problem?

3.     Tell us about the benefits:  

Ask about monetary and resource benefits:  How have you helped them save money or resources or earn more money?  If you can get concrete with actual numbers, that’s great.  Additionally, ask about soft benefits:  How has this impacted your personal life?  Do they have more time for family and friends, are they working smarter with less stress.


NON-PROFIT FORMULA:  When you have a solution


Think of this as an organization like Charity Water, they raise funds to provide clean water solutions to people in need.

1.     Tell us about the problem: 

Ask your donor/supporter what life was like before the problem occurred? What were their initial hopes/dreams? 

2.     Tell us about the solution: 

What happened to improve the problem?  What do they wish would happen?  What solutions have been tried and why are they not working?

3.     Tell us about the benefits:  

How has your life changed since X solution was completed?  What can you do now that you couldn’t do before?  How has your outlook for your future changed?




In this example I’m thinking of my client, Earthworks Action.  They have been developing profile videos for the Oil and Gas Threat Map and as part of this have been interviewing dozens of people about the affects of oil and gas development.

In this case, to help viewers unfamiliar with the problems, we added one more question category – what was life like before the problem occurred.  This helps the viewer really understand the impact of the problem and the underscores the need for change.

1.     Tell us what the situation was like before the problem.

Ask your donor/supporter what life was like before the problem occurred? What were their initial hopes/dreams? 

2.     Tell us about the problem

When did the problem start?  How did the problem impact you, your community, your loved ones?  What solutions have been tried and why are they not working?

3.     Tell us about your solution

As an organization, what do you think is necessary to fix the problem? 

4.     Tell us about the potential benefits of this change

Why do you want this change to happen?  How do you envision the situation to be different if this change happens?


The trick is to ask the right questions–and then weave together a story that includes these elements without sounding formulaic.


Done right, your video will create loyal customers and loyal supporters


Remember, the audience for your testimonial video is asking themselves, “Will this solve my problem?  If I use this, will my life be better?”

If your video clearly conveys the problem/solution/benefit they are looking to solve/find/experience it will move them along their journey and they will be more likely to support your cause or purchase your product.


Here is a commercial example of what this looks like


Canon–Support Matters


Canon has a great series of customer profile stories. The profiles include on camera interviews with great visual story elements including product/location footage. And they use the problem/solution/benefits elements.

Canon has several profile series each targeting a different target audience.  I wanted to share a video from their “Support Matters” series in part because this is not necessarily a sexy topic yet the videos are interesting and engaging.  Also, this series highlights specific details that demonstrate a deep understanding of their customer’s needs

Canon offers support to their professional photographers/filmmakers who are out in the field capturing once-in-a-lifetime moments for a living.  These profile story lets their customer share a more in-depth, nuanced account of how Canon solved their problem and brought them benefits.

Check out this story by award winning documentary filmmaker, Lauren Greenfield: 

General problem:  How do you tell a good story, how do you use the equipment to tell better stories?

About problem specific to production: “With production comes crisis.”  This is a bridge to the specific problem.

Specific problem Canon Support solved (47 seconds into the video):  When filming her documentary, with the lens her camera couldn’t see fireworks far in the distance, an image critical for the ending of the story.

Solution and more about problem:  Everything we do is about the moment.  Solution – she got the lens she needed delivered to her directly. “They understand the pressure that you’re under, and respond to it.”

Benefit:  She got the images she needed for the ending of her award winning film “The Queen of Versailles”.


This is a very tight story, hitting very specific problem, solution, benefits in an organic and engaging way.  It doesn’t feel forced.  And it inspires filmmakers in similar situations to look into Canon’s support program. 

Canon has put out a series of these profile videos – each focusing on a different scenario reflecting the diversity of their target customers.




If you remember one thing from this post, it should be that you need to focus on the problem.  What problem are you solving and what problem are your customers solving.  Benefits are great, but without the problem your testimonial or profile piece is missing the main point of connection with your audience.