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Pain Points: A Guide to Finding & Solving Your Customers’ Problems

February 28, 2018

Like belligerent seniors complaining about how the bad weather aggravates their arthritis, marketers always seem to be talking about pain points.

Customer pain points, 1-10 medical pain scale image, smiley face pain scale

Unlike a bum hip, however, the kind of pain points marketers typically encounter can be a little more complicated.

In this post, we’ll be diving into the world of customer pain points – specifically, what they are and how you can position your company as a potential solution. We’ll be taking a look at several real-world examples to see how marketers overcome some of the most common customer pain points, as well as general tips on how to make yourself indispensable to your prospects at the right time, in the right place.

Before we get to the examples, though, let’s start with the basics.

What Are Customer Pain Points?

A pain point is a specific problem that prospective customers of your business are experiencing. In other words, you can think of pain points as problems, plain and simple. 

Customer pain points concept illustration

Like any problem, customer pain points are as diverse and varied as your prospective customers themselves. However, not all prospects will be aware of the pain point they’re experiencing, which can make marketing to these individuals difficult as you effectively have to help your prospects realize they have a problem and convince them that your product or service will help solve it.

Although you can think of pain points as simple problems, they’re often grouped into several broader categories. Here are the four main types of pain point:

  • Financial Pain Points: Your prospects are spending too much money on their current provider/solution/products and want to reduce their spend
  • Productivity Pain Points: Your prospects are wasting too much time using their current provider/solution/products or want to use their time more efficiently
  • Process Pain Points: Your prospects want to improve internal processes, such as assigning leads to sales reps or nurturing lower-priority leads
  • Support Pain Points: Your prospects aren’t receiving the support they need at critical stages of the customer journey or sales process

Viewing customer pain points in these categories allows you to start thinking about how to position your company or product as a solution to your prospects’ problems. For example, if your prospects’ pain points are primarily financial, you could highlight the features of your product within the context of a lower monthly subscription plan, or emphasize the increased ROI your satisfied customers experience after becoming a client.

However, while this method of categorization is a good start, it’s not as simple as identifying price as a pain point before pointing out that your product or service is cheaper than the competition. Many prospective customers’ problems are layered and complex, and may combine issues from several of our categories above. That’s why you need to view your customers’ pain points holistically, and present your company as a solution to not just one particularly problematic pain point, but as a trusted partner that can help solve a variety of problems.

How Do I Identify My Customers’ Pain Points?

Now that we know what pain points are, we need to figure out how to actually identify them. 

Although many of your prospects are likely experiencing the same or similar pain points, the root cause of these pain points can be as diverse as your clientele. That’s why qualitative research is a fundamental part of identifying customer pain points.

Customer pain points qualitative research concept illustration

The reason you need to conduct qualitative research (which focuses on detailed, individualized responses to open-ended questions) as opposed to quantitative research (which favors standardized questions and representative, statistically significant sample sizes) is because your customers’ pain points are highly subjective. Even if two customers have exactly the same problem, the underlying causes of that problem could differ greatly from one customer to another.

There are two primary sources of the information you need to identify your customers’ pain points – your customers themselves, and your sales and support teams. Let’s take a look at how to get the information you need from your customers first.

Conducting Qualitative Customer Research 

One of the best ways to learn your customers’ biggest problems is by really listening to them.

Recently, we held our first Customer Insight Round Table event, in which we invited 11 WordStream customers to spend some time at our offices in Boston to share their experiences - good and bad - with us openly and honestly.

Customer pain points WordStream customer roundtable

A WordStream client evaluates a series of problems and proposed solutions
during our first Customer Insight Round Table event

As part of this process, we asked attendees to participate in an Ideation & Design workshop, a collaborative, hands-on session in which our customers identified some of their biggest challenges as online advertisers. This helped attendees remain focused on the problems they shared as advertisers, rather than as individual entrepreneurs and business owners, and also allowed us to focus on solving problems that were within our control.

We learned things about our customers’ problems that even the most detailed questionnaire could never unearth, and it gave us the opportunity to discuss those issues within the context of wider problems that our customers are experiencing. This gave us a remarkably detailed view of our customers’ pain points as well as a broader view of how the current economic climate and other factors are affecting real businesses.

Customer pain points WordStream customer roundtable

This kind of event is invaluable to you as a business. Not only does it allow you to converse at length with the people who are actually using your products, it also creates an environment in which problem-solving is a collaborative process.

Conducting Qualitative Sales Research

The other research resource at your disposal is your sales team. Your sales reps work on the frontlines of the battle for the hearts and minds of your prospective customers every single day, which makes them an invaluable source of feedback on your prospects’ pain points. 

However, as valuable as your sales team’s feedback can be, it’s important to distinguish your sales reps’ pain points from your prospects’ pain points; your sales reps’ problems may be very real, but you’re not building a product or providing a service to make your sales reps’ lives easier (at least, not in the context of this article).

