Talk about your buyers' problems

Marketing experts often say that buyers don’t care about features alone. ‘Buyers care about how your product will benefit them.’ But benefits alone can often fall short. Benefits alone can’t carry a buyer from where they are today, risk-averse and standing still, to taking a chance on an unfamiliar solution that will cost them time, money, and/or effort.

Advanced marketers have learned that buyers want comfort in knowing you’ve taken time to understand their problems before they’ll hear the benefits you think are relevant [1].

Show buyers that you understand them

A buyer, like any human, will only respond if we as marketers take the time to understand their problems first and show them that ‘we get it.’ Roosevelt wrote…

“Nobody cares how much you know, until they know how much you care”

Theodore Roosevelt

He was writing about leadership principles but the same applies to marketing too. Like leaders, marketers ask people to buy their mission (or value proposition). As a marketer when you lead with showing how much you care, here’s how buyer perceptions can turn in your favor:

“As a buyer…

Buyers reward marketers who understand the obstacles (or problems) between who they are today and who they want to be. If that sounds similar to what we as humans all want from our friends or loved ones, don’t be surprised [2].

When you say something and your best friend replies ‘Exactly!’–don’t you love that? That thought is what you want zipping through your buyer’s mind when they hear your pitch or read your homepage.

Use problems to tell buyers when to think of your product

Defining the exact moment or situation when you want buyers to think of your product is called ‘positioning’ (that’s the short definition). As buyers shop in your category or face a relevant problem, positioning helps your product bubble to the top of their minds. And, the problems your buyers face can be a strong tool to position your product.

For example: let’s say Toyota, a mass car manufacturer, could position itself as a sports car maker (i.e., 'I want a car that makes me feel good about looks/performance') or fuel-saving car maker (i.e., 'I want a car that saves me money and reduces environmental impact'). As we know, Toyota chose to position itself as a fuel-saver with help from the Prius and now with the widest selection of hybrid vehicles. Today, when a car buyer considers buying a hybrid to save money or the environment, you can be sure Toyota almost always reaches top of mind.

Before turning attention to your features and benefits, write down what challenges your buyers face in their everyday lives that relate to your product. You want to be as accurate and vivid as possible (which you can only do if you talk to your prospects and/or existing customers). In the end, show buyers how deeply you understand their world and what they’re struggling with. Initially, buyers may or may not relate to your solution but they will relate if you explain a struggle they’re facing in their everyday lives. Your solution doesn’t matter if a buyer can’t easily connect it to a clear challenge in their everyday lives.

The ‘Examples’ section below shows exactly how successful product marketers use problems to clearly position themselves for the right situation or struggle in a buyer’s life.

Use problems to engage buyers

In addition to making you more personal, credible, and unique, talking about your buyers’ problems can also make you more engaging. In Don Miller’s bestseller, Building a Story Brand, he applies the timeless craft of storytelling to marketing:

“If we want our customers’ ears to perk up when we talk about our products and services, we should position those products and services as weapons they use to defeat a villain. And the villain should be dastardly.”

Donald Miller

As a former screenwriter, Miller knows that a story’s villain (or problem) is what keeps us engaged in novels and movies. By writing ‘And the villain should be dastardly’ he means to find out what truly ails your buyer and give it as much definition as possible.

Like readers of a story, buyers engage when their problems are brought to life leaving them eager to find out who or what can help them.

To sum it up, the three reasons why you should talk about your buyers’ problems are 1) buyers will be more open to your message; 2) they’ll know exactly when to think of your product in their daily lives (positioning); and 3) they’ll more likely want to find out more by either engaging with your content or reaching out.

Examples

Let’s walk through five examples that illustrate specific tactics marketers use (and you can use) to talk about buyers’ problems.

1. Churn Buster

Churn Buster helps its customers tackle churn by reducing the number of failed payments due to credit card issues such as expired credit cards.

Churn Buster’s homepage

In the top half of Churn Buster’s homepage, you’ll find the message above. No features or benefits of Churnbuster itself. The buyer’s problem is clearly stated ‘Up to 40% of churn is caused by failed payments’ but the message goes deeper. It outlines five major contributors to failed payments and details are proof

Reading that message, if a buyer can relate to just one of those five contributors, Churn Buster has likely formed a connection, prompting the buyer to find out more. When your problems are explained on a page, you’re compelled to keep reading to find out what’s the solution.

