How do I identify customer pain points?

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Hey Brandi,
How do I identify my customer's pain points?

Woah – this is a GREAT question. I'm so glad that we get to talk about this – because it's something that gets overlooked a lot in marketing. We're so busy thinking about the “what” we're selling, we fail to take the time to think about the why people need it.

What's going on in the life and mind of your target customer that says “I will part with my hard earned cash for this product/service?”

If you're what I like to think of an “emergency relief” service (i.e., you fix something broken that we need, like plumbing, electrical, appliances), then the answers are built into your service offerings.

But for the rest of us with products and services that fall a bit higher on Maslow's hierarchy, there's more work to be done.

Questions to Ask Yourself

Let's start by asking ourselves some questions that get at the heart of what we believe are our customer pain points. (Yes, I said believe not are. We may think we know what our customers are feeling, but we need to validate our theories. More on that later!)

Here are a few things to consider:

  • What is the first thing my customer thinks about in the morning? Why?
  • What is the last thing my customer thinks about at night? Why?
  • How long has my customer had this problem?
  • How do they describe their problem to others?
  • How do they describe their problem to themselves? (Remember, the voice in our heads is much different than the one we share with the rest of the world.)
  • Why do your customers hire you? The answer to this should be in the form of a sentence… “Our customers hire us because….”

Validation Part 1: Research

Now that you've answered the questions about what you think your customers are thinking and feeling, it's time to start validating that. Start with online communities where your target audience is already looking for support on your topic. Some places include:

  • Facebook Groups
  • Twitter Chats
  • Reddit
  • Quora
  • Subject-specific forums

Go through and copy and paste any questions or posts that seem to come from your audience that relates to your product. For example, if you're providing sleep training programs for new parents, you may read posts in groups on What to Expect, or mommy facebook groups. On the other hand, if your business is about mountain biking, you may be checking out discussions on Ridespots or BikePirate.

Validation Part 2: Interviews

As much fun as cyber-following your target audience is, there's another level of pain point validation that's even more valuable. That is… talking to people who are in your target market. That's right, TALK to them. Pick up the phone. Schedule a Zoom call. Buy them coffee.

And the people you interview can't just be your friends or colleagues who are already in your niche (but that you know and trust).

So, how do you get in touch with them? Well, with all that cyber-following, you already know where they hang out. Post in those groups and ask for a few volunteers to talk about their issues. Just be sure to offer a little something in return – whether that's your expert feedback, a gift card, a copy of your ebook/course/video/design when it's done… reward their time. Be clear that you're just looking to chat for 15-20 minutes so the commitment stays low.

I recommend using a free service like Calendy to schedule your calls, and a service like to actually hold your calls. 

Once you've got the calls scheduled, you're probably wondering what you're going to talk about. Remember, this is an interview – NOT an interrogation. Ask them about their situation that you're hoping to help with. Ask clarifying questions and things that go deeper into understanding what they need. The point is to LISTEN to how they talk about their problems. Especially pay attention to word choices and feelings – you'll use these later when you're writing copy, creating ads… you get it.

If possible, record your customer interviews so that you can go back and listen to them when you need a refresher on a phrase or a tone. (If you're using a service like Zoom, it will have built-in recording capabilities. Just be sure to ask permission!)

Putting it all together

At this point, you should have three documents: how you describe your customer's problems, how they describe them online, and how they describe them one-on-one.

Look through all three documents and find the common items. These are your top pain points to address.

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