In marketing, we often talk about finding out your target market’s “point of pain,” as if it’s a simple concept that everyone should know. But it’s not as straightforward as it sounds, something I was reminded of when a client recently asked me, “Hey, what is a point of pain exactly?” We talk about this “point of pain” so often that we marketers sometimes forget that normal people in the real world often don’t know what it means…so today we’re going to get into the question: What exactly is a “point of pain,” anyway?

Businessman suffering his point of pain under files and books.The Definition

Typically, when I train new marketing professionals, I define “point of pain” as “the thing that keeps your target market up at night.” The point of pain is the problem your potential customers or clients are trying to find a solution for. It’s the thing that bugs them, nags at them, drives them bonkers trying to figure out how to fix, solve, or manage. And it’s going to be different for every target market.

The Big Four

The big four points of pain, in no particular order are:

  • Love: The questions that naturally recur in a customer or a client might be things like, “Will I be loved?”, “Will I find love?”, or “Will I find true love?”
  • Money: Here, the questions could be, “Will I be able to pay my bills?”, “How can I pay my bills?”, or things like, “How can I get rich?”
  • Health: With health, the questions might be, “How can I live longer/look better/feel stronger/have more energy?” or “How can I solve [insert health problem here]?”
  • Sex: ….uh, the questions here are pretty obvious.

But just because these four points of pain are the biggest ones doesn’t mean that these will fall on the list of your target market’s points of pain. In fact your target market might have a completely different point of pain that’s nowhere near the ones on this list.

What is the point of pain for your audience?

It is vitally important for you to know your own audience so that you have a sound basis upon which to determine your target market’s point of pain.

If you’ve created an app that people use to play a game on their phones or tablets, you probably aren’t going to fall into the Big Four with your points of pain. Instead, your target market might be looking to alleviate boredom or stave off brain aging.

If you’re a coach, your clients most likely do fall within the Big Four; you can actually use the point of pain to niche down your target market and differentiate yourself in a very crowded market.

If you don’t know, ask.

Even if you know your audience well, the truth is, sometimes you don’t really know what their biggest point of pain is. Or maybe they have so many pain points that you need to whittle them down to the top three. If you don’t know, ask them. Setting up a survey is pretty easy these days, and you can ask one question: “What keeps you up at night?” or “What are the biggest challenges you face in [insert industry here]?” Then you’ll know exactly what point of pain to focus on solving for your clientele, and that will mean you can bring enormous value to them.

Want to see how I do it? Take my survey right here:

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  • When it comes to your business, what keeps you up at night?*