The Most Powerful Question to Ask Customers in a Video Testimonial

A few years ago, I read a beautiful quote that stated, “Your success in life is directly proportional to the quality of your questions”.

Over the past 12 years, I’ve interviewed hundreds of my client’s customers on camera. But it wasn’t until I read this quote that I started taking the quality of my questions (especially the ones I asked my interviewees on camera) seriously.

This led me to discover the most powerful question for video interviews (and its technique) I’ve ever used while filming customer testimonials.

“Your success in life is directly proportional to the quality of your questions”

If you’re a marketer creating video content from customer interviews, this technique will dramatically improve the responses you capture on camera…

The “Qualia” of Questions

First, let’s unpack the statement:
“Success = Quality of Your Questions”.

What the hell does that even mean?

Quality of Questions in Digital Life

Easy example:
Consider the questions you ask Google on a daily basis.

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Based on the quality of your search query (ie- the question you ask), the more accurate results you get.

Fair enough.

Now for a practical example…

Quality of Questions in Marketing

In my early days of video production, if I wasn’t prepared with high quality questions prior to an interview shoot… the resulting content would almost always suffer.

To be fair, I was more concerned with the technical aspects of the production, like making sure the subject was framed properly, lighting was even on the customer’s face, and audio levels weren’t peaking from the lavalier microphone.

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At the end of every production my content would look great. The lack of substance in each question was not apparent while filming.

But them came the editing… and for the longest time I couldn’t figure out why each interview felt dull, lifeless, and redundant.

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I’d constantly ask myself, “Why is this interview so boring? What am I doing wrong??”

To be clear: The “boring” was not the fault of the person on camera.
It was mine, for not providing clear direction in the form of powerful interview questions.

Solution

Over the years, I’ve discovered that having powerful and engaging testimonial questions always results in super-charging an interviewee’s response on camera. This gives the video editor excellent sound bites to use for a video case study, testimonial, or any variety of corporate promo content.

Seriously, this works. Even if the interview is about knitting sweaters.
(true story, btw)

And as a side-benefit, the editing process becomes fun again, instead of lifeless and stale.

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The Most Powerful Question for Video Interviews

This brings us to the reason you are here. You’re looking for the most powerful video interview question when capturing your customers or clients on camera.

This “power question” is more of a guided interview technique… with the power question wrapped around its outer shell.

Without this technique, the question itself is just that… a simple question.

Understanding the technique embedded in this power question is what makes it so damn powerful.

I call it the “Juxtaposition Interview Technique“. Here’s how it goes…

Juxtaposition Interview Technique

The power question to ask is simply this:

“What was life like BEFORE using (_insert_your_product_or_service_)?”

As obvious as this question might sound, it’s only the building block for a transformative interview. Here’s why…

Interview Power Question Trail

The goal here is to extract your customer’s backstory. Talking through the sense of “helplessness” they felt before implementing your product or service.

That might seem easy at first. But it’s much harder to perform properly. And the devil’s in the details…

What you’re attempting to do with this question is extract a subjective emotional response from your interviewee. In marketing, this is often called the customer’s “pain points“.

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You’ll know you’ve reached the customer’s core emotional pain point when they begin to show signs of a mental state change (I’ll explain those in a moment).

And in order to create a mental state change, you’ll want to dig deeper with each response the customer gives to the initial power question:
“What was life like BEFORE using (insert_your_product_or_service)?”

This is called the “power question trail“. A series of follow up questions that dig deeper into the past, until you strike a mental state change.

For Example:

Let’s say your company sells the XYZ Toothbrush.
We’re interviewing “Jan”, a user of the XYZ Toothbrush…

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You: What was life like BEFORE using the XYZ Toothbrush?
Jan: Before the XYZ toothbrush, getting my teeth clean was frustrating. All my previous toothbrushes hurt my gums and my teeth never felt like they were clean.

(And here’s where you dig deeper based on Jan’s initial response to the power question…)

You: What was that like… feeling like your teeth were never clean…?
Jan: It was embarrassing! I always felt like my teeth were yellow and people might judge me or stare at them when I smiled.

^ This. This is what we’re looking for… an emotional (subjective) truth, told from the interviewee’s perspective. A “what was it like for you on a day-to-day basis”, statement.

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In this example, the moment Jan gives an emotional response, she’s exhibiting a mental state change.

You’re probably thinking, “Well… that was easy.”

