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Identifying Pain Points: The Crucial First Step in Positioning

1218 words·6 mins
Branding & Growth
Table of Contents

In today’s crowded marketplace, brands must address customer pain points to stand out. But first you need to identify those pain points through research and validation.

This post will walk through tactics for uncovering pain points, and share examples of brands that have crafted powerful positioning around addressing consumer frustrations.

What are pain points?>

What are pain points? #

Pain points are the specific problems or challenges customers face. A pain point is the “why” behind purchases - the reason someone seeks out your product or service.

The choice of words “pain point” is intentional because something has to be severe enough to be ‘painful’ (or impactful) to the consumer for them to act and find solutions. Think of pain points as the itch, and your business as the scratch.

Learn from Blockbuster’s Mistake>

Learn from Blockbuster’s Mistake #

Blockbuster was the dominant player. It had its time, that brick-and-mortar store in every town and city where you can rent movies and games.

Netflix, on the other hand, was founded as a DVD-by-mail rental service. It needed the internet to run. And when the dot-com bubble burst, Netflix suffered and even offered to sell the company to Blockbuster, who thought it was ridiculous.

So what changed? Netflix added a streaming service in 2005, allowing customers to instantly watch selections of movies and TV shows using the internet since. Meanwhile, Blockbuster failed to adapt. It filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

Did Netflix kill Blockbuster? Not really. Not directly.

The internet changed consumer behaviors forever (and continues to do so) which rendered its business model obsolete.

There was a time (pre-internet) when we love watching movies we missed from the theaters without breaking the bank. Blockbuster solves that. Now with the internet in our homes, Blockbuster making us go to a shop to browse and rent a DVD now feels inconvenient.

There was a new pain point, and Blockbuster was too late to solve that.

Understanding Consumer Behavior and Pain Points>

Understanding Consumer Behavior and Pain Points #

People spend money on two things: to fight pain and to pursue pleasure.

At most, consumers’ perceptions of pursuing pleasure are merely just mending pain. Their pleasure is still determined by pain points (at most). Therefore, identifying customers’ pain points is the first step to developing a pain-solving business that makes their problems go away.

In the case of Blockbuster, the customer pain points were convenience and ease of access.

Validating the Right Pain Points>

Validating the Right Pain Points #

To understand what customers need and want, you need to understand their problems and frustrations. This can be done through market research and analyzing customer feedback.

If you’re on a budget, you can also look at what your competitors are doing and read customer reviews of their products or services.

Once you’ve identified the pain points, you need to answer four questions to validate your research and identify the right customers:

  1. What is the true source of pain?
  2. Who sees the most value in having that pain removed?
  3. Who will ultimately pay for a solution?
  4. Is there a substantive market that will benefit from the solution?

You may have to tweak your service design or product development process to truly address the pain you like to mend. You may also be needed to add new features. This is a way to adapt and differentiate.

Using Pain Points for Effective Positioning>

Using Pain Points for Effective Positioning #

Blueland is a company that identified a pain point in the cleaning products industry: the amount of plastic waste that traditional cleaning products generate.

They addressed this pain point by creating a line of cleaning products that use refillable containers and dissolvable tablets. This solution is not only more sustainable, but it also makes sense for the business logistically, as it reduces shipping costs.

Blueland's line of products. Ranging from bathroom cleaners to a hand soap Blueland's line of products. Ranging from bathroom cleaners to handsoaps.

Blueland’s brand and marketing efforts focus on the idea of “cleaning without plastic,” promoting a sustainable and eco-friendly alternative to the products we are used to. They have designed their brand’s look as minimalist, rendering it timeless. This look is especially consistent with their refillable containers that are meant to be used for a long time.

We can apply the four questions to validate pain points:

Question Answer
What is the true source of pain? Traditional cleaning products generate a lot of plastic waste
Who sees the most value in having this pain removed? Environmentally conscious customers who are aware of the negative impact our plastic waste has on the environment.
Who will ultimately pay for a solution? The customer who are willing to spend extra on sustainable and eco-friendly products that align with their values. They may also get funding from investors.
Is there a substantive market that will benefit from the solution? Yes. As more of us are now becoming aware of the environment more than ever, we are also (globally) seeking sustainable and eco-friendly solutions and alternatives.

(Note: These are only observations from the content about them on the web)

What if there is no pain point?>

What if there is no pain point? #

Is it possible to not have a pain point? Could be!

There are products or services designed purely for pleasure and enjoyment that don’t solve a specific problem or pain point. Marketing focuses on benefits, pleasure, and/or experience.

Sometimes, companies know their customer’s pain points but don’t necessarily focus their positioning on those pain points.

Especially if the pain point is the desire for exclusivity, status, and prestige. So luxury brands often emphasize craftsmanship and heritage on messaging while creating a sense of desire by being only available to a select few.

They don’t advertise on TV but the stars on TV have them. They don’t welcome everyone to their shops, and may even refuse a sale to some customers. There are products and services we can only get our hands on through an invite, even if we can afford them tenfold.

Some pain points are not obvious, and some pain points should not be obviously addressed.

Ready to address pain points?>

Ready to address pain points? #

Addressing pain points can make customers’ lives easier with the solutions you provide.

In addressing pain points, you should remember three things:

  1. Pain points are ever-changing.
    What may be significant in the past may not be significant today. Always gather feedback and always research. Blockbuster failed to address this.
  2. Pain points may vary between customer segments and timing.
    What one customer may consider a pain may not be relevant to the other. At the beginning of the pandemic when everything was put to a halt, Blueland’s ad focused heavily on saving customers’ money long term and less on sustainability. It didn’t exactly drift from its mission, it just addressed the general audience the general concern at hand, at that time.
  3. Pain points require a customer-centric approach.
    What you think you want for your product or service may not be what the customers want. Prioritize customer needs and desires by listening to them. Gather customer feedback. It worked for Riot Games that they can sell to loyal customers anything.

Make pain points the central motivator to why we do what we do as businesses and nonprofits. It will clear up blurs in the business approach.