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If you’ve spent any time delving into the world of marketing, you’re probably familiar with the concept of including pain points in your copy.

Put simply, pain points are the areas where your target audience feels frustrated, vulnerable, or uncertain. Common marketing advice? Poke that pain point! Rub it in, agitate it, and make sure your audience knows they’re suffering before you offer them your perfect solution. Twist that knife, baby!

Sounds real kind, right?

Not gonna lie, we’re not huge fans of this advice {shocker, I know}. It’s one thing to acknowledge where your audience is struggling… it’s a totally different thing to take advantage of that struggle and twist it to your own benefit.

The truth is, over-agitating those pain points can actually have a negative effect {no matter what those marketing gurus tell you}. It might earn you short-term sales, but long-term brand loyalty suffers. No one wants to follow a fear-monger.

In this post, we’re going to dig into why pain points matter, how to avoid overdoing it, and a new way to think about pain points that will allow you to build connections with your audience, rather than push them away.

Why leverage pain points in your copy?

Let’s say it’s the middle of July and you’re outside working on your yard. It’s hot. It’s humid. You’re sweating up a storm.

Lo’ and behold, the neighborhood kids have set up a lemonade stand. Score! One of the kids notices you working. They come up to you and ask if you would be interested in cooling off with some ice cold lemonade for the low price of $1.

Easy sell, right?

Psychology tells us that people generally buy from emotion first, logic second. You could have gone into your house and grabbed a cold glass of water for free. But the kid was right there, and he acknowledged that you were in need of fast relief. In essence, they’re capitalizing on your pain point (being hot and tired).

Forget Pain Points in Your Copy - Image of Ice Cold Lemonade

We do this in our marketing all the time. Your clients might be feeling tired, overwhelmed, confused, scared, frustrated, sweaty, left out… whatever. When we acknowledge those feelings, we’re letting our audience know, “Hey, I see you’re struggling. Can I offer a solution?”

Here at North Star, we know our clients come to us when they feel overwhelmed by the amount of content on their plate. They don’t want to do all of the writing themselves. Maybe they’ve tried hiring out in the past, but they’ve been burned by copywriters who didn’t understand their authentic voice. These are all pain points we acknowledge, frequently, in our own content.

Acknowledging your audience’s frustration is powerful… so long as you don’t overdo it.

How do you avoid making pain points painful?

Consider the same kid with the lemonade stand.

What if, instead of coming up and saying, “Hey, it’s really hot out here, isn’t it? You look like you could use a break to cool off. How about some ice-cold lemonade for $1?” he said, “Hey, you look really hot and sweaty. Really, you look awful. Look at all the dirt on your face. And your shirt is dripping, gross. Don’t you feel exhausted? And sunburned? You look sunburned. Maybe you should try some lemonade.”

Okay, maybe you’d still buy the lemonade {if nothing else, to get the kid to shut up}, but your opinion of this kid probably isn’t all that great. And the next time you go outside to do yard work you might just bring your own thermos of water, so you can avoid being insulted.

So what did the kid do right in the first example and wrong in the second? In the first, they noticed a problem (it’s hot outside!), pointed out how it impacted you (you’re hot and sweaty!), and offered a solution (mmm…lemonade). In the second example, they noticed a problem with you and pointed it out again… and again… and again, until you felt even worse.

Avoid making pain points overly painful by making sure they focus on the situation itself, not the person. Don’t turn your potential customer into the bad guy.

How to reframe pain points in your marketing

It’s not uncommon for us to sit down with a new client and talk about pain points only to hear them say, “I hate pain points! I don’t want to make my customers feel bad, and I don’t want my marketing to come across as sleazy!”

And we totally agree. In fact, we don’t recommend including pain points in your copy at all. At least, not in the way you’re used to thinking about them.

We encourage our clients to reframe pain points as empathy points.

The goal of your marketing isn’t to make your audience member feel bad until they buy your offer. It’s to acknowledge that the frustration they’re experiencing is a valid experience and offer a genuine solution.

It might seem like we’re just swapping out the word ‘pain’ for ’empathy’, but there’s a key perspective shift here. Empathy literally means “the ability to understand and share the feelings of another”. When you approach your marketing with pain points, you’re standing on a pedestal and telling your audience what’s wrong. When you approach your marketing with empathy, you’re sitting next to them on the couch, taking their hand and having a real, honest conversation. You’re talking with them, instead of at them.

Instead of pain points in your copy, try focusing on empathy points

Pain points involve talking at your audience. Empathy points allow you to talk with them.

Similar to leveraging gratitude as a way to connect with your audience, empathy can make all the difference in establishing a marketing campaign that creates long-term brand loyalty.

We’d love to hear from you: How do you empathize with your audience?

Need help creating content that hits your empathy points? Check out our content template library!

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