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Pain Points

We’ve talked a little about pain points in the How to tell a story lesson, but now we’re going to take a closer look, and then we’ll work with some examples.

Different kinds of pain points

Pain points can be as varied as businesses and organizations are. However, here are two categories for thinking about pain points that you may find helpful:

  • Practical 🚧 Something external to a person that causes them suffering
  • Psychological or emotional 🧠 What goes on inside the person when they are facing the practical pain point

The practical pain point is often the one you think of first, and it’s probably the main issue your product/service/etc. aims to address or the reason it was created. But solutions to psychological and emotional pain points are more compelling (read: they sell better 🤑). For this reason, you always want to appeal to these kinds of needs, even if the practical ones feel more obvious.

The good news is that if you are solving a practical pain point, you’re most likely addressing psychological pain points too, even if you’ve never thought of it that way. 🤔 Let’s work with some examples to see how one might come up with the pain points their business/organization tackles.

📝 Example time!

We briefly introduced these examples in the Overview, and we will continue to use these examples throughout the rest of the course, so keep an eye out for other sections where they help us make sense of our content concepts.

A business that sells a product ☕️

Let’s say you’re a business selling a self-warming coffee mug. Your practical pain points may include:

Room-temperature coffee tastes gross.

Coffee never stays warm long enough.

Life is full of interruptions and coffee often cools off before you can drink it.

Now let’s dig a level deeper. 🤔 What kind of internal reaction happens in response to these practical issues? 

Frustration at not being able to enjoy your coffee.

Disappointment or even sadness around something you were looking forward to.

“I deserve to enjoy a hot cup of coffee!”

A business that sells a service 🏄

Let’s imagine a business that sells surfing lessons. Practical pain points might be:

It’s tough to learn something like surfing without someone to teach you.

Fitting in time to practice is hard.

Equipment is expensive.

Now the internal response:

Frustration might lead someone to think they can’t learn at all and give up.

Self-esteem might suffer because you aren’t improving and you’re disappointed.

“It’s not fair that it’s so hard/expensive to learn to surf.”

An advocacy organization that doesn’t sell products or services 😸

Now let’s look at an example of an organization that doesn’t sell anything at all. Imagine an organization that advocates for the well-being of indoor housecats. What might the external pain points be?

Cats are thought to be low-maintenance pets but make it clear when they aren’t happy in some way. 💩

People don’t always know what they’re doing when they get their first pet and that can lead to big mistakes.

There’s conflicting information available on what’s best for cats.

What’s going on internally that might drive someone to the website of an organization like this?

Guilt or shame about what they don’t do or don’t know.

Anxiety about their pet’s welfare.

“Am I a bad person if I don’t do this perfectly?”

Starting to get the hang of it? Practical pain points are things outside of a person that cause dissatisfaction with their current situation or course of action, but psychological and emotional pain points go deeper. Take a look at the underlinedwords for each example. They’re all “negative” emotional states or value statements. 

While saying “Coffee gets cold too fast!” will resonate with people, “You deserve to enjoy your hot cup of coffee in the morning!” packs more of a punch. Both kinds of pain points are valuable and show that you fully understand the issue at hand, but if you want to motivate people to buy, sign up, become a member, etc., you’re going to need to appeal to those psychological and emotional pain points.

🤔 Questions to ask yourself when thinking about pain points

  • What practical issue prompted the creation of this product? Were there multiple?
  • Does everyone seek my product/service/advice for the same reason or are there a variety of reasons people come to my solution?
  • What kind of internal reaction happens in response to these practical issues?
  • Why does this problem bother someone so much?
  • What “negative” emotions might someone feel when experiencing these problems?
  • Is there something my clients/customers feel like they deserve but aren’t getting?
  • What do I hear new customers/clients say again and again?

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