The Complete Guide to Customer Pain Points
At its core, the nature of business is the offering of goods or services that will benefit the customer. No matter how great a product is, customers will not purchase it unless it offers an improvement over the current status quo. In order to market your business, you need to identify the customer pain points that you can alleviate.
There are many ways to think about customer pain points. In essence, they are the reason customers aren’t buying your good or service. It could be that they don’t think what your offering is worth the cost, or that it won’t be simple enough to use to save them time and energy. Perhaps they’ve become so accustomed to the way things are that they don’t realize there is a better way of doing things. Or perhaps they are aware of the problem but are so focused on looking for one particular solution that they are neglecting potential solutions that solve their problem in a different way, like yours.
The most effective way to market a service or product is to identify what the potential customer truly needs and show them how you can help them solve that issue. In order to market your business as solution, you need to:
• synthesize what you already know about your prospects and customers
• gather information about your target customers’ needs
• dig deeper to evaluate core needs underlying stated needs
• showcase how you can benefit the customer
If done properly, you will have a much higher conversion rate on your sales and marketing efforts, and ultimately a happier customer who’s solved their challenges.
Synthesize What You Already Know.
Whether your company has been in business for decades, or you’re a start up, you probably have some sense of what your customers need. If you offer the good or service “X,” however, you need to realize that your customers are more than just “people that need X.” They are “people willing to pay for X because it offers them value that solves certain problems they face.”
A good place to start identifying what value you offer your customers is to create a customer avatar, or buyer persona, describing your ideal customer. The better you understand your target customer, the better you can anticipate their needs, and the better you can focus your sales pitch toward how you can help them solve their problems. There are three basic things you need to know about your ideal buyer.
1) Who is your ideal buyer?
What industry do they work in? Where do they live and work? What is their job title? Are they able to make purchasing decisions? If not, who do they need to consult to buy your services?
2) What problems do you already know your ideal buyer has?
Is there an established solution that you can provide at a reasonable price? Is the problem sufficiently painful to motivate immediate action? Do you provide services that go above and beyond what the customer needs that they would be willing to pay for? Is there a new advancement that solves the buyer’s problem in a better way?
3) How will your ideal buyer use your goods or services to solve their problems?
Do you offer things the buyer isn’t aware of? What problems will they still face after using your services?
Creating a customer avatar and assessing what you already know about your customer will not reveal any new insights into your customer pain points, but it will provide a useful framework to identify what assumptions you are currently making about your customers, and where to direct your research to better understand their needs.
Gather Information About Customers’ Needs.
The best way to find out what your customer pain points is to simply ask. There are many sources you can mine for more information:
• your sales team
• social media
• industry conferences and publications
• your customers
Your sales team interacts with customers constantly. By talking to prospects and current customers they know what factors lead to a purchase, and which factors make customers reluctant or resistant to purchase. Trends in customer thinking tend to develop slowly, then become well known, major deciding factors. By having regular (monthly, perhaps) meetings with your sales team, you can gather enough data to identify these trends and adjust your marketing strategy in time to establish yourself as the definitive solution to the newly emerged problem.
Social media is more than a place for people to connect. It’s also a place for people to complain. By noticing trends in what your potential customers post and complain about, you can gauge what problems they need solutions to. Also, a lot of business to business decision makers will use social media to establish themselves as an authority in the industry, so following them is a great way to keep abreast of current issues. By looking at commenters’ profiles, you can get a sense of who is most interested in the problem, which is a great way to check and update the accuracy of your customer avatar.
No matter what your industry, there is a place people go to to learn, network, and even promote themselves and their company. This could be in the form of a national or regional convention, where providers set up vendor booths to interact with buyers. There may be an industry magazine that publishes articles on the latest trends. Perhaps there are dedicated blogs or online groups for people to gather. Wherever people congregate (physically or virtually), you need to be there – to listen.
There is a protocol for how to best interact in such forums. You never want to come across as a pushy salesperson, relentlessly and aggressively pitching your product or service to anyone who will listen. Instead you should blend in as an observer and an active question asker. Your time is better spent listening so you can better understand what your customers’ needs are. Ask questions that facilitate open and honest discussion toward discovering common frustrations. Limit any sales pitches to dedicated vendor or networking events when it is most appropriate.
The best source for information about customer pain points, however, are your customers themselves. There are many ways to solicit their input.
• keyword research
• research studies
Even if you don’t have any customers yet, you can gather information about what buyers’ needs are by investigating keyword research. There are several free and paid services (like Google Adword Keyword Tool, Wordtracker, SEMRush, and SEOBook) that can tell you how frequently people search for different keywords. By checking keywords relevant to your industry, you can get a sense of what issues are most important to your customer base.
