For a long time, small business owners have been told to focus on the pleasurable aspects of their products and services. Promising customers the "good life" or the "grand treatment" they deserve.
When you can accurately identify where it hurts, you will have made your first major inroad with your pained customer
Smart business owners recognize there's an overabundance of the promise-and-pamper play. What customers want to know now is: Who's addressing the things that cause us grief?
Pain point positioning is resonating. And businesses that identify pain points are gaining the attention of customers who seek a product or service provider that understands life's hurdles. Here's how you can employ this approach in your business.
Where does it hurt?
It all starts with identifying the point of the pain. For customers ("patients," in this exercise), something hurts, hampers or otherwise causes a sort of harassment they'd love to eliminate. As their attentive product or service provider ("caregiver," to continue the analogy), it's your job to help pinpoint that pain point.
This requires a dutiful examination process. Begin more generally by looking for the sort of pain they might have:
- Are they under time pressures?
- Are they socially constrained?
- Are they skill challenged?
- Are they financially strapped?
Once you have that determined, dive in deeper to find the exact point of discomfort:
- Do their tasks take too long to complete?
- Do they need help developing and maintaining social networking and presence?
- Do they need to learn a new skill but don't know where or how to get started?
- Do they need to stretch a dollar further?
When you can accurately identify where it hurts, you will have made your first major inroad with your pained customer. This begins the foundation of trust you'll be able to establish with your customers: You want to know what pains them, so you can make their pain go away.
Engage your customers with questions—show them your genuine interest in what's troubling them
Get the proper diagnosis
Once you've started a conversation with your pained customer—either through direct dialog, social media or simply a statement of what you seek to solve—you can zero in on exactly what hurts, why it hurts, and what might make it better. This is where diagnosis is extremely important.
Once you've convinced your customer that you understand they're in pain and that you want to ease that for them, you need to ask questions to determine the cause of the pain.
When the patient says, "My arm hurts," the physician asks, "Exactly where does it hurt, when does it hurt and how do you think it got to hurting?"
As a business person and a solution provider, you want to identify the exact cause (to the best of your ability) before you present your solution, be it a product or service. If you can properly diagnose why the pain exists, you stand a better chance to deliver the right prescription. If you miss something in your diagnosis, you'll likely miss something in your solution. The customer, having been misunderstood, isn't likely to give you another chance.
So engage your customers with questions—show them your genuine interest in what's troubling them then listen closely as they tell you about their problem. If it's a cost issue, can they trade off some quality to get what they want at a lower price? If it's a timing issue, can they pay more for expedited service? And if they just don't know what it is they need but they know they need something, are they open to suggestions?
Yes, this is more the product or service development stage of what you offer, and it's not something you'll only do once. You might have a good solution initially, but over time, you'll probably have to refine or expand that to provide "long-lasting relief" while also paving the way to offer more solutions and serve more customers over time. That's a product portfolio, and it helps establish and maintain a revenue stream. But it all begins with properly diagnosing customer pain points.
Is this an ethical minefield?
Some wonder if targeting customers' grievances is a form of exploitation. After all, isn't it callous to profit off somebody's desperation? That depends on your approach.
It's pain that drives inventors, artists and entrepreneurs
If you take advantage of their decision-making ability during a moment of duress, especially with high-pressure added to make a sale, then, yeah, that's pretty scummy. If, however, you take the time to develop a solution that truly understands and faithfully solves their problems (likely because you have had the same problem yourself), then you stand to build trust through identification with their situation.
If you can prove you've suffered (or simply been frustrated or inconvenienced) just as they have and you have an answer to the problem, it's unlikely you'll be accused of exploiting a customer in need. Just ask yourself how you might react to the pitch or presentation you're offering. You know, do unto others, and all that.
The bottom line is that there are plenty of problems out there, all looking for someone to step forward and solve them.
It's pain that drives inventors, artists and entrepreneurs. While some are dubious snake oil salespeople, many are genuine in their desire to make others' lives better. See what you can do about solving your customers' problems, first through honest assessment, then through thorough diagnosis, and finally with a solution that will really work for them. And don't worry about that whole pleasure approach; when you ease your customers' pain, pleasure is the natural by-product!