Everyone has a different pain threshold – a graze for one person might feel like a gash to another. Your customers feel the same about their business; their pains, their limits and solutions are all different. Understanding the things that cause them worry, confusion, fear or regret should be as much your problem as it is theirs.

Identifying your customers’ pain points is to understand their deep, underlying fears. Why is this important? Because it informs your content strategy, turning a vague, mediocre plan into an excellent, solutions-driven and personalised one. Here we’ll explore how to discover your buyer personas' pain points and offer ways you can help them to resolve them.

What are pain points?

Pain points come in all sorts of shapes and sizes for your customers, from mild irritations to major barriers to their success. Identifying pain points is essential to understanding how to help guide your customer through the buyer’s journey (and show your worth to them). Discovering their fears and problems is central to helping them find solutions – and FYI, they may not actually realise these pain points exist or be able to clearly articulate them to you.

Your customers’ pain points may include themes such as:

  • Financial: They’re spending too much money on their current solution and want to reduce their spending.
  • Support: They’re receiving negative support or none at all, especially during crucial stages of their buyer’s journey.
  • Process: They know there’s a need to improve internal processes – or create new ones – such as the leads-to-sales process.
  • Productivity: They’re wasting too much time and energy using their current solution so need more effective time-management strategies.
  • Prestige: They need a solution that enables visibility of their efforts and encourages their position within the business to be acknowledged and respected.

Top tip 1: Focusing on one buyer persona at a time, can you use these categories to identify what type of pain points each of your personas has? Perhaps it’s more than one of these – if so, can you prioritise their pain points into an order from most painful to least?

How much do you already know?

You’re an expert in your field and understand your customers and prospects pretty well – start with this knowledge. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel just to prove what you already know; use the information you have from talking to customers about why they came to you and why they use your product/service. This isn’t guess work: it’s using informed, common sense about things you already know to build a picture of your customers.

For example: You might have noticed that 7/10 of your prospects mention that they feel unsupported by the team, resources, management and software around them at work. Their productivity is greatly slowed down as a result, due to them having to spend hours each week manually doing things themselves that a colleague or digital tool could be doing instead.

Top tip 2: Can you write down the top five complaints customers come to you with, off the top of your head? Don’t look at CRM data or talk to the sales team for this bit – just focus on your own experience and what you already think you know.

Are you asking (open-ended) questions?

It might sound obvious – but are you actually asking your customers and prospects what their pain points are? This will form part of the conversation during your initial interactions and might involve questions such as:

  • What’s the hardest part of your working day?
  • What have you already tried doing to remedy this problem?
  • What’s the most rewarding aspect of your role?
  • What are your business goals?
  • What are the barriers to you meeting your goals?
  • If money was no object, what would you do to solve your problems?
  • What will happen if the problem remains unresolved?

These questions can be asked in person, via video link, over the phone or in an interactive survey. Don’t ask closed yes/no questions: these will only offer a very narrow, preconceived view of your prospect’s problems. You need to encourage long-form, quantitative answers to really build an all-encompassing impression. Remember, the problem and solution are two very different things: your customer might be experiencing a problem and might have tried to fix it with the wrong solution. Your job is to find their pain point and provide them with the right solution (which they may not have considered yet).

For example: A customer might say they don’t have enough time in their work day which is making them stressed and miserable. The actual problem may be:

  • They dislike the endless meetings they get stuck in and aren’t able to commit themselves to the tasks they actually enjoy.
  • They can’t show clear learning and development in their current role to get noticed for progression paths.
  • They don’t make it home in time to put their children to bed.

Top tip 3: Create a survey – using a tool such as Typeform, Survey Anyplace or Survey Monkey – that will draw out the right information from prospects. Think about questions that tackle the deep-seated feelings of discontent for your buyer personas. You can then create content which directly addresses these answers, targeting similar prospects who might be suffering with the same issues.

We created this 5-minute persona builder in response to our own customers' pain points –customers were telling us that they wanted to get going on their inbound campaigns faster, but without compromising on strategy. So we put the tools in their hands by creating a quick template which customers can use as a starting point for their persona creation. They can then revisit and continue to build a more detailed picture over time as they get to know who their ideal buyer is and what really resonates with them.

Who are you asking for help?

Are you building your personas and identifying their pain points on your own? If so, that’s a bad move. Not that you aren’t capable and full of relevant wisdom on the topic, but because identifying and rectifying customer pain points has to be a whole-business initiative: from marketers to the sales executives and customer-service team. Pain points are everyone’s concern and every single person in your business can add a new valuable angle if you ask for their input.

When finding out more about your customer’s pain points, you should be asking:

Your sales team

This group is manning the guns on the front line every day; they are the first to hear your customers’ discontents and offer solutions. They’ll be keeping watch for any patterns emerging in customer feedback, frequently asked questions or task requests, way ahead of other parts of the business, so ask them for the inside scoop. Sales people are generally good communicators, too – they’ll want to be involved.

Your social media team

This is increasingly the place people communicate their worries in the modern world (as Social Media Today found – 67% of consumers now use social media networks like Twitter and Facebook to seek resolutions for issues). What trends are emerging in the social media space to illustrate your customers’ pain points? Not only this, but your social media team will be monitoring competitors, Twitter discussions, and Facebook or LinkedIn groups. They’ll really have their finger on the pulse regarding your business’ buyer persona problems.

Peers and industry specialists

Whether it’s in the online space — through LinkedIn, webinars, blogs or subscribing to an influencer’s YouTube channel, or you physically turn up to conferences and seminars in person — looking beyond your own business will offer you so much insight into how other similar businesses are tackling their customers’ pain points. Continual training and development opportunities such as this allow you not to paint yourself into a box, but keep your ideas fresh.

Top tip 4: Are you asking enough people – both inside and outside of your business – about your personas’ pain points? Create a monthly catch up (it only needs to be short) with a representative from each of the key teams within your business to discuss insights from the previous month – what has changed? What surprising patterns are being revealed? Which issues are being resolved compared to three months previous?

If you regularly revisit your buyer personas’ pain points and ensure you address any new ones cropping up, you’re doing a great job. You’re making it your business to know the things keeping them up at night and finding solutions. Remember, to apply a truly inbound approach to your business, you need to always be helping and if prospects see you’re listening to them and acting on their concerns, they’ll want to stay with you for the long haul.