As consumers, we often make purchases without the intention of problem-solving.
But when we make the mental shift from consumer mode to business mode, our buying behaviors change. As employees acting on behalf of companies, we seldom make purchases unless we have specific problems that need to be solved.
That’s why B2B marketers need to identify their prospects’ pain points. If you don’t understand the problems that drive prospects to evaluate your solution, you’ll struggle to produce effective messaging. (As we’ll discuss, your prospects are not necessarily aware of their pain points.)
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have an answer to each of the following questions:
- What are pain points?
- How do you identify your prospects’ pain points?
- How do you incorporate your prospects’ pain points into messaging?
(Note: This article is about your prospects’ pain points — i.e., the problems experienced by people who have not yet purchased your solution. These are not necessarily the same as your customers’ pain points — i.e., the problems experienced by people who have purchased your solution and are currently using it. You will often see the term ‘customer pain points’ used as a catch-all to encompass both prospects’ pain points and customers’ pain points. We have deliberately avoided this usage, as it can cause confusion.)
What Are Pain Points?
Your prospects’ pain points are the problems they’re dealing with on a regular basis.
Take Charlotte, for example — owner of an independent convenience store. Over the course of an average week, she’ll deal with a wide range of pain points: spending too much time taking inventory, using a POS system that constantly glitches, and so on.
If Charlotte the business owner — as opposed to Charlotte the consumer — decides to make a purchase, it will be with the intent of relieving one (or more) of her pain points.
From a B2B marketing perspective, you can think of your prospects’ pain points as motivators that drive them to do business with you. Keep in mind that pain points are not always obvious to the person they’re afflicting. Depending on your niche, the amount of effort it takes to help someone realize they’re experiencing a legitimate problem can vary dramatically. Whereas Charlotte is probably aware that her current POS system is suboptimal, she may not realize that she’s spending too much time taking inventory.
Types of Pain Points
Generally speaking, a given pain point is at least one of the following:
- A process pain point that negatively affects internal operations
- Example: using a POS system that constantly glitches
- A productivity pain point that reduces efficiency
- Example: spending too much time taking inventory
- A financial pain point that cuts into the bottom line
- Example: overpaying for certain inputs
- A support pain point that diminishes the utility of a product or service
- Example: struggling to find someone who can repair the POS system
Via REVE Chat.
Note that the lines between different types of pain points are not always clear. When Charlotte spends too much time taking inventory, you could argue that she’s simultaneously experiencing a productivity pain point, a financial pain point, and a process pain point.
Why You Need to Identify Your Prospects’ Pain Points
As a marketer, you’re responsible for communicating the value of your solution. How you go about fulfilling that responsibility depends on your area(s) of expertise, but at the end of the day, that’s what you’re paid to do.
It’s obvious that you cannot communicate the value of your solution until you understand the value of your solution. Nobody is going to dispute that.
But there’s a not-so-obvious question you need to ask yourself: Can you truly understand the value of your solution without identifying the motivators that drive people to buy it?
Nope. And that’s why you need to identify your prospects’ pain points — because doing so will enable you to fulfill your responsibility as a marketer to the best of your ability.
Towards the end of this article, we’ll see what it looks like when B2B marketers effectively communicate the value of their solutions. But first, here are five tactics you can use to identify your prospects’ pain points.
5 Ways to Identify Your Prospects’ Pain Points
Please note that (1) this list is not exhaustive and (2) these tactics will yield overlapping results. Pain points you uncover when listening to sales calls will likely reappear in online reviews!
1. Survey Your Current Customers
One of the best ways to identify your prospects’ pain points is to survey your current customers with a short series of open-ended questions and prompts.
Open-ended is an important qualifier here. You may not realize it, but you’ve probably formed some preconceived notions as to why people do business with you — preconceived notions that may or may not be accurate. By asking open-ended questions (as opposed to yes/no questions, such as “Was XYZ a pain point before you bought our solution?”), you reduce the risk of watering down and/or delegitimizing your survey results.
Imagine how much you could learn about your prospects simply by asking your customers to respond to questions and prompts like these:
- Why did you decide to evaluate our solution?
- Describe what work was like before you started using our solution.
- How did you do XYZ before using our solution?
Responses will vary across your book of business, but if you can get enough customers to participate, you’ll be able to draw concrete conclusions about your prospects’ pain points.
2. Connect with Your Product Team
Could you build an effective solution without an in-depth understanding of the problems you’re trying to solve?
Of course not — and that’s why your product team is such a wealth of knowledge when it comes to identifying your prospects’ pain points. These folks wouldn’t be at your company if they didn’t have a clear vision of the problems your target customers are dealing with.
