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How to Uncover Your Customer's Key Pain Points

In inbound marketing, we talk a lot about "pain points". But what exactly are they? Why are they so important? What's the danger in focusing on the wrong pain point?

As marketing specialists who help other businesses, we often encounter clients who have some idea of their own pain points – usually lead generation. But, when we start talking about their customer's pain points, things get increasingly more... vague. Most of the time, this is exactly why their business has stagnated and stopped scaling. You can't generate new leads if you haven't noticed that your customer's pain points have changed or evolved. 

In this article, we want to help you uncover the key pain points, the big drivers, the core influencing factors that will lead a customer to believe your advice and your solution is the best one for them.

What are pain points?

Pain points are the challenges and problems a potential customer may be experiencing. If left unattended, these pain points will continue to complicate the customer's life or lead to other, more costly issues.

At the very early stages, a prospect may not even be able to describe where the pain points are or what causes them. 

They know there's a problem; they just don't have a name for it yet. 

They know there's a solution; they just don't know what it is or where to look for it. 

As a customer success manager or a marketer, it's your role to diagnose that problem and identify the pain point so that you can offer the right solution. 

It's not a simple job at all. It requires a lot of research, careful listening and discernment. This is because it's very easy to tease out surface-level challenges and try to address those, but the core pain points may be positioned much deeper. As a result, you may end up doing the customer a disservice. Even worse, you may set your own solution up to fail.

What do your customers really want from you?

Customers want reassurance that the investment they make in your products or services will solve their problems, enhance a particular experience or improve a situation. Customers want transparency, empathy and ethical service delivery, and that can only be achieved by ensuring that you understand their pain points. 

Remember, you're positioning yourself as an expert on something that they need help with or are in the market for. They may be looking at their problems through the shrouded veil of their own perceptions or lenses, but they'll expect you to be the one that challenges them on this point of view and unearths the real problem.

The dangers of addressing the wrong challenge

There's nothing more disheartening than reviewing a report that shows all the work you did for a client hasn't yielded the desired results. Perhaps you sold them a software solution that would address a specific inefficiency in their business, and six months down the line, very little progress has occurred. When the client's annual subscription is up for review, it's likely that they'll request to leave – if they haven't already. 

What could you have done better to ensure that your solution worked for them? Should you have sold them that particular subscription package in the first place? 

The danger of addressing the wrong challenge is that both you and your client could spend a lot of time and resources trying to put a square peg into a round hole. Ultimately, that client won't walk away happy, and you risk receiving a bad review because the buyer felt misled or disappointed because you didn't deliver or meet their expectation. 

So, now that we know just how critical it is to accurately identify your buyer's pain points, it's time to look at like the methodology applied when diagnosing them. 

Methodology: Uncovering your customer's pain points

Questions, questions and more questions.

There's a famous question therapists ask their patients, "How did that make you feel?"

The patient responds, and the therapist asks the same question, "And how did that make you feel?"

Of course, we can laugh at this, but the intention behind this line of questioning is to enable the patient to go deeper and deeper into themselves. Eventually, the root cause of their condition is uncovered. 

This methodology can be applied (in a non-clinical way, of course) when trying to identify your customer's pain points. You want to ask the questions that help you move past the superficial problems and drive down to the root cause. 

Back to our software solution example, if you're a SaaS vendor, you may want to ask your leads questions like:

  • What's your company's biggest problem right now?
  • What stops you from doing the job you intend to do in the day?
  • Are others in your team open to new technology?
  • Have you ever used a similar solution, and why did you choose that one?


Research and evaluate your findings

It's so easy to spot the salespeople who don't do their research. They're the ones who call you at the most inconvenient time of the day. They've got a little bit of data on you, like maybe the fact that you work for a particular company and that you hold a certain position. But they don't know enough about your personality, and they're certainly not invested in the conversation. They probably don't know that much about your company either, it just ticked a certain prerequisite for the profile type they're targeting, and they thought you were fair game. 

To really understand your client's pain points, you have to get the mechanics of their business – how do they operate, whom do they sell to, what do their customers say about them, and how is their website performing right now?

Now zoom out a little more and discover what their industry is like. What challenges are they currently facing? Who are the big contenders and established brands? Are any new technologies or innovations about to switch things up? What is the trajectory of this industry?

Putting in the effort to understand your clients, as well as the environment they operate in, will put you in a much better position when making suggestions or offering advice. 

Understand the type of pain point you're working with

Not all pain points stem from the same place. What may look like a problem affecting productivity could actually have its root cause in the lack of available resources for support, or lack of finances to get better solutions or hire more staff. 

Your line of questioning will eventually lead you to the type of pain point you need to solve – or you may even discover that the problem isn't actually within the scope of challenges your product or service addresses. 

Here are some common types of pain points you may encounter:

  • Process – issues in certain processes or the lack of uniformity in processes causes setbacks. 
  • Financial – not generating enough new customers and is struggling financially. 
  • Productivity – there is friction among the various departments within the business, which negatively impacts productivity and output. 
  • Support – There isn't enough knowledge or expertise on a particular topic, resulting in a lot of time wasted on troubleshooting or paying third parties. 


One crucial element in your strategy to unearthing the exact pain point your customer is dealing with is data. Without accurate data and reporting on key metrics, you risk being too subjective in your diagnosis. 

To discover how you can improve marketing and sales performance with effective pain point diagnosis, as well as all the tools and steps you need to conduct this business-critical task, speak to us. As practitioners in the inbound methodology, we have the skills and expertise to help you carve out buyer personas based on in-depth analysis and a research-based approach, helping you to solve your customers' problems effectively and profitably.