It’s crucial to separate operational challenges from genuine customer pain points. For example, let’s say your reps are experiencing a slow quarter, and sales goals have been missed for two consecutive months. Here’s where things can get complicated. Facing the prospect of missing another sales target, your reps might be tempted to bemoan a lack of qualified leads or the quality of the leads assigned to them. While this may be a legitimate complaint, it’s got nothing at all to do with your customers’ pain, so you have to filter out the noise to get to the actual problem.

Customer pain points WordStream survey what would you do differently word cloud

This word cloud of things advertisers would change about their campaigns
offers us a lot of insight into our customers’ pain points

Now let’s say that your reps tell you that they’ve had several potential deals fall through because the prospect told them that PPC is “too complicated.” This is a genuine customer pain point. This speaks to several potential pain points, including a lack of experience or training, a poor understanding of PPC best practices, badly allocated ad budget, a fundamental misunderstanding about your product and what it does, and dozens of other potential problems.

Regardless of what’s causing the pain, you now have a pain point you can counter in your marketing. Remember our list of pain points from earlier in this post? Let’s take a look at the pain points we identified, and see how we could address them in our marketing:

  • Financial: Emphasize lower price point (if applicable), highlight the average savings of your client base, use language that reiterates better ROI
  • Productivity: Highlight reductions in wasted time experienced by current customers, emphasize ease-of-use features (such as at-a-glance overviews or a centralized dashboard)
  • Processes: Mention current/planned integrations with existing products/services (i.e. Slack’s integration with Dropbox and Salesforce), highlight how your product/service can make typically difficult/time-intensive tasks easier
  • Support: Help the prospect feel like a partner by highlighting your after-market support, use connecting language (“us,” “we” etc.) in your copy

It’s important to remember that you can’t “prove” you can ease your prospects’ pain, and what works for one customer may not work for another. That’s what makes social validation so crucial when using customer pain points in your marketing; word-of-mouth recommendations and user reviews become much more persuasive when a prospect already believes your product or service could make their life better.

Customer pain points social validation customer testimonial

That’s why you should be using customer testimonials and other social validation tools in your marketing – a great review or glowing testimonial can sell your product far more effectively than even the most silver-tongued salesperson.

Mini Case Study: WordStream for Agencies

When it comes to PPC, agencies face many unique challenges. From balancing account management with sourcing new clients to improving performance and demonstrating ROI, life is far from easy for agency PPC professionals. 

In May last year, we set out to learn what makes the average internet marketing agency tick – with particular emphasis on the challenges agencies face – by conducting a survey of more than 200 internet marketing agencies specializing in paid search from all over the world.

The results were fascinating, if a little predictable in some cases.

Customer pain points WordStream agency survey biggest challenges

During our analysis of the survey data, we found that time management was the single greatest challenge facing agencies today. This was perhaps the least surprising of the survey’s results – it’s no secret that agencies are under tremendous pressure if they want to compete in today’s online advertising ecosystem. Even the most skilled PPC professional still has to spend time actually working in their clients’ accounts, making time management even more crucial for agency PPC managers.

We already knew that time management was a major pain point for agencies before we built WordStream Advisor for Agencies, but when we launched the tool, we wanted to really speak to our agency clients’ pain points. Take a look at this page intended specifically for prospective agency clients:

Customer pain points WordStream for Agencies page

Although we also highlight WordStream Advisor for Agencies’ range of tools and the ease of use offered by the platform, time savings take center-stage throughout this page precisely because time management is agencies’ top priority.

Almost all of the copy on this page reiterates how much time agency PPC professionals can save by using our software, and this benefit-driven approach shapes the style, tone, and language of the entire page. In fact, we take our agency prospects’ pain points even further as we progress down the page:

Customer pain points WordStream for Agencies benefits

We know that time management is our agency prospects’ biggest pain point, but this alone isn’t all our agency prospects are worried about. Remember how we said that balancing time between account management and finding new clients was another pain point experienced by many agencies? The screenshot above shows how we’ve directly addressed this particular pain point within the context of time management and efficiency – both Productivity and Process pain points that follow logically from the initial identification of time management as agencies’ major pain point.

Remember – it’s not just about identifying your prospects’ pain points, it’s also about emphasizing what solving this pain will help your prospects do. The clearer you can make this in your copy and campaigns, the more likely your prospects are to respond positively.

Leveraging Customer Pain Points in Online Ads

Now that we’ve explored the concept of pain points in a little more detail, let’s keep going with our examples of how to leverage this pain in your online ad campaigns.

Addressing Customer Pain Points in Paid Search Ads

You’ve conducted qualitative research into what pain points your prospects are experiencing, and now you’re ready to use this knowledge in your search campaigns. What does this look like?

Customer pain points ADP payroll PPC ad example
 

The image above is an ad that was served to me for the search query “payroll services” on Google. Unsurprisingly, the top ad was for ADP, one of the largest payroll providers in North America. If you’re not familiar with the fascinating world of payroll services, this ad might not look all that tantalizing, but to anyone who actually works with payroll on a regular basis, this ad could be very tempting.