As a bonus, connecting with your product team should be much easier than surveying your customers. If these colleagues of yours are meeting with each other on a regular basis, ask if you can be a fly on the wall during a handful of their sessions. You’d be surprised how much you can learn about your prospects’ pain points simply by observing your product team in action.
3. Listen to Sales Calls
Every day, your sales reps talk to prospects about the pain points that keep them awake at night. Each of these conversations is full of information that will help you better understand (and communicate) the value of your solution.
Even if your reps aren’t using something as advanced as Gong, you should be able to access recordings of their phone calls. Jot down notes as you listen, and look for patterns across calls. If a certain pain point comes up again and again, you know you’ve struck marketing gold.
4. Read Online Reviews of Your Product
The primary issue with surveying your customers is that it’s difficult to get a high volume of people to respond. Fortunately, reviews of your product posted to third-party websites offer a tremendous amount of insight into your prospects’ pain points.
Check out this excerpt from a review of ZoomInfo, a B2B sales tool:
From just a handful of sentences, here’s what I’ve learned about ZoomInfo’s prospects:
- They spend too much time researching prospects (productivity pain point)
- They struggle to get in touch with decision-makers (productivity pain point)
This doesn’t cover the full range of pain points that frustrate ZoomInfo’s prospects, but it’s a fantastic starting point. Right now, there are reviews of your product just begging to be analyzed to your advantage. What are you waiting for?
5. Take Advantage of Google
When we have questions, we turn to Google. It’s not always the case, but when our Google searches are related to work, they often reflect the pain points we’re dealing with.
Recently, I used Google to find answers to my questions about conducting a website inventory. Based on the amount of content I found, it’s clear that many other people have asked Google similar questions. In fact, in the U.S. alone, “website inventory” is searched on Google nearly 150 times per month.
Not everyone who searches this query is looking to buy a solution, of course. But, with that being said, we can reasonably assume that some folks are experiencing pain points related to the organization of their website content.
So, here’s one final tip for identifying your prospects’ pain points: In the Google search box, start typing keywords related to your business. The recommendations will be based on the search activity of others, and from this data, you just might learn something about your prospects.
Pain Points & Messaging: 3 Real-World Examples
At this point, I hope we’ve convinced you of the importance of communicating the value of your solution in a manner that resonates with your prospects. To wrap up, let’s quickly take a look at three real-world examples of B2B companies that speak to their prospects’ pain points.
1. Toast (Productivity & Process Pain Points)
If you’ve ever worked at a popular restaurant, you understand the stress (and inefficiency) of constantly jumping from one system to another. As soon as you punch in Table 3’s appetizers, DoorDash notifies you of a complicated takeout order — have fun manually entering each item into the POS system! Not only does this take time away from other tasks, but it also increases the risk of making an error. Plus, when it’s time to close up and create your nightly report, separating dine-in revenue from delivery app revenue is a painstaking process.
Based on Toast’s messaging, they’re clearly aware of these productivity and process pain points; they understand the frustration of working with disjointed systems. Without that understanding, their messaging wouldn’t be as strong as it is.
2. Yesware (Productivity & Process Pain Points)
While we’re on the topics of stress and inefficiency, let’s talk about tracking someone down via email in order to get their availability for a meeting. Rather than sourcing new accounts or making phone calls, you’re playing email tag with a prospect in a (potentially unsuccessful) attempt to find a 30-minute window that works for both of you. Something that should take two minutes — booking a meeting — can stretch out for days on end.
We can tell from Yesware’s messaging that they’ve identified this pain point as a major source of frustration amongst their prospects. Again, had the marketers at Yesware not taken the time to understand their prospects on this level, they wouldn’t be doing their jobs as well as they are.
3. Intuit QuickBooks (Financial Pain Points)
Purely from a copywriting standpoint, this might be my favorite of the bunch — “Keep more of what you earn” is a stroke of genius. For those who decide to venture out on their own as freelancers and entrepreneurs, it’s extraordinarily difficult to keep everything straight from a tax perspective. Without the help of software, it’s all too easy to make mistakes that end up taking a bite out of your income.
The folks at Intuit are well aware of this, and they do an excellent job of speaking to their prospects’ financial pain points through their messaging. Amongst freelancers and entrepreneurs, the idea of saving more than $2,000 per year most certainly strikes a chord.
Identify Your Prospects’ Pain Points ASAP
With five time-tested tactics and a handful of inspirational examples, you’ve got what you need to start identifying (and speaking to) your prospects’ pain points. It’s a time-consuming process, but considering the impact it will make on the quality of your work, it’s a no-brainer. The better you understand your prospects, the better you’ll be at marketing your solution.
If you’ve got any additional recommendations for identifying prospects’ pain points, please feel free to leave a comment below!
Topics: Product Marketing