In marketing we hear a lot about the importance of Unique Selling Points – USPs. We don’t hear quite so much about Pain Points – but we should.

Pain points are the other side of the USP coin. The USP was born in traditional advertising, where advertisers had very limited space and time to deliver their message. Advertisers had little choice but to highlight features whose merits they could depend upon their audience to recognise and value.

Online marketing allows for a much more thorough exposition of a product’s virtues – indeed the merits of “starting a conversation” with your customers are widely advocated by online marketers. Yet many businesses still treat their online presence as though it were just an extension of traditional advertising.

The problem is that USPs only work when your future customers see value in them. That sounds like an obvious point, but it’s amazing how much web marketing content appears to ignore it. To see the value in a USP, a potential customer must be aware, either from personal experience or from reputation, of the problem it addresses. In other words, they must see a “pain point” – which the USP takes care of.

Which sign is likely to sell more petrol?

That’s often not a problem with products and services that we all buy every day or week, since advertisers can probably rely on their audience to have “folk” knowledge of the pain points that afflict their market sector.

But how often do most house buyers buy; how often do most car renters rent a car; how often do most tourists tour Egypt? Businesses that rely on infrequent sales of big ticket products and services cannot rely on folk knowledge to give meaning and value to their USPs.

As an example, let’s take our car renter. And let’s say we’re a rental operator that makes a point of ensuring that our customers get exactly the model they booked. Our rivals, we know, are in the habit of taking a booking for an economy car, say, and then when the customer shows up and they’re fresh out of economy cars, supplying a larger, more luxurious car “at no extra cost”. The customer has to accept a car for whose luxury he has no use, that uses more petrol than expected, and that’s a pain the neck to park in town. But we’re better than that, and we say so – “make and model guaranteed as reserved.”

But so what? Our renter has perhaps not needed a rental car for some years, and may have no reason to believe that the car rental industry is beset with operators who do otherwise, to the consternation of their customers. Until that is appreciated, your prospective renter will assign very little value to your cherished USP. And, by the way, you just wasted precious screen space.

The good news is that the internet offers you the space to tell the customer the story – “no more nasty surprises – with us, you get exactly the make and model you booked – not whatever happens to be in the yard when you arrive.” OK, the style might need a bit of work, but you get the picture.


Using your customer’s Pain Points to your advantage

Understanding your customer’s pain points is a fundamental element of your business. Your ability to deliver something valuable that your rivals cannot is what keeps you in business. Successfully translating that knowledge into content for your website is inevitably a collaborative effort between you, your web designer and your content writer.

Don’t treat your online content as something to be left to the writer. A good writer will always fill the space required, but he is not a mind-reader, and is very unlikely to have the inside knowledge of your industry to know its pain points – still less how your product or service addresses them. Poorly briefed, his copy is likely either to lack focus or to be focused on the wrong points. Be prepared to set aside some time to educate your collaborators. Determine the pain points in your business sector, and get clear about the relative value of each. This amounts to profiling the weaknesses of your rivals. And that’s a good thing, because:

  • A good writer will take that information and mount a targeted attack on your rivals’ weakest features – without committing the unpardonable sin of explicitly bucketing your rivals.
  • The process of briefing your web managers can be profoundly beneficial to your business, identifying not just the weaknesses in your rivals, but areas in your own business that need improvement – or just greater emphasis in your marketing. We have known some particularly proactive businesses to turn it into a half-day corporate workshop – with extremely gratifying results.
About Andrew H
Andrew is an account manager at Webfirm with special expertise in SEO, PPC and data analysis. Developing digital marketing strategies is his bread and butter!