By Pam Neely May 17, 2022
Want to know why people buy – or don’t buy – from you? Understanding customer pain points will explain a lot.
Knowing your customers can have a big impact on your marketing, and on your business overall. Identifying customer pain points is a key part of this.
People don’t buy a product or service just because it’s cheap or has flashy features. While these reasons might influence someone’s purchase decision, they’ll ultimately buy something because it solves a problem.
Don’t have time to eat an expensive sit-down meal? Grab food at McDonald’s.
Can’t sleep because your neighborhood is noisy? Get a pair of earplugs or a white noise machine.
Tired of driving to the gym every day? Purchase an at-home workout program on DVD.
Once you understand your customers and their problems, you can position your product or service as the solution. And you’ll sell a lot more stuff.
What are customer pain points?
Customer pain points are common problems your target customers have that your product or service solves.
We outlined a few examples of customers’ pain points above, but what matters is what your customers’ pain points are. You can be in the same market with other competing products, but if your product solves your target audiences’ pain points in a different way than your competitors, you may want to be targeting a slightly different audience.
You sell boots. You sell ultralight hiking boots for long-distance hikers who want great ankle support with minimal weight, even if that means they have to pay more than they would on regular boots. Their pain point is finding lightweight, supportive boots.
Your competitor also makes boots, but they make duck boots. They sell duck boots to people who want a pair of boots that will last. Their ideal customers are people who value durability. Their pain point is finding boots that won’t fall apart.
Your other competitor also sells boots, but they sell fashion boots. Their customers must have a boot that looks great and is in line with the current style. Their pain point is not being able to find a good-looking boot.
See where we’re going with this? Different pain points, different products.
Ironically, one person could be the ideal customer for all these boot sellers, because each one of us can have multiple pain points, depending on which situations we find ourselves in.
By understanding customer pain points, you can promote your product or service more effectively and write convincing marketing copy. Your audience is much more likely to buy if you can clearly articulate how you’ll solve their problems or pain points.
LL Bean’s product page about their duck boots is a masterclass in how to use customer pain points to write better copy. Here’s an image from that page. If you were a customer who wanted boots that last, would this convince you to buy these?
5 ways to identify your customers’ pain points
Now that you understand the power of customer pain points, let’s show you how to find the pain points of your audience – and to be able to describe those points and address them in a way that makes your product the no-brainer solution to those problems.
You don’t have to do all these things to find common pain points, but try at least two or three.
1. Survey your customers
Share a survey on your social channels or within an email and ask people to explain what they’re currently struggling with.
Think very carefully about how you write your survey, and keep the number of questions you ask to a minimum. Surveys with ten questions or fewer tend to perform better.
In our own surveys, we often ask email subscribers to share their biggest email marketing challenge. We can then create educational content to resolve those challenges.
Here’s a very simple sample survey to get you started:
- What’s the biggest problem you have with [thing you help people with, like “public speaking,” or “tax preparation”]?
- What have you done to try to solve this problem?
- How well did that work?
- What would solving this problem look like? How will your life be better or different once you’ve solved this problem?
2. Ask them about pain points in your welcome emails
Sometimes when people first sign up for an email list, they are at their most motivated to engage with you. They may also be actively looking for a way to solve their problem and might tell you quite a lot about their pain points.
Thinkific, an online course hosting platform, asks subscribers to share what’s stopping them from creating an online course in their automated welcome series.
Asking a simple question in an automated email is an easy way to learn more about your customers’ pain points.
The answers to this question can show them what educational content they should create to resolve customer pain points. Plus, they can write case studies that explain how Thinkific helps people overcome common problems with course creation.
3. Talk to your customers
Digital research is great, but there’s nothing like talking to a real customer in person (or at least via a Zoom call). Conversations allow for more back and forth. They are often the best way to learn about problems your customers face that you might not even know about. If you can, try to start with a couple of open-ended questions so the person you’re interviewing feels like you’re having a conversation with them, rather than just completing an in-person survey.
If you can talk to your customers in person, they’ll tell you all sorts of things you didn’t even know to ask about. You’ll also get to hear them describe their pain points in their own words – words that you can rephrase or use verbatim in your marketing messages, your website copy, and your emails.
