How to build your business by solving customer problems
Successful Marketing Begins With Pain Relief
Successful Marketing Begins With Pain Relief

An extraordinary entry in the publishing world — a children’s book for adults — recently became a sensation, appearing out of the blue, to become the  #1 best selling book on Amazon, well before its publication date.  What’s more amazing is that the book became a best seller in spite (or maybe because) of the fact that a PDF of the book was distributed virally before it was published.

This book (even its title, Go the F*** to Sleep broke several publishing conventions) rose to the top of the charts because it recognized a universal truth and a real “pain point” of parents. It acknowledged the frustration and anger that parents feel while trying to put their kids to bed and made them feel better about it by using humor.

The success of Go the F*** to Sleep, came at a time when I was digesting a vast amount of content from BlogWorld and New Media Expo.  Looking through pages of notes, I wanted to focus on one unifying idea to take away that tied together the wealth of information I had heard. It seemed to me that the idea was this: if you address your customers’ “pain points,” you’ll have a successful product or service and  possibly even an innovative idea for a business.

Knowing where it hurts is step one to relieving the pain.  In fact, two speakers at Blog World,  Lee Odden and Taryn Pisaneschi, used the phrase “pain points” in their presentations.  Here are some suggestions and ideas that came from those talks and others I heard over three days:

  1. Find out what people are searching for when they are search online for terms related to your product or service.  You can do this for free by using the Google keyword tool.
  2. Even better, look at the search terms that people used that led them to your site.
  3. Make a point of reading customer emails or have your customer service department provide a weekly report indicating the kinds of questions, complaints or comments they receive.
  4. If you have a retail store, spend time debriefing your salespeople about all this. Observe customers trying to make decisions and ask them about it afterwards.  It’s what you observe and hear when customers talk to salespeople that will be helpful, not just what they tell you.
  5. If you sell to retailers, go into the aisles and do the same.
  6. If you provide a service, find out what your clients’ frustrations have been with service providers in the past.
  7. Offer customers a cup of coffee in a quiet location and start an informal conversation.
  8. Take an online survey.
  9. Start a conversation on Facebook.

Most of the questions business people ask lead to answers that help them tweak their products, leading to incremental improvements. If you want real innovation, dig deeper to reach the pain.

One of the case studies presented at BlogWorld was about Foiled Cupcakes, a business that was born when a parent in suburban Chicago decided to do something about the fact that she and other moms wanted cupcakes for their kids’ parties and get-togethers, but didn’t want to spend hours driving all the way into the city and back to get them. She built a successful business to eliminate that bother using Twitter as her main marketing tool.

Once you have learned the specific words that people use to describe their problems by listening strategically, you can respond to them using their own vocabulary.

  1. If you are writing an e-newsletter, use those words in the subject line.
  2. Create an FAQ on your site to provide answers to the questions you’ve heard.
  3. Write blog posts to respond to your customers’ hot buttons.
  4. Create a video that explains how to do something your customers have been struggling with.

Facing the pain that people experience means opening yourself up to information you may not always want to hear. It’s not easy to listen to peoples’ problems, especially when it’s related to your business, but there is opportunity for those who do and who care enough to solve them.

There’s more help for understanding how to use keyword research over at Exploring Social Media, Jason’s learning community. They have a lesson there on Understanding Search Engine Optimization, one on Copywriting for SEO that are worth seeing.

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About the Author

Ilana Rabinowitz
Ilana Rabinowitz is the vice-president for marketing for Lion Brand Yarn and blogs about social media at Marketing Without A Net. Rabinowitz approaches marketing with an uncompromising focus on the customer and a grounding in psychology and neuroscience to understand what motivates people to make buying decisions.  She believes that businesses need to develop their own media as a means of creating a branded experience for customers.  She has spoken at digital marketing conferences including Web 2.0, Blogher Business and Internet Retailer. She is the author of a book about psychology, a book about mindfulness and co-author of a book about the culture of knitting. Follow her on Twitter at @ilana221.
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  • I saw this book in Chapters last week, and laughed out loud.  I have SO been there.  Your resulting article is also excellent.  You make some great points – especially about discovering your clients’ words and using them as subject lines.  Brilliant.

  • Anonymous

    . I
    found the information very helpful. That’s a awesome article you posted. I will
    come back to read some more.

  • Anonymous

    Hey, Ilana:
    Thanks so much for this post, and for the very practical list you credited Lee and Taryn with (whose presentations I missed). Those are all actionable items that small businesses can do RIGHT NOW to touch base our audience and see what we can do better/create more of. 

    Also – thank you for the shout! Much appreciated.

    I’m off to do a few of those things on the list…
    Mari (Foiled Cupcakes)

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  • Awesome post Ilana. Understanding the customers pain and giving them a good  service and relating to their needs and fulfilling them is what a successful business will do.

  • Brilliant post, Ilana. Your post reminds me of the importance of knowing your target persona so you can really face the specific pain of your customer. By seeing the target as an individual, rather than a huge demographic, you become more attuned to how you can provide the “pain relief.”

    • Thanks Rosie for your comment and for adding to the conversation. What I am reminded of  is that everything we say about social media–that it requires businesses to be more human, makes relating to peoples’ emotions all the more important.


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