Primal Powers of Pain: Solving 4 Specific Squeezes for Superior Conversions

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Ever think to yourself, how do some products and services get it so right? Why do some companies drive a constant stream of customers, ready and willing to spend? It’s because at every corner of their development to the execution of their growth strategies, they’ve become the remedy to a situational issue, that their market may not have even known existed (or just taken for granted).

Is your brand a remedy to a situational issue?
Is your brand a remedy to a situational issue? Image courtesy photosbyflick

Everyone has problems and they’re looking for the silver bullet. In fact, solving those problems has been the key to product creation and marketing, well before the internet.

These problems, are in fact ‘pain’ points, and not necessarily in the physical pain space.

  • My back hurts, I’ll see a physio
  • I’m thirsty, I’ll drink a Coke (even though our health consciousness might beg to differ)
  • My car guzzles fuel, I’ll buy a Tesla
  • I want the world to see my holiday photos, I’ll download Instagram
  • I want to keep in touch with friends around the world, I’ll join Facebook
  • I’m sick of manually performing menial repetitive tasks, I’ll automate with IFTTT

What we’re talking about, is solving an existing and saturated problem in a target market large enough to validate your idea and drive consumption upwards.

What is pain?

As humans, operating in a civilised world, we all experience the pulls and pressures of the demands of work and personal life. With only 24 hours in a day, we generally don’t have the time to sit and wallow in inefficiencies and time-vacuums. So we look to make it better. We aim to make both the menial and important things work better for us, leaving us with time to spend with things that matter the most.

Most pain can be separated into four specific ‘squeezes’:


When in doubt use cat photo to convey stress levels
When in doubt use cat photo to convey stress levels. Image courtesy mastrobiggo
  1. Time Squeeze: How can you satisfy demand in a time-hungry market? How can you increase efficiency of your target market and give them valuable time back?
  2. Professional Squeeze: How can you make their job easier/faster/efficient? How can they use your product/service to get ahead?
  3. Family Squeeze: How do you make family time better? How can you reduce the time doing ‘chores’?
  4. Social Squeeze: How can you help people connect better? How can they share the things they need to, with the right people?

The thing about pain is that it’s a real thing that exists, and without a solution, that pain persists indefinitely. That’s pure market validation right there. Bringing a product or service to life and addressing a squeeze point better than anyone else has attempted to, is one challenge. The major challenge is communicating the right solution, to the right market and addressing the severity of their pain to trigger an influx of customers and help them spread the solution you’re pushing.

What can the severity spectrum tell me?

Each pain point has a severity. That severity determines how hungry and receptive your market will be when presented with your product. Depending on where your solution fits on the severity spectrum, will define the angle of your conversion-based marketing.

Where does your offering sit on the Severity Spectrum
Where does your offering sit on the Severity Spectrum?
  • Explicit Severity: The issue is real, it’s ever-present and affects my life in one way or another. With Explicit Severity, your product or service almost sell themselves (with the correct targeting). Your prospects are already motivated to solve their problem and are actively searching for you (or your competitors). This requires you project a very ‘instant relief’ approach with your acquisition drive.
  • Tolerable Severity: It’s not such a big problem, but it would be nice to not have to deal with it again. With Tolerable Severity, you’re targeting an issue that is present, though not top-of-mind. This approach involves amplifying the pain point to drive the importance of it up, and motivate people through your conversion funnel.
  • Unexplicit Severity: I didn’t even know this was a problem, never noticed it before or never considered it. With Unexplicit Severity, you’re targeting an issue that is of little or no urgency, and potentially never even considered to be an issue in the first place. This approach involves increasing the awareness of the pain point to convince your target market that it does in fact need solving.

The best part of the severity spectrum, is that with the right language cues and targeting, you can intelligently upgrade your severity to solve problems with a more diverse approach.

Take for example, Uber, which essentially is providing a taxi service by allowing every day citizens to share their ride. Their approach to market severity could have happened in many ways:

  • Unexplicit Uber: I already use taxis without any problems, why would Uber benefit me?
  • Tolerable Uber: I really don’t care how I get from A to B, lets give Uber a quick go.
  • Explicit Uber: Cheaper, friendlier, accountable. Why didn’t I discover Uber a year ago?
How Uber leverages pain
How Uber leverages pain. Source

If you look at the market pain point Uber came in to solve, it’s easy to see they weren’t really “required”. Even without taxis, there is always public transport (no matter how inefficient that sometimes is). Uber saw a gap in explicit severity, and set about creating demand around that pain point. They differentiated themselves from the word ‘taxi’ and positioned themselves as a more effective, fun way to get around.

Why does targeting (and solving) user pain work?

Your product or service NEEDS to solve an existing issue, and it needs to do it better than anyone has tried to do it before. While most products will naturally solve a problem somewhere along the severity spectrum, there’s an incredible opportunity to amplify a user’s pain point to make them believe that the pain is much more intense than it really is.

It's critical to find user pain and leverage it
It’s critical to find user pain and leverage it

This works because pain is the focal point of our existence. We natuarally zero-in on our own problems (whether they’ve been known to us or introduced to us) and aspire to reduce or remove them from our lives.

By focusing on delivering the solution to a customer’s pain, they’re more inclined to convert with far less reservations and buyer’s remorse. It’s about shifting your product or service from the ‘want’ category, to the ‘need’.

For example, when tax time rolls around, there’s an abundance of paperwork and administration work involved. Smart SaaS accounting companies deliver timely messages to their potential customers.

