• Robin Kastengren

Pain Points: Manipulation or Good Business?

In a nutshell, you are in business to solve the problems of your customers. You have a product or a service that will make their work or home life more efficient, less costly, more fun, more organized, or otherwise better in some way. Convincing consumers to choose your solutions over your competition means getting to the root of those problems and demonstrating to the world why you would be the best at delivering just the right answer.

What is a Pain Point

It sounds a little negative on the surface, like a bruise or a scrape or something. I’ve fallen off my bicycle and now I have a pain point on my knee. In terms of consumers, pain points are not much different, in a metaphorical sense.

Consider someone at work, diligently plugging away at the computer at whatever tasks have been assigned for the day. There are likely to be dozens of problems that person is facing in any given moment, each with their own weight and sense of urgency. Perhaps they’re hungry and lunch isn’t for another hour, or it’s getting close to quitting time and there are still tasks on the list to be completed. He or she may also be thinking about the dog at home that needs to be let out, considering weekend plans, or worried about the kids.

All of these things are problems, but not necessarily pain points. A problem becomes a pain point when that person thinks to themselves that there has to be a better way of completing a task other than how they’ve been plugging along or when they are struggling with other demands (i.e., budgets, deadlines, client interaction) and can’t quite pinpoint where things are going wrong. Still, they know it’s time for a better solution.

Examples of Pain Points

Customer problems are as varied as the people themselves and can be vague and undefined. “I wish I had more time.” Don’t we all? Pain points tend to be more specific and defined and often include the customer actively searching for solutions. However, pain points can often involve things that people see no solution to or have given up trying to find one. (That’s where you come in! You’re creative and innovative and you’ve found a way!)

Pain points can be loosely grouped into the following categories:

  • Financial. Individuals or businesses are spending too much money on their current solutions and need to reduce their spending to keep budgets in the green. Conversely, they may not be able to make enough money on the solutions they provide to their customers due to some inefficiency.

  • Productivity. Current solutions take far too much time and are using up too many hours. These easily loop back into financial woes, but the pain point is located in the amount of time, not just cash flow.

  • Process. The world is full of cool technology that can do things faster and more efficiently than humans can. If people are spending a lot of time on repetitive, mundane tasks, they are ripe for a technological replacement even if the time and budget are still agreeable. (Bonus: process solutions free up time and money!)

  • Support. The frustration of dealing with things when they go wrong is enough to send people off the deep end, especially when working with high-pressure projects or highly demanding clients. If your solution comes with better support than your competitors--customers can access you or your experts during critical moments--that’s enough for many to jump ship and choose you.

Identifying Your Customer’s Pain Points

The best way to get to the root of your customer’s pain points is to ask them. Remember, you’re trying to uncover the precise moment of frustration, anger, annoyance, or discontent. Although the exact moment is probably similar across your customers, what those moments look like in real life are going to be vastly different from person to person. Open-ended questions are the best way to uncover these motives as they give your customers a chance to tell their story, and you can sift out the details yourself. HubSpot recommends questions such as these:

  • What is your biggest inhibitor to growth?

  • What does your boss obsess about?

  • What takes up the most time in your day?

  • What topics are repeat guests at company meetings?

  • Why are you losing customers?

  • What are your personal gripes?

If you’re short on customers because you’re new or your business model doesn’t provide ongoing access to past buyers (i.e., retail storefront), or even if your current customers aren’t producing enough information for you to work with, there are many other ways to find pain points.

First, start with what you already know. What got you started? How did your products or services come into development in the first place? What were your motivators? You can also check in with your sales team as they spend a lot of time listening to customers and their problems. Social media and online groups are other sources for customer insight, especially places where people in similar industries vent and gripe about their jobs.

No Pain, No Gain

For some people, the idea of “using” pain points to get customers seems a little creepy. Who wants to make money off the suffering of others? Is it manipulative to use someone’s frustrations to get them to spend money on your stuff? If you’re using sad puppies abandoned in the snow to garner donations to your Go Fund Me, you’re manipulative. If you’re showing a business owner how you can eliminate that pain, then you’re simply doing good business.

Addressing pain points shows people that you completely understand their situation and therefore are more likely to be qualified to solve their problems.

It’s that simple. You want people to know that you “get it,” that you can empathize with what’s not working for them. You’re not here to rub salt into the wounds, after all! Instead, you’re demonstrating something that will make that business owner’s life simpler, easier, more organized, less frustrating, less time-consuming, or otherwise better than what it is today.

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