One of the most important elements of effective digital marketing is understanding your customer personas.
A key part of those personas (or personae, if you prefer) is what's known as pain points.
We'll look at what they are, how they're especially relevant during the global pandemic we're facing, and how to avoid one of the biggest mistakes people make when dealing with pain points.
What are pain points?
In the simplest terms, pain points are specific problems that your prospective customers are experiencing. But they're deeper than that - it's not just the problem itself that makes a pain point, it's the impact it has on the person or business experiencing it.
More complexities come from the fact that the pain points can be extremely diverse, and that your prospects may not explicitly know the problem they have that causes the pain.
Types of pain point
While people have a wide range of different pain points, there are some general topics that most fall under:
Either your prospects aren't using a system, or the system/product/service they're using is taking too much time and effort. Productivity is one of the most common pain points - it's characterised as the sense of "there must be a better way". Time savings and efficiencies are the key elements to resolving it.
Your prospects don't have support, or the support they have doesn't meet their needs, or the service they're receiving is under-par.
This might be pre-sale as well as post-sale - if a prospect doesn't get the help and support they need when looking for a solution, they'll be looking for an alternative.
Internal processes can be a hotbed of pain points. It could be communication between departments, utilising internal data, holes in the sales process, misaligned systems, or anything that gets in the way of people doing their jobs or providing great customer service.
Perhaps your prospects are overspending on their current service/product/provider. They want to reduce their spend, or they want to get more for their money. It could be that the payment terms they're currently working with don't suit their business needs.
Why do pain points matter?
Pain points are the way we can connect with our audience.
Understanding pain points enables you to think about how to position your company or product as a solution to your prospects’ problems, with empathy for the issues caused by the overall problem. You're speaking to them about the things that matter most to them.
It also allows you to target your marketing more effectively. Let's say you have a couple of different buyer personas - an IT Director and a Sales Manager. They both have different needs, but they also have different pains.
A Sales Manager is more likely to be concerned about hitting revenue targets, while the IT Director might have more process-driven and cost-saving concerns.
Having an insight into the pain points enables you to craft specific messaging to each group. Sure, you could have messaging that hits on different elements of your solution depending on the persona, but with the pain point, you're getting at the heart of what matters to that person.
Your marketing should be based around pain points - they give you a fantastic start to creating content that matters to your audience and crafting the messaging for your activities.
Pain points and coronavirus
In the current climate of a global pandemic, people's pain points are a lot more acute and close to the surface - only, you should probably be thinking about them more in terms of fears. What are people afraid of?
Those financial pain points are more likely to be in terms of "will we have enough money to get through this?", "how can we cut costs so that we don't have to lose staff?" and "will we be able to make any new sales at this time to keep us going?"
The process pain points may have morphed into concerns about how will processes function when staff are all working remotely, will communication break down, and will business-critical systems continue to operate? Productivity will be similar.
Support is even more important - with uncertainty surrounding everything around us, knowing we can rely on the support of our providers and suppliers is increasingly important. Lack of support will be a huge pain point.
When using pain points now, you should be careful to remain empathetic.
Common mistakes with pain points
One of the biggest mistakes people make when trying to identify pain points is effectively reverse engineering one of their services/benefits into a pain point.
For example, we help people get more leads. So, it would be easy enough for us to assume our customers' pain point is not having enough leads.
But is that really the way our prospects are thinking? It might be for some, but usually the pain goes back further than that.
Lack of leads = weak pipeline = not enough sales = not enough revenue.
So, is the pain point a lack of leads, or is it more likely to be that they're not getting enough sales or revenue? What's most likely to be the thing they're concerned about?
Let's say you have some software that makes it easier to create invoices. Is the pain point that invoices are difficult to create? Or could it be something deeper?
Invoices difficult to create = takes too much time to create invoices = finance department inefficient = requires taking on additional staff = higher cost than planned.
Invoices difficult to create = takes too much time to create invoices = invoice runs delayed = payments not being made promptly = cashflow issues.