Instead of:

  • Automate your tax paperwork. Try our end-to-end tax time solution

They would use:

  • Hate tax paperwork? Never file a receipt again and get instant reports.
  • Still filing receipts? Throw out your shoebox and download freedom.
  • Tax time sucks! Though it doesn’t have to. End paperwork forever.

By tweaking your message to the right audience and displaying it via the right channel, you’ve got an upper hand in driving conversions at a much faster rate than simply trying to convince people to give your initiative a go.

How do you find our target market’s pain points?

Keyworded Pain

  • Google Autocomplete Search: That awesome suggestion box that appears when you begin to type something into Google Search, is actually a collection of highly searched terms based on what you’re starting to type. As you type more keywords into the search bar, your autocomplete suggestions become more relevant. The majority of the time, people are typing their pain points (or at least quesitons about how to solve those pain points). You can make a nice list of these.Google Autocomplete Search
  • Google AdWords Keyword Planner: This great resource allows you to see the number of time people are querying specific search terms. You can spend some time here, typing your relevant industry keywords and moving down the list to see if pain point indicators are mentioned next to the keyword terms. For example, ‘tax time’ as the keyword could have ‘why does tax time suck’ as a pain point indicator.Using Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Public Pain

  • Forums: Head over to any of your industry’s top forums and you’ll instantly find threads discussing various pain point questions.Using Forums
  • Quora: I’m a big fan of Quora, it’s always helpful. On Quora, people ask questions and relevant industry experts respond. The relevancy is determined by the reading audience, and the most upvoted answers are deemed the best answer. Just typing your industry keywords into Quora search should yeild plenty of pain points people are discussing.Using Quora
  • Reddit: Dubbed ‘the front page of the internet’, there’s a neverending supply of procrastination data, as well as real life pain points being discussed. Simply search for your industry category and filter to find the most talked about topics in your industry.Using Reddit

Explicit Answers

  • Surveys: Nothing will get you relevant results like asking your subscriber database specific questions or openly asking the right target audience via your blog.

    Using Surveys for explicit pain questioning
    Using Surveys for explicit pain questioning. Image courtesy roboppy
  • Email existing customers: Segmenting your email database and asking your active/paying audience about their pain points can get you much more truthful and pinpoint results.

    Questions to ask over email
    Questions to ask over email. Click to access the file.
  • Questions to ask: Download this handy Google Doc for yourself ‘9 Questions To Find Pain Points’

    • What do you hate most about [topic]?
    • What could you live without in your day-to-day with [topic]?
    • Where does this problem come from?
    • Why is it such as issue?
    • Do you know of any existing solutions?
    • Have you implemented any?
    • If there are solutions, and you haven’t implemented them, why?
    • How much easier would your day-to-day be with this problem solved?
    • What’s the biggest factor in taking up a solution? (Ease/Price/Accountability/Peace of Mind)

How do you craft pain into your call-to-actions and headlines?

I recently wrote a blog titled ‘Are your headlines/CTA’s missing these 5 highly converting tricks?’, which goes into learning your target audience before crafting a call-to-action or headline. It also touches on the imporance of being human and relating to your customers, trigger words, and urgency.

Now that we know about how to leverage pain, we can start to craft an emotionally-charged, highly clickable/actionable call-to-action or headline.

Here’s a hypothetical result from the questionnaire above, revolving around ‘brushing your teeth’ (which are no real thoughts of my own, they’re just for fun. For the record, I take pride in dental hygiene!), and we’re assuming the majority of respondents felt similar:

Crafting pain points around brushing teeth
Crafting pain points around brushing teeth. Image courtesy demandaj
  • What do you hate most about brushing your teeth? The time it takes to do a thorough job
  • What could you live without in your day-to-day when brushing your teeth? Putting the toothepaste on is fine, but being conscious of every angle and corner of my teeth is repetitive and boring
  • Where does this problem come from? The manual labour required
  • Why is it such as issue? I could be doing other things and using my time more productively
  • Do you know of any existing solutions? Electric and ‘smart’ toothbrushes, though they still require the time input
  • Have you implemented any? I have a toothbrush that times each section that requires brushing
  • If there are solutions, and you haven’t implemented them, why?
  • How much easier would your day-to-day be with this problem solved? You could honestly get a lot more done in the morning
  • What’s the biggest factor in taking up a solution? (Ease/Price/Accountability/Peace of Mind) Speed vs cleanliness

Now, assuming we’re in dental tech and have come up with a ‘tooth-brushing drone’ that is a much faster way to brush your teeth (and that actually does a good job), we can extract the overarching pain present in the questionnaire:

Pain Points:

  • Time
  • Repetition
  • Manual Labour (taken care of by electric and ‘smart’ toothbrushes)
  • Quality Clean

So we can leverage time, repetition and quality. A few good call-to-action/headline experiments could be:

  1. Does brushing suck? Our tooth drone fixes that
  2. Electric toothbrush not good enough? Get a tooth drone
  3. Teeth getting yellow? Let our tooth drone take care of that
Tooth drone
Tooth drone? Close enough. Image courtesy ittybittiesforyou

Note I always use the pain point in a question-based setting. It humanises the pain and has the person reading it actually ask themselves while doing so, followed up with the pleasure of having that problem solved.

We all have pain points. Drilling down and extracting an understanding of them is a powerful method of attracting the right audience, at the right time, and driving more quality leads into your conversion funnel.


Do you leverage pain in your business? Do you have any other tips for using pain as an activator? Drop a comment below!

~ Tomer Garzberg
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