2. Bench.co

If you visit online bookkeeper Bench.co (as of 10/1/2021), their hero message says “You run your business, we’ll do your finances.” By using a generic message that can be used by any service outsourcer, Bench is missing an opportunity to connect with visitors at a much deeper level. They haven’t shown me that they understand my deepest challenges, annoyance, and frustrations with doing my own bookkeeping.

Instead of making a relatively general statement, craft a message that doesn’t just say ‘buy our service because’. Instead, say something that will make me feel “Wow, this company really gets me.”

Invoke that feeling by focusing on buyer problems. Let’s look at a few examples of how Bench can speak to their buyers’ inner problems:

I derived each headline above from customer stories found on Bench’s own site (which took 15 mins). Each headline speaks to the frustration of having to do your own accounting and to spend time on a non-value creating activity.

Notice how each headline includes a ‘feeling’ word such as horrible, procrastination, or wish. Force yourself to show buyers that you invested (hopefully more than 15 mins) in understanding their deepest frustrations and challenges. You’ll end up with a marketing message that is engaging and avoid saying the same thing as everyone else.

3. Copywriter Kayla Hollatz

Kayla Hollatz is a professional copywriter who helps businesses and individuals find just the right words to get their message across. If anyone knows how to talk about buyers’ problems, it would be a professional copywriter.

As expected, Kayla spells out what her buyers are struggling with in plain and simple language, and she places her buyers’ problems near the top of her copywriting landing page (linked above). Notice how she writes directly in her buyer’s voice…

Raise your hand if this sounds familiar:

It’s as if Kayla stepped into her buyer’s mind and wrote down all the problems people have when creating their own marketing copy. And, it’s a great example of how a marketer can show proof that they understand their buyers’ pain points.

4. Basecamp

Basecamp started in 2005 known as 37signals and changed its name to Basecamp in 2014. Today, the company continues to attract thousands of new users each week and generates millions of dollars in profit each year.

Basecamp asked its current customers “What problems did you face before using Basecamp?” Here’s what they said…

Stories of life before Basecamp (Nov. 2019)

Notice how Basecamp highlights phrases with words such as cry, worried, nightmare, and stressful. They do this because they know that those are the emotions that buyers care most about and most about resolving.

5. Apple

Click here to watch

That was Apple’s first Super Bowl ad and as you may have guessed, it is called ‘1984’. It launched the Macintosh and the company into space and it left a permanent mark in the minds of all future Super Bowl ad directors.

If you are old enough to remember personal computers of the 1990s, they screamed complicated, clunky, and robotic (like the blue men in the ad). Personal computers were all the same, lacking individuality, and this ‘sameness’ brought another villainous trait: they were difficult to use. Apple promised to set us all free from the sameness of that era’s personal computers and give us the Macintosh which would change the world forever (as they claimed).

By giving life to our status quo problems and without even showing the product, that ad created a PR tsunami for Apple. As history has proven, it was the best kind of PR tsunami anyone could have imagined.

Conclusion: Put your buyers’ problems before your pitch

Customers won’t always change their minds because it’s necessarily the rational thing to do; they will change their minds when they feel comfortable and safe because they’re dealing with someone who has taken the time to understand their inner problems and speak to those problems.

Speaking to a customer’s problems builds trust and positions you as empathetic to who they are and why they do what they do. After you make your buyers feel comfortable that they’re in good hands, then you can pitch features and benefits.

We often forget that customers are humans and their buying decisions are made in similar ways to their personal decisions. If it’s safe to assume that you prefer to make friends with people who understand you then you probably also prefer products that demonstrate they’ve taken the time to understand you – it’s basic psychology.

The next time you choose something to buy, ask yourself ‘what makes me trust this product enough to buy it?’

Sources

[1] Green, C. (2005). Trust-Based Selling: Using Customer-Focus and Collaboration to Build Long-Term Relationships. McGraw-Hill.

[2] Seltzer, Leon F. Ph.D. (2017). Feeling Understood–Even More Important Than Feeling Loved? Psychology Today. Online Publication.