One of the biggest financial challenges growing companies face is payroll. According to Paychex, payroll can cost anywhere between $20 and $100 per month in addition to a fee of up to $5 per employee per payroll run. This can make hiring new people a significant expense for some companies (especially when you factor in benefits and other costs), particularly newer, smaller businesses. From the get-go, this ad promises us two months of free payroll services, but that’s not what we’re interested in – we want to take a closer look at the ad copy.

The first line of copy – “Let ADP Take The Weight Off Your Business With Fast, Easy & Reliable Payroll” – hits all the right notes. For one, the use of the phrase “Let ADP Take The Weight Off Your Business” addresses the burden of payroll subtly and uses language that evokes relief, implying the relief prospects will feel when they let ADP handle their payroll.

The inclusion of “Fast, Easy, & Reliable” is also very clever, as these common adjectives all address pain points themselves, namely that payroll is a difficult, time-consuming pain in the ass that other companies can’t be entrusted with – not bad for three words of copy. Finally, you’ll notice the inclusion of several extensions offering that crucial social validation we mentioned earlier, as well as offers for a free quote, a demo of ADP’s payroll software, and the two-months-free offer highlighted in the headline.

Addressing Customer Pain Points in Social Ads

Social ads may be even more effective at addressing customer pain points than search ads. Why? Because many people browse social media sites like Twitter and Facebook in an aspirational way; we post updates that reflect the people we want to be, not necessarily the people we are right now.

As such, a well-designed social ad that directly addresses a prospect’s pain points could be powerfully persuasive.

We can see this principle in action in this Facebook ad for technical employment screening service Triplebyte:

Customer pain points Triplebyte Facebook ad example

This ad is particularly clever and an unusual combination of emotional triggers that addresses a very specific pain point – landing a new technical job.

If you know much about software development or are friends with any of the engineers in your office, you may already know that a developer’s choice of text editor – the software programs in which developers actually write their code – is a Very Big Deal, and this ad leverages this to great effect.

Firstly, the ad makes a bold, potentially controversial claim that developers who use Vim and Emacs, two of the oldest and most popular text editors out there, are twice as likely to pass a technical interview with Triplebyte than users of Eclipse, another text editor. Although this claim is based on real data, it’s also a clever emotional trigger. Developers who use Vim or Emacs might feel a smug sense of self-satisfaction when reading this ad, but it could also raise the hackles of developers who favor other text editors. This makes the ad very tempting to would-be Triplebyte clients, regardless of their text editor of choice.

Customer pain points Triplebyte technical interviews text editors infographic

Image/data via Triplebyte

Secondly, the ad addresses a very specific pain point among techies looking for a new gig – the fear of successfully passing a technical interview. Companies like Google are famous (or infamous, depending on your perspective) for the deviousness of their technical interviews, and Triplebyte’s ad infers that by using Vim or Emacs, prospective candidates can put themselves ahead of the (ferocious) competition for top technical roles.

This might not be the most conventional use of leveraging pain points in a social ad, but it’s an excellent example of how well-crafted social ads can combine emotional triggers and address very specific pain points.

Addressing Customer Pain Points in Landing Pages

As our final example of how to leverage customer pain points in your marketing, we come to one of the most effective – and leakiest – parts of the conversion funnel, the humble landing page.

Landing pages are crucial to the success of many marketing campaigns, particularly PPC campaigns. Aligning your landing pages with the copy of your ads is a well-established PPC best practice, but your landing pages can also serve as another opportunity to reinforce why your product or service can ease your prospects’ pain.

Let’s take a look at how this works.

Below is a landing page for social analytics platform SimplyMeasured:

Customer pain points SimplyMeasured landing page example

This landing page is one of the best examples of addressing customer pain points I’ve come across. The headline is very effective (“How to Make Social Marketing Decisions Faster”) but the strapline below it is even better. Not only is it benefit-driven, it also addresses two specific pain points in a single line of copy: using time more effectively – which could be either a Productivity or Processes pain point – and establishing ones’ self as the go-to social analytics person in your office.

These benefits are further emphasized further down the landing page in the copy. In the bulleted list of what readers will learn from the download, one of the benefits listed is “Make quick stunning presentations for your stakeholders.” This reiterates the promise of the strapline, which is as much about perception as it is about productivity.

This landing page definitely isn’t perfect (there are many more web form fields included on this landing page than those shown above), but generally speaking, it’s a great example of how to leverage customer pain points in your copy and use emotional triggers to make your landing pages much more appealing.

No Pain, No Gain

By now, hopefully you have a better idea of what your customers are really trying to do when they’re looking for companies or products like yours. Although many customer pain points are similar, there’s no one-size-fits-all solution to solving your customers’ pain. Fortunately, nobody knows your customers like you do, so dive into your research and start helping your customers accomplish what they really want to do.

What other tips do you have for helping customers overcome pain points? 

Dan Shewan

Originally from the U.K., Dan Shewan is a journalist and web content specialist who now lives and writes in New England. Dan’s work has appeared in a wide range of publications in print and online, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, Pacific Standard magazine, The Independent, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and many other outlets.