How to find your clients' pain points

One of the biggest mistakes I see creative professionals making in their own self-promotion is talking only about themselves and their work.

Wait, what?

That may not make sense but stay with me.

It’s not that your clients don’t care about you or your work – indeed, they do, especially when they need your expertise.

But they care even more about their own problems. That’s where you come in. You can help them solve those problems with your services, whatever they may be.

That’s why the easiest way to get the attention of your ideal clients is to focus first on their problems. Then you present your services as the solution.

In other words, to get your ideal clients to respond, you need to know what keeps them up at night.

That’s right. Your self-promotion should be rooted in the needs and challenges, problems and pain points of your ideal clients.

When you know that, you can position your creative services as a way to meet those challenges, satisfy those needs, solve those problems and cure that pain.

When you identify and address the issues they care most about, they will be much more likely to respond to your self-promotional efforts, whether by accepting your LinkedIn invitation or by signing up for your email newsletter.

What kind of pain points should you address?

Your ideal clients suffer from many different types of “pain” so you have a wide range to choose from. Your services can help to solve:

Basic needs
The most common and easily understandable pain points are less dramatically referred to as “needs.” For example, no matter the niche or industry, all types of organizations need an updated web site. In fact, an outdated web site can cause the minor pain of embarrassment because it looks stale or outdated, while the more severe pain of not being responsive and viewable across all screens is more serious. You will get their attention by speaking to the pain of an outdated web site and offering the cure of an updated web site.

Lack of Expertise/specialty
Other pain points are related to expertise (or a lack thereof). In another example, a marketing director for a financial services company may not know any creative pros who are familiar with the compliance issues inherent in financial services. If you have a history or knowledge of the financial services market, then you can speak to that lack of expertise and position your services as the solution to that problem.

Lack of professionalism/Flakiness
Sometimes, the pain your ideal client is experiencing has almost nothing at all to do with your services. A very common example of this for marketers across a wide range of niches (or vertical industries) is flaky freelancers, the ones who don’t follow through or, worst of all, miss deadlines.

Therefore, if you promote yourself as a reliable designer or copywriter or marketer who is good at time management and never misses a deadline, then you will be the cure for that very common pain, not to mention their hero!

The bottom line is that once you know what keeps your clients up at night, all you have to do is identify those pain points, address them in your self-promotion and present your services as the cure.

How to find their pain points

I know what you’re thinking…how would you know what their needs, problems and pain points are?

You don’t have to guess. There are places you can go to find out – and those places are the same places they go to get help.

Just ask yourself: what does my ideal client do when they need help? Where do they go, both online and off?

There are many types of resources available. The 3 resource types you are most likely to find are trade association, industry publications and conferences and events.

  1. A trade association assists their members (i.e. your clients) by offering content, like a blog or webinars. The topics of all the content the association delivers would address the pain points of their members. So essentially, a list of blog posts or a schedule of webinar topics would give you a list of pain points. Try it – take a look at a trade association in any market and see if you can figure out the problems that need solving.
  2. Do the same with any industry publication, where the articles, videos, blog posts and other content addresses the readers’ pain points. For example, if you were targeting the beauty industry for branding and packaging, you would subscribe to Global Cosmetic Industry, a resource that offers a magazine, as well as events, a directory and more. 
    Let’s focus on the magazine. Under the category of “marketing,” we find an article (written by Shari Koetting of MSLK) called, The Perfect Brand Name. The pain point this article addresses is the imperfect brand name. So, if you were marketing your branding and naming services in the beauty industry, you could develop a marketing campaign around the pain caused when a beauty brand has the wrong name. And you would position your firm as the one that can cure that pain, especially for beauty brands. Ideally your content marketing, blog posts and articles, speaking engagements and case studies, would also focus on that issue, reinforcing your expertise.
  3. Likewise, any conference or event would attempt to solve the of the attendees with speakers who provide possible solutions. HOW Design Live is a perfect example of this. If I were marketing services to designers (and I am!) and wanted to know what their pain points are, I would take a look at the session schedule to see what topics the speakers are covering. A recent schedule for HOW's Creative Freelancer Summit had plenty of pain points to address:
  • The Art of Saying No
  • The Worst Negotiating Mistakes (and how to avoid them)
  • 7 Ways to Hack Creative Workflow and Advance Your Career
  • So You’re a Manager Now
  • Feel the Burnout?

Based on this, I would develop messaging and a campaign to speak to these problems, which lets my ideal clients know 3 important things:

  • that I understand what they’re struggling with
  • that I’ve seen it before
  • and that I know how to deal with it

If you approach your self-promotion this way, it goes a long way toward building trust, especially with clients who don’t yet know you and how great you are.

If you don’t address their pain points first, you may never get the opportunity to tell them how you can help them. Their pain is the doorway to a conversation.

Now it’s your turn -- see if you can find 3 pain points for your target market that you can use in your self-promotion and build a campaign around each one.

And if you need help, check out the Simplest Marketing Plan 4.0 for 2022.

If you're just getting started, check out my 7-step guide to marketing for creatives.