But in real life, these state changes can be difficult to spot. Let’s dig deeper to help you understand when interviewee reaches a mental state change (and what to do next)…

Watching for Mental State Changes During a Customer Video Testimonial

When someone experiences a mental state change, they’re usually unaware of it happening.

Think of the last time someone cut you off while driving.
The instant change you felt in your body was a mental state change. You went from “neutral” to a sudden:

Oh!, F*** this guy, his family, and everyone he knows! Justice will be served. RAGEEE!!!“.

On the other hand… your passenger (witnessing this irrational mental state change) tells you to calm down before you cause a wreck.

That’s an obvious mental state change. What you’re looking for during an interview are tiny shifts in body language.

Case in point: State changes are often unconscious to the individual. But to everyone else, they can be carefully observed.

Back to your customer interview:

While filming your customer, a mental state change can be observed if you pay close attention to subtle shifts in their body language, eye movement, and vocal tone while they answer your power question trail.

Here are some of my favorite body language responses to watch for:

    • The customer begins to chuckle while explaining the “before” experience. (This is usually a covert emotional response to the past.)

 

    • They suddenly get very serious; expressed by a deeper vocal tone and/or lowered eyebrows as if they now appear upset.

 

    • Their eyes dart to one direction for long periods of time (left or right) while they speak. (This signifies they are recalling memories of the time before they had your product or service.)


    • They might begin to speak faster and/or louder than before, when they answered your warm-up questions. (Often the result of having so many things to say about the past experience and an attempt to get it all out.)

When any of these reactions occur while the customer answers your power question trail, you’ll know you have reached the “pain point”, the “emotional response”, the “mental state” you are looking for…

Why This Interview Technique is so Powerful

Mentally placing your customer back into the experience before your product or service is critical.

Sure, it’s easy for them to “say” what business was like in the past with no emotional connection to the experience. But on camera, this response may come across as dishonest and flat. You won’t notice it while filming, but it will haunt you when cutting the video together.

However, when you mentally place the customer into the question, it allows them to speak truthfully about their subjective emotional experience.

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And when you extract this truth, the evidence will show in their body language; in the form of a mental state shift. That’s when you know you’re there.

At this point, anything they say to you on-camera will resonate much clearer to future viewers of the final video. (ie- your prospect customers)

And that’s the whole point of capturing a video testimonial, right?

Bonus Tip: While using this technique, you’ll often uncover hidden “pain points” that weren’t realized by you or your marketing team.

These interview videos (when done properly) can double-up as a customer research tool for future marketing efforts.

Moving on, this Juxtaposition Interview Technique also leverages two tactics to progress the rest of the interview…

Customer Priming and Juxtaposition

The most effective marketing is based on hard, empirical evidence in the psychology of choice. Customer choice, to be exact.

The process I’ve outlined is not new. In fact, it’s the cornerstone of psychoanalysis and most all “talk-therapy” practices (dating back to the 1910’s with Freud and Carl Jung).

Combining this time-tested method with new research in the field of neurological memory reconsolidation, the Juxtaposition Interview Technique is not only effective… it’s based on empirical science.

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In short, here’s how the Juxtaposition Interview Technique works (from a psychological perspective):

By starting with the power question, and drilling down to the emotional core (revealed as a mental state change), you’re accomplishing two very important goals every good marketers aims to achieve:

  1. The customer will be emotionally primed (a whole other topic we’ll cover soon).
  2. Asking the next big question (life with your product) will trigger a “juxtaposition” response from your customer. This is a method of comparing two situations in the mind at the same time.

The priming effect + mental juxtaposition will force your customer to make an accurate mental assessment of the before and after experience.

This triggers a memory reconsolidation effect (at the neurological level), and results in your customer making the most powerful statement they can put into words about your product or service.

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If done correctly, your customer will naturally articulate what every prospect customer watching the final video will feel is true and can completely relate to.

Once you’ve extracted this “subjective truth”, the rest of the interview will be easy. And you can relax, knowing you’ve already captured the most potent part of the interview from the start.

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Jon Acosta is a Digital Media Advisor based in Atlanta, GA. His primary focus is helping companies outsmart their competitors with smart online marketing strategy. Acosta has been a digital video consultant and mentor for some of the largest Fortune 500 companies. Some of his cliental include Apple Inc., Tekla (a Trimble Company), and Elance Inc (now known as "Upwork"). He is also a frequent course author for Pluralsight; an online technology training platform built for corporate teams.
2019-01-10T01:06:35+00:00By |Case Studies|0 Comments