You want to create content that your readers will find useful, and what’s more useful than content that helps them to solve their pain points? Read on to discover different methods on how to find your readers’ pain points so you can use them to create valuable, targeted content.
“Pain points” sound, well, painful.
But when it comes to creating content and eventually promoting and developing products that your readers and future customers will love and pay money for, you need to know where they hurt.
And it’s not because you want them to suffer.
By understanding your readers’ pain points, investigating how to solve these pain points, and creating content to solve these pain points, you get to attract more readers to your blog, increase traffic from a specific audience, and improve your chances of monetizing your website.
In this blog post, I discuss what pain points are and how to find your readers’ pain points so you can create content around them.
Since we’re going to discuss this throughout the article, it pays to know what a pain point is.
A pain point is a specific problem or difficulty experienced by your readers and prospective customers.
Getting to know your readers’ pain points is not going to be easy because pain points differ among them. Sometimes, they may not even be aware that something is a pain point until you point it out to them and make them realize it.
You can categorize these pain points so it’s easier to think about how to position your blog in your niche and the products you’ll someday promote to or create for your readers.
This is all well and good, but why should we, as bloggers, even bother?
Readers are always interested in solutions to their problems.
Products that are successful in the long term are those that actually solve buyers’ problems and not those that solve problems that don’t exist.
Similarly, the blog posts that are successful are the ones that present solutions to readers’ problems and not those that merely indulge the writer’s whims.
Knowing what problems to solve can influence the direction of your content.
Readers depend on you to find or create a solution to their problems.
It’s not ideal, but sometimes we are better at expressing our problems than we are at expressing what we need to solve them.
As a blogger, you shouldn’t expect your readers to know how to solve their own problems; that’s your job.
It’s up to you to tease out the underlying reason for your readers’ pain points so you’ll know how best to solve these pain points. This is why it’s absolutely important for you to ask all the right questions to discover the deeper challenges that your readers are facing.
Sometimes, it takes you asking “why?” a number of times just to get to the bottom of it all.
Readers only care about your pain points if they have the same pain points, too.
Your own pain points can be the starting point of your own research and content development efforts. But none of your readers will care about what you’re writing about unless they care about your pain points.
Whenever you create content or eventually conceptualize your own products, you’ll need to think about your readers’ pain points more than you think about your own. As your blog grows, it will become harder to focus, and you’ll get distracted by other opportunities to make money.
You can’t let yourself get diverted from what should be your main purpose: serving your readers by solving their pain points. Remembering this is the only way your website can survive in the long run.
Now that you know what pain points are, we can now talk about how to find them.
Generally, there are two types of ways you can find out what your readers’ pain points are: direct methods and indirect methods.
Here are the different ways of finding your readers’ pain points.
Sometimes, it’s just a matter of simply asking your readers what they find difficult or frustrating and then listening—really listening—to their answers.
Here are a couple of the direct methods that you can use to discover your readers’ pain points.
Conducting an online survey is probably the easiest way to start learning about your readers’ pain points.
Online surveys have been used by businesses as a tool to get feedback and opinions, as well as find out what their customers want and need.
You can also choose whether or not to keep the survey anonymous. Respondents may be more open to sharing their thoughts when the survey is anonymous, but if their identity was attached to the answers, then you’ll be able to contact them to follow up if you have to clarify any of their answers.
Here are some steps to help guide you when you do an online survey for your readers.
1. Clarify your goals.
Yes, we’ve established that you want to know your readers’ pain points. But it’s easy to get distracted when you don’t have a well-defined set of goals to keep your sights on.
First, find out what type of information you plan to gather. What exactly do you want to find out? Do you want to know their general problems? Or do you want to know what specific tasks you can help them with to overcome these bigger problems?
Also, what do you plan on doing with the information you gather in the long run? Do you plan on creating a product that solves these pain points, or teach them how to solve these problems? It’s important to take note of these plans.
2. Formulate your questions.
The quality of the answers you’re going to get from your readers is highly dependent on the quality of questions you ask them.
Open-ended questions tease out answers that are more useful for you. They tend to be more detailed, more illustrative, and more informative.
However, open-ended questions can be tedious to answer, especially if readers don’t have a lot of time on their hands. You can probably integrate multiple-choice questions or even yes or no questions in your surveys, both to make the surveys simpler to answer, as well as to break the monotony.