It is more work to talk individually with people, but especially if you’re starting a business or if you don’t do a lot of direct customer service work with your customers, these conversations will be worth your time. There’s an old saying that “you don’t know what you don’t know.” Talking to your customers can reveal a lot that you don’t know, but should.
4. Look through product reviews
Product reviews are a terrific way to learn about prospective customers’ pain points. They’re also great if you’re having trouble finding people to talk to, or if you don’t have a large enough email list for a survey.
Amazon has the largest collection of product reviews, but check niche sellers, too. Pay special attention to the reviews with two or three stars, as these are often people who wanted to like a product or who really needed a product to work, but were disappointed with their purchase.
Here’s an example of a review like this. It’s for a low-priced, portable Bluetooth speaker. The speaker is very highly reviewed (4.5+ stars), but if you look through the three-star reviews, there’s a pattern of people complaining about the Bluetooth initial pairing or the device dropping the pairing at random times.
These people might not even know that they have a “pain point” about Bluetooth pairing issues, but it’s clearly a problem for them. They might buy a speaker simply because it had a super-easy setup, “never-drop” Bluetooth connection.
Pro tip: Look through your competitors’ product reviews.
5. Participate in Facebook Groups
Social listening is a great way to research your audience’s pain points. There are plenty of social listening tools, but most of the free tools focus on Twitter. If your audience is heavily focused on Twitter, great – try TweetDeck or Twitter Advanced Search. Google Alerts can also give you some good information.
But nothing is as good as finding an online tribe of people who are passionate about a topic. And nowhere is this easier to do than with Facebook Groups.
There are Facebook groups about every imaginable topic under the sun. You can search these groups to find conversations around specific topics. You can even contribute ideas to these groups to see how those ideas are received. If you ask permission from the group’s admin, you might even be able to post a short survey or possibly send direct messages to group members. However, do all of this carefully and politely. Do not be that person that just crashes into a group to do research, sends unwanted direct messages, and then leaves. You might get yourself banned from the group for behavior like that.
There are, of course, other groups online. LinkedIn still has some active groups, and there are tens of thousands of independent sites with online groups.
How to use customer pain points in copywriting and content marketing
So let’s say you’ve done your research and you know about your customers’ pain points. Now how do you apply all this?
Here’s an example of it in action:
Imagine you’re a social media expert who offers hourly consulting services to help businesses improve their social media strategy. Here are a few pain points your potential customers might struggle with:
- They’re too busy to regularly post on social media.
- They don’t know what content to share on their social platforms.
- They know they should be using Facebook ads, but they don’t know how to set them up or get them to work.
- They’re unsure how to grow their social following.
- They have a large social media audience, but they don’t know how to get those followers to buy.
Using this example, let’s say you want to focus on acquiring customers who need help with #3: Facebook ad strategy.
You know that a common customer pain point is not understanding how to set up a Facebook ad. So you decide to create a digital guide called 5 Simple Steps to Set Up Your First Facebook Ad, and you use it as an incentive (aka a “freebie” or a “lead magnet”) on your sign up form.
When people subscribe to your list, you send them the following automated email sequence:
Email 1: Here’s your free guide to Facebook ads!
In this email, you welcome subscribers to your email list and you give them your free guide 5 Simple Steps to Set Up Your First Facebook Ad.
Email 2: Why Facebook ads are the best way to acquire leads
This email proves that Facebook ads are worth investing in compared to all the other ways your reader could be doing lead generation.
Email 3: Here’s how I helped one business earn $50,000 with Facebook ads
To demonstrate that your expert advice helps people get results, you share a case study that explains how you helped one business launch successful Facebook ads.
Email 4: Need help launching effective Facebook ads?
In the final email of your series, you sell your Facebook ad services. You explain that you can help the reader launch effective Facebook ads and grow their business. Then, you ask them to purchase a consultation session with you.
This entire email series is based on a simple customer pain point. It’s effective because it positions the business’ service as a solution to that pain point.
How will you use what you learn about customer pain points?
Now it’s your turn. How will you find out your customers’ pain points? Or, if you already know what those pain points are, how could you be using that information in your marketing and your emails? Tell us about it in the comments.