Here’s an easy question: What does your product do?
Here’s a harder one: What pain points do you solve?
A lot of SaaS founders and marketers have the same challenge. They’re a solution looking for a problem.
The good news is you can fix this (and I’m about to show you how). The bad news is that until you fix it, most people won’t understand why they should buy from you.
Pain points as a concept aren’t new, but we often gloss over them. For those people who are willing to dig, there’s a ton of depth there that will help you pitch your product better and come up with great ideas for copy and content.
This post will explore:
- Why knowing your pain points is essential to unlocking SaaS growth
- Why your pain points are richer and more complex than you think
- The different kinds of pain point your customers are experiencing
Why SaaS pain points matter
SaaS products aren’t sneakers: we don’t buy them because they’re ‘cool’ or desirable. We buy SaaS products to solve practical problems.
Marketers often see the value of their product as the sum total of its features or functionality. Customers don’t think this way.
For them, the value of your product is the importance of the problems that it solves offset against the cost, effort and time it will take. Great SaaS marketing dials up the former while shrinking the latter.
When a new product launches on Product Hunt, you often see Twitter erupt with people saying how cool or innovative it is. But do those people buy? No, because despite being cool and innovative, the product doesn’t solve a problem they have.
If you want people to buy, you need to be clear about the problems you solve. This is especially true for SaaS because software is intangible. The value isn’t self-evident and, if your product is novel, buyers might not understand how it works or how it could help them.
Put simply: customers don’t care about your product.
They care about their goals and the obstacles standing in their way. Targeting these obstacles and showing how you remove them is better than pitching your product directly because you’re focusing on things people already understand and care about.
Pain points are more complex than you think
The simplistic view of pain points is this:
I have a problem. Once I fix it I can achieve my goal.
This is the level of depth you see in most persona or product messaging docs. But the reality for your customers is deeper.
The steps highlighted in yellow are your pain points and how they impact your customer. There’s a lot of depth there, right? And it gets better: most products have multiple answers to question two, unlocking multiple pathways through questions three to seven.
You’ve probably got persona docs already. But how much time do you spend talking about your product and how great it is? And how much do you spend unpacking your pain points and their second-order effects?
Maybe you’re wondering if this level of interrogation is really necessary. My answer: absolutely. The more depth you can go into, the more you empathise with your customer.
Superficial insights tend to elicit a superficial response.
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The different types of pain point
Pain points typically fall into one of four categories:
- They cost you money
- They waste your time
- They impact your customers
- They impact your staff
The Five Whys can help you get to the root cause of why a pain point really matters. You normally arrive at one of the four categories above after a bit of digging.
If you don’t, the pain point may be trivial. If something doesn’t cost you money, waste your time or impact your customer or staff retention, is it that important?
There is another important dimension to consider: the impact on the business versus the impact on the individual.
Let’s look at an example
Imagine the pain point is having too many meetings in your calendar.
- The company:
- Wastes time by having an unproductive workforce
- Wastes money by paying people to sit on calls all day
- Impacts customers through delayed work
- Impacts staff through reduced less job satisfaction
- The individual:
- Experiences Zoom fatigue
- Has to work late to catch up on what they couldn’t do during the day
- Can’t focus because they’re jumping on and off calls all the time
Company pain points are practical. Personal pain points are emotional. Articulating company pain points is often easier than articulating personal pain points but the emotional dimension will have more impact.
That said, they’re all important. I like to pull them together like this so I can see them in one place.
I usually start on the left side of this chart and work my way across. I’ve included one item per section to keep things tidy, but try to include as many as you can think of. You can prioritise them later.
A few closing thoughts
Nobel Prize-winning behavioural economist Daniel Kahneman observed: “People don’t choose between things, they choose between descriptions of things.”
This is especially true for SaaS.
Selling software isn’t like selling physical products like sweatshirts or beans. SaaS marketers have to translate complex, technical solutions into neat and tidy value props. To turn 35,000 lines of code into a couple of short sentences.
SaaS pain points are a useful shortcut. They help you compress information by framing your value in a way that customers already understand. And help you create content that’s relevant and useful, no matter what stage of the problem-solving process they’re at.
This post is the first in a series. Next week’s post will dive into the more tactical side of pain points:
- How to identify and prioritise high-value pain points
- How to use pain points to get people to take action
- How to turn pain points into ideas for content and campaigns
- How to target pain points at every stage of your customer journey
In the meantime, if you have any thoughts or questions, drop me a line on Twitter anytime.
Thanks for reading.