customer with a pain point

How to understand your customers’ pain points: what every marketer needs to know.

It’s hard to overestimate the importance of understanding your customers’ pain points – because if customers don’t have a pain, they don’t have a need. And if they don’t have a need, you won’t have a sale. For the marketer, it’s a case of no pain, no gain.

What are your customers’ pain points? Hubspot describes them as unmet needs waiting to be satisfied.

So, are your customers’ pain points absolutely pivotal to your marketing? You bet they are.

Here’s why…

Why are customers’ pain points important?

Why do we buy a new car?
Hire an accountant?
Take a shower?
Enrol in a course?

Every decision we make can be broken down into two elements: the pain we are trying to avoid, and the pleasure we are moving towards.

But here’s what you need to know… they are not equal motivators.

We are more driven to move away from immediate pain than we are towards gain, and there’s a reason for that.

Our brains are wired to look for problems and danger. If you’re being chased by a sabre tooth tiger, the motivation to escape the imminent danger will be greater than the drive to stop and enjoy a snack.

It’s a matter of human survival.

So, customers are naturally drawn to businesses that help them escape their pain. It’s why they seek brands out. And it’s why talking about this pain is so important – it lets your customers know they’re in the right place.

When you talk about your customers’ problems, they listen.

But being simply heard is not enough. To earn a place in our customers’ hearts, we need to go deeper than that.

Talking about your customers’ problems is not enough

Here’s the thing.

Talking about your customers’ problems is important. And we’d be making a mistake to underestimate how important it is. But there’s another layer we need to add here…

How do these problems make our customers feel?

For example, if you’re an accountant, your clients may struggle to generate and understand their business finances.

How does that make your clients feel?

Well, they are likely frustrated that they can’t get the information they need, or maybe they feel overwhelmed trying to run a business whilst keeping on top of their financial records.

It’s not the external problem (struggling to generate and understand their business’ accounts) they are looking for.

It’s the resolution to the internal problem. The frustration. The overwhelm. That’s their motivation to buy. So it makes sense that you need to be talking about both in your marketing message: what the problem is, and how it makes them feel.

But that’s not the only reason.

Talking about your customers’ problems and their feelings deepens relationships by showing them that you care and you understand them… and that builds trust too. It’s the way we earn a place in our customers’ hearts.

In fact, marketing guru Jay Abraham recognised that “the more accurately you can describe your reader’s problem, the more instinctively they feel that you must have the answer to that problem.”

So now you know WHY talking about your customers’ problems is important.

What else do you need to know?

How aware are your prospects of the pain?

It makes sense that the more aware of the pain your customer is, the more motivated they will be to solve it.

One way of assessing this is to use the OPEN scale of awareness:

Oblivious: Customers have no idea they have a problem. As they are unaware, they have no motivation to buy (yet). For customers that are oblivious, you will not only have to make them aware that they are experiencing the problem, you also have to convince them that you have the solution for it. For this reason, this audience may have a long buying cycle and will be costly to convert.

Pondering: Customers are aware of the problem but they are not yet actively aware of the solution.

Engaged: Customers are engaged and they are actively looking for a solution to the pain that they have been experiencing.

Need: This is the most engaged state your customer can be in. They recognise their pain and are looking for a resolution as soon as possible. Often clients in this “need” state have the shortest buying cycles and the highest conversion rates.

It is important to understand this, as the less aware they are, the more of a challenge you will have to move the prospect to buy (and the more costly it is too!)

Such awareness levels also affect the level of information that you need to provide.  Prospects in an extreme need state may require very little information, whereas those in an oblivious state may need more information over a longer period of time. So choose your target carefully.

How intense is your customers’ pain?

The intensity of the pain your prospects are suffering is a crucial factor in their likelihood to buy.

If the intensity of the pain is low, the prospect will give its resolution low priority.

It goes without saying that the higher the intensity of the pain, the more motivated people are to buy. Focusing on the most intense pain is therefore the wise choice for any marketer.

How urgent is the pain?

In addition to how aware of the pain your prospect is, and how intense their pain, we should also consider how urgently the prospect needs to solve it. The more urgent the need, the more likely the prospect will buy.

How to find your customers’ pain points

There are a number of ways to identify your customers’ problems. The easiest way is to simply listen to them.

Without judgement.

Without bias.

Simply listen.

“One of the best ways to persuade others is with your ears – by listening to them.

Dean Rusk, Former US Secretary of State.”

There are lots of places to have conversations with clients both online and offline. In fact, almost every touchpoint you have with your customers has the potential to reveal useful insights.

  • Surveys
  • Personal phone calls
  • Social media
  • Exhibitions and events
  • Online reviews
  • Competitive research.

And don’t forget the knowledge you already have inside your business. Your sales and customer service teams are speaking to customers all the time (I hope!) and will have a wealth of useful knowledge.

Note: when talking to customers, use open-ended questions and whenever possible ask people to share specific stories. These will add an extra dimension to your research and provide valuable insight.

What questions should you be looking to answer?

  • What challenges were you dealing with before you found us?
  • How was that problem making you feel?
  • What didn’t you like about other solutions you may have researched?
  • What made you seek out our company at this particular point in time?
  • What angers you?
  • What do you fear?

This list is a sound starting point. However, the key here is to actively listen to your customers’ answers and follow up with questions that probe a little deeper. This will give you the best understanding of what your ideal customer is trying to achieve, and what will drive them to keep coming back.

Final and vital point…

Identifying your customers’ problems and pain is not enough

Talking about your customers’ problems and the pain they cause are the first vital first steps.

But it’s not enough to simply SAY that you can solve your customers’ problems to relieve them of their pain. If you want to build trust, you also have to prove it!

This is where customer testimonials and case studies are so valuable. They show that you’ve helped other customers in similar situations. They show that the solution you have works.

And what’s more?

It’s not you saying it. There’s much more credibility in hearing what your customers have to say than hearing what you have to say. Customers trust other customers more than they trust brands.

Once you’ve understood your customers’ pain points, gaining testimonials is your next step.

If you found this post useful, I hope you’ll put what you’ve learnt into action.

Want help with marketing that grows sales? Book a free 45-minute consultation and I’ll show you how.

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