Understand your customer’s pain points, and you will know how to provide the solution.

As we mentioned in our previous blogs on finding your niche in business, everything begins with the customer.

If you want your business to grow, you need to understand your current customers first. You need to know why they need what you sell so badly, and what is it that drives them to buy from you?

The received wisdom is that customers generally buy because they are running from pain or rushing towards pleasure – two very primeval instincts that drive us.

If you can identify your customer’s pain points, you can reach out and attract the people who need the solution you offer,  because it solves the very problem that’s been causing them pain.

Here are some simple steps you can take to help you discover what drives your customer to buy from you.


Internal Resources – Start with what you’ve got

Sometimes the solution is sitting right in front of you. Before you start an expensive fact finding campaign, review your own experiences of customers. What gets them animated or excited? If you have old survey results,  reviews or complaints, begin by auditing and collating them to see if there is a pattern of customer interaction and need.


Talk to your staff (if you have them)

Your staff are the front line, talking to your customers every day. If you have a sales team, the tendency is to go straight for them – after all, they are the ones who know the product and customer the best. But, your sales team are only involved with the customer at a very particular point in time – when they are receptive to ideas and actively looking for change.

Instead of just relying on the sales team, talk to every member of your staff who deals with customers at any stage. You need to know successes, near misses and war stories. Combine these to generate a preliminary list of requirements. Look for patterns, but don’t automatically dismiss one-offs – look to corroborate them with findings from other methods.


Map out your customer’s buying process

Think through the decision making process your customers go through before finally buying from you. Think through the stakeholders who are influencing the final decision maker, what conflicts might there be? What stages do they go through?

With many sales, the customer goes through multiple phases, and touches with the seller several times, in going from “I think I might need to change” to “I really need to buy your product/service!”

What alerts you to the fact that a customer is ready to move along to the next stage? What resistances are their? Are their common objections that stop a sale mid-way through the process? Have you misread situations in the past? What was the cause of the misread?

Once you have this mapped out you can use it to unify fragmented efforts and identify points of friction and opportunities for improvement.

Finding and fixing the pain points in a customer’s journey isn’t just about damage control, it’s about the innovation that comes from eliminating the pain. Our recent blog on The Customer Buying Process provides more details about understanding these stages and how you can use them to your advantage.


Competitive analysis

A SWOT analysis of your competitors, which identifies competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats is a useful way of defining them. SWOTs can be used for brand, product, or even an experience, helping you to see where they try to address customer’s needs and pain.


External Research

Once you have exhausted your staff and your internal records you should have a fairly clear idea of your customer’s pain points. Now it’s time to test those theories with some external research.


Customer surveys

I’ve put this in with a heavy heart. Customer s surveys can be used to collect data from email or from a pop-up on a website. The theory is that they will tell you about the attitudes and expectations of existing or prospective customers. However, two questions need to be thought through:

  1. How will you go about doing the survey?
  2. How many of your customers will bother answering it?

If you are a large company and have money to throw around you could engage a specialist agency to do the survey for you. If you are doing it yourself Survey Monkey has some very good templates you can use. But you need to be skilled at creating the right questions, otherwise you will be wasting time and money. A mix of open-ended and closed-ended questions are needed to see what produces the most useful data. Most of your customers will not be very good at identifying their own needs, so you might need a trained analyst to help you discern customer goals, challenges, problems, and attitudes – and then recommend opportunities.


Customer interviews

A far better method is to ask customers directly what problems they have and what features they want. Ask 2-3 of your best customers to get together with you – make it relaxed, make is social, and set yourself to “receive.” Ask them what problems they are having and what features they want. Try to get at the needs they don’t know they have.

But remember, different clients have different situations and requirements, so don’t expect the same results from everyone. Two clients using the same product might be using them in completely different ways.


Get On-Site with your customers

Sometimes called “follow me home” research, this means literally following a customer home or to work.

This method of engaging works better in a B2B environment, where you can spend part of the day watching how your client does their job – looking for process pain points, knowing that these represented opportunities of improvement. But it could also be done in the B2C environment where the customer allows you to see how they expect to use the solution you provide.

It’s not for everyone, but the gains can be terrific, as you see the real life issues you can solve unfolding in front of you.


Whatever your business, whether you sell a product or service, you meet customer needs. Understanding what their needs are, and what pains you can alleviate, will be your first step towards understanding how you can sell more of your solution to more of those needy customers.