A survey is a great way to gather information from existing customers, but it must be conducted in an effective way in order to be useful. Some customers will have strong opinions, either positive or negative, that they will be happy to share with you. Most people, however, will ignore your request for them to fill out a survey unless there is incentive for them to do so. Coupons, giveaways, and other incentives are a great way to increase the percentage of surveys you’ll get completed to ensure the sample size is large enough from which to draw conclusions.
An even more hands-on approach to information gathering is to invite a representative cross section of customers to participate in a round table discussion. Though more invasive and work-intensive, the benefit is that a discussion allows for follow up questions, which can be a great way to delve deeper into the source of pain points, which might be left out of survey question answers.
The most productive questions are qualitative, not quantitative. Asking yes or no or multiple-choice questions can only confirm or deny your assumptions about the topic. Allowing write in answers can reveal truths you hadn’t considered but may not provide crucial context about how the issue affects customers and what you can to do fix it. The best method is to ask open ended questions and give sufficient space for participants to provide as much information as needed to express their point. Ideally, there is also a process available in which to continue the conversation to delve even deeper into their response.
Dig deeper to evaluate core needs.
Most customer pain points will fall into one of four categories.
• Financial Pain Points: sometimes a customer is satisfied with the product or service they are using but would like to spend less on it. Cost is not the end-all factor, though. Buyers will be willing to pay more for a higher quality product that offers a better result.
• Productivity Pain Points: time truly is money, and customers want to spend their time efficiently. They will be attracted to solutions that minimize their administrative overhead in order to free up time to deliver greater value to their organization.
• Process Pain Points: Some processes are complicated, and buyers would happily hire someone to simplify the work for them.
• Support Pain Points: Sometimes the greatest way to get new customers is to have good customer support to help guide them through the process.
It’s a mistake, however, to look at pain points in such broad terms. Even if two customers have the same goal (more clicks on their ads, for example) their motivation for achieving that goal may be very different. By asking clarifying questions you can dig past what the customer seems to be asking for to discover what they value. Once you understand what the customer values, you may be able to find an even better solution than the one they initially asked for.
A common method for uncovering a customer’s deeper need is to ask them “why” five times. For example, if you ask a customer why they want more ad clicks, they might say they want more clicks because it will lead to more net new customers. Asking them why four more times may reveal that they want more net new customers so they have more revenue so they can hire more employees so they can focus less on the parts of the business they dislike so they can focus more time on developing new products. Asking a different customer why they want more ad clicks may reveal that they want to establish themselves as a leader in the industry. Your marketing approach to these two customers would focus on different selling points.
If a potential customer is satisfied with the way things are, you may need to look at their customer pain points from another angle. Sometimes “do nothing” or status quo is your biggest competitor. It could be that the customer has become so accustomed to a problem that they no longer see it as a pain point that can be fixed or avoided by using your goods or services, but rather an unavoidable nuisance that simply must be endured. In such a case, you could question the process with the potential buyer to find out where there could be improvement. The following is a partial list of questions that can help dig deeper:
• What’s your biggest inhibitor to growth?
• What’s your plan to deal with X?
• What is your deadline to find a solution?
• Who in the company is working to solve the problem?
• What does your boss ask about most?
• What do you spend the most time on per week that you’d love to simplify?
• What continually comes up at meetings?
• What do employees most often complain about?
• What’s the biggest problem you’re currently trying to solve?
• What happens if you don’t find a solution?
• If the problem were solved, how would it benefit you and the company?
It’s important to ask the questions in a neutral way. You don’t want any assumptions you may have to lead to a biased question that leads the interviewee toward a certain response. Asking “what’s the worst thing about dealing with customer complaints?” for example, assumes fielding customer complaints is a negative experience. The respondent would be more likely to focus on the negative aspects in their response. Asking in a neutral way, such as “how do you deal with customer complaints,” will elicit a more balanced answer from the respondent.
Instead of focusing on negatives, you can also use positive reviews to identify pain points you’ve already proven to alleviate. If you repeatedly get feedback mentioning a few common keywords, recognize those areas of strength and highlight it to future customers.
Showcase how you can benefit the customer.
Once you better understand what the customer pain points are, you can better tailor your sales pitch or marketing strategy to address them. By using the same language surveyed prospects used to identify problems, you can quickly relate to customers. Instead of trying to impress them with a spiel about all the great things about your product, connect with the person by showing that you understand and empathize with the struggles they are facing, then explain how you can offer a solution.
By asking the right questions and identifying the customer’s true needs, you can improve your sales and marketing methods to win more customers. We hope you’ve found this article to be helpful in improving the rigor of your customer pain point analysis and approach. We at Aventi Group are happy to review your current customer interview methodology and offer you recommendations based on best practices. Click here to contact us for a quick benchmark session.