Pain points aren't needs. A buyer might need a new CRM, but their pain point isn't the lack of software, it's the inability to follow through on leads, resulting in a poor conversion rate, equalling fewer sales and, ultimately, less income.
Don't make the mistake of looking for only the superficial pain. Look deeper, to the root of what the real problem is.
Delving into pain points
As we've talked about above, you need to look at the true pain, not the area you solve. While the solution is important, being able to relate it back to the underlying pain is more likely to connect with your audience.
The best way to do this is to think, "what keeps this person up at night"?
Is someone lying awake thinking that their invoices take too long to create? Or are they worried that their cashflow is hitting problems? It's the latter.
Often money is the biggest pain point - whether it's cashflow, revenue, profit margins, or costs. How does your solution affect the bottom line? Let's look back at the types of pain point:
Productivity - inefficiencies can cost money through introducing the need to take on more staff, making overtime payments, or keeping staff working on one task when they could be doing more lucrative work.
Support/service - support issues can prevent good customer service leading to refunds or customer chain, create downtime through outages resulting in lost earnings, or take up time trying to get issues resolved preventing profitable activities taking place.
Process - processes can come with a whole host of issues that affect revenue - communication issues that affect scoping of works, wasted time and resource, losing potential customers or leads, and affecting customer retention.
Financial - spending too much, not finding savings and efficiencies, overstaffing, overpaying for services... this is the easiest area to find the financial core of a problem!
Just because your service improves a communication problem doesn't mean it doesn't also solve a deeper issue that can affect the business' financial position.
Identifying pain points
So, how do you identify the real pain points that your prospects are feeling? We can make educated guesses, but to get a real understanding, we need to speak to our existing customers and our prospects to find out.
You could set up a focus group or a round of telephone interviews. The key point here is that you need to give people the opportunity to explain their issues in their own words. Don't make a survey with fixed answers - you need to give options for people to give their own answers. Everything you ask, in any format, should be open ended.
This is important - the whole point of pain points is to understand what matters to your audience. You don't want to put words into their mouths, and you need to hear and reflect on the specific words they choose, because those are the words you're going to want to incorporate into your messaging.
Even a detailed questionnaire won't give you that insight, so if you use surveys, make sure you ask broad questions and leave plenty of space for write-in answers rather than pre-selected options.
You should also ask your sales teams for their insights. Again, this isn't about guess-work, ask the teams to write down specific phrases that people use on sales calls and in meetings. What are the themes? What are the words they use? Having closely aligned sales and marketing teams is hugely beneficial for all of your messaging, and this highlights why - sales are on the front lines, so they know exactly what problems your customers are facing. Just make sure you dig deeper than the surface level issues.
Using pain points
Once you understand your prospective customers' pain points, you need to use them (otherwise what was the point?!)
You should create messaging that can be used across all of your marketing activities - the whole reason for understanding what pains your audience is facing is to be able to empathise and show that you are able to solve the root of the problem for them.
You should have messaging for:
- Your website
- Your landing pages
- Your Google Ads
- Your social ads
- Your social posts
- Your email marketing
- Your blog posts and content offers
The messaging shouldn't be identical - you wouldn't post exactly the same thing everywhere generally, so mix it up.
The intent is to show your audience that you understand what's on their mind, what they need, and what they're worried about.
Take these ads as an example (anonymised, because we're not pointing fingers at specific companies, but transcribed pretty closely):
A Digital Marketing Company | ACME Corporation
Multi-Award Winning Company With Over 100 Experts. Contact Us & Let's Talk Digital. Google Partner.
Digital Marketing | Get Ahead of the Competition
Increase Lead Quality And Conversion Rates. Reduce Your Cost Per Acquisition. Data Analytics & Reporting. Helps You Compete For A Larger Share Of Your Market.
In the first example, the ad talks only about the company - it's focused on the service. In the second, the message is about what they can do for the client. It talks about a number of areas that might be pain points - lead quality, conversion rates, cost per acquisition, and market share. All of these areas matter more to the reader than how many experts are on hand.
When using pain points, just remember that you shouldn't think about what you want to tell your audience, you should consider what they need to hear.