Customer pain points are the very first thing a startup needs to consider. This information needs to be ironed out long before an actual product or service idea is hatched. After all, business is all about solving a pressing problem. One of the biggest issues that face startups and even established businesses is arrogance. Assuming you fully understand how your ideal customer feels is a sure path to failure.
Failure can come earlier than you might thing, too. Try launching a Kickstarter without understanding the customer pain points you’re trying to solve. You’re not going to fool investors with whimsy. If the market you target doesn’t have enough pain — or any at all — sales are going to be an uphill battle.
Identifying Customer Pain Points: How Much Does it Hurt?
Pain can mean a number of things. A payday loan company helps to ease the pain of not having enough money between paychecks. An iPod eases the pain of a lack of portable entertainment. Basically, pain comes down to things that are lacking in one’s life: money, time, health, fitness, resources, love, knowledge, adaptability, clarity, mindset, belief, faith, etc. Without enough pain — or inability to target that pain effectively with your product — you’re just wasting time.
Next step: Ask them “what hurts?”
This can obviously take some tact to pull off in many cases. Service based businesses will have a much easier go with this, as scheduling meetings with clients prior to, and after signing onto a project is part of the process. In many cases, resisting the gut instinct to say no, and instead always working for ways to deliver what clients want will relieve their pain. Products will require loads of research, distribution, refinement, and constant follow-ups with your customer base to maintain their loyalty.
Even in the best case scenarios, where you can get a clear picture of what hurts and how you can make it better, you’ll still need to overcome hurdles. Such as finding profitable ways you can give a client the features they’re looking for, or securing the talent needed for more unique requests.
How to ask “what hurts?”
- Ask open ended questions: “How would you describe the issue?” Instead of, “Does it make you feel tired/happy/sad/hopeful when the issue occurs?” Let them tell you rather than coaching or looking for details you’ve already identified, or have assumed are part of the problem.
- Ask for the specific type of pain they have: Using the payday loan example, consider how many different types of pain a lack of money between paychecks can cause: sleepless nights, anxiety, emotional strife, relationship issues, issues with creditors, or physical pain (Ie., mental pain can manifest physically, and vice-versa).Let the client explain their specific malady, so you can target your marketing toward that unique group.
- Ask about their motivations in life: Pain often gets in the way of people’s aspirations, making even the most seemingly simple issue a source of endless pain. What get’s them out of bed in the morning? Does a customer with out-of-control acne simply want to fit in and feel attractive? Understanding their pain and how it might contrast with their goals will help you bring the marketing pitch full circle.
Can your product solve their issue and why?
Now that you’ve asked a bunch of questions, you should have come away with lots of product development cues and marketing fuel. Successful products solve problems — in many cases more than one. There’s normally the problem itself (Ie., lack of money), and the trickle down issues it causes such as relationship problems and other impacts.
It’s important to begin with the most pressing issue such as lack of credit impeding a client’s need for instant cash (Eg., “no credit, no problem!” then work on other pain points such as time constraints (Eg., “instant approval” or “get your cash in 15 minutes or less!”). Then, determine the third, fourth, fifth — etcetera — problem you can alleviate (Eg., “no more sleepless nights” or “stop creditors from calling today!”).
Understanding what makes life so difficult for clients is the first and most vital step in coming up with a successful product. Having an intimate understanding of how that pain affects them so deeply is where the rubber meets the road, allowing you to both sell and continuously innovate over and over to meet market demands.