Here are some questions you can try to tweak and use for your own surveys.
3. Select your tool.
To create high-quality surveys, you’ll need to use the right tools for the job. You’ll want a tool that you can use to create compelling, easy-to-answer surveys that respondents would be happy to participate in.
You’d also want to consider the features offered by paid and free tools, and whether the cost of paid tools justifies the price. Some of the features to consider include custom branding, varied question types, and data export.
4. Choose your respondents.
Not all of your readers are created equal.
Not all of them are willing to answer your questions or have the time on their hands to do so. Conversely, not all of your readers’ answers will be useful for what you want to achieve.
Also, as your reader base grows, it becomes more and more difficult to survey all of them and analyze the answers. This is why you’ll need to learn how to choose your readers so you can get a representative sample of your entire reader population.
You want a sample that’s diverse enough to cover all the demographics your readers belong to; all genders, age groups, etc. Plus, the sample needs to reflect the proportion of these demographics in your reader base. For instance, if most of your readers are in the 30-34 age group, you need to make sure that you sample more from this age group than others.
5. Invite participants.
There are various ways to persuade your readers to participate in your survey. You can email individual participants or message them through social media.
Also, remember that when you send the invitations can matter as much as who you send them to. Find the right time to send out the invitations to increase the chances of your intended participants actually responding to the survey.
Other things you can do is to offer incentives, like discount codes to stores or services that are popular with your readers or even an actual, physical gift, so your respondents are more inclined to answer your online survey.
6. Gather and document the responses.
The answers you get from your respondents are only useful if you take note of them, so make sure the survey tool you’re using has the capability to save the data in the cloud or allow you to easily download the data.
7. Analyze the responses you gathered.
The next step after gathering responses is to interpret those answers.
You can make sense of quantitative data through tables, graphs, and charts. Qualitative data, not so simple. You can try to analyze answers to open-ended questions through word clouds and text analyzers to find trends and common answers.
The results of the survey are potentially helpful to your readers. Plus, you can gauge the reaction of your readers to the results to find out if the results you got as valid. They’ll either agree, which validates your survey results, or disagree, which gives you a new outlook on your readers and new questions to ask on succeeding surveys.
8. Apply what you’ve learned.
After you’ve made sense of the answers and figured out the trends, the next thing to do is to apply what you’ve learned to create useful content that addresses your readers’ pain points.
Online surveys are an excellent way to gather information about your readers, but interviews give you deeper, more emotional answers than surveys ever can.
When you do a survey, you ask a specific set of questions. By contrast, an interview is more dynamic; you ask questions, get answers, and ask additional questions based on the answers you get.
Thus, because there’s a conversation going on, there’s additional knowledge to gain from conducting interviews with your readers as opposed to online surveys.
Bear in mind, though, that interviewing takes up a lot more resources than having readers fill out online surveys, so you probably can’t do this very often. So you’ll have to do your best to make sure that each interview is successful.
Here are some steps to holding interviews to make sure you cover everything you need and to increase the chances of success.
1. Define your interview goals.
Before you set out and just ask your questions, you need to be clear about what you want to know. As I’ve mentioned above, you want to discover your readers’ pain points, but what else do you want to know?
Do you want to know what goals they want to achieve and what stops them from achieving these goals? Or do you already know what their goals are and you want to know what’s stopping them from reaching these goals?
Also, what do you plan on doing with the insights you gather from the interview? Do you plan to share with your readers the entire transcript, or just excerpts that you think are relevant?
Defining your goals before you go ahead with your interviews allows you to prepare for your interviewees’ answers.
2. Write down your questions.
Your questions should be driven by the goals that you set.
Because you want to know what your readers’ pain points are, you want to think of questions that will encourage sincere answers that accurately describe your readers’ current experiences and how they feel about those experiences.
Keep in mind that your questions should allow for flexibility. This isn’t a survey or questionnaire. You’ll want to have a conversation, so you want to allow some leeway and allow the back and forth between you and your interviewee to be more fluid.
On the other hand, you don’t want to be completely unorganized. Remember the goals you set for yourself and steer the conversation back to what you want to know when the dialogue seems to go off on a tangent. Prepare follow-up questions that you can use as prompts to tease out more information, as well as help you gently guide them back to discuss topics that will help you achieve your interview goals.
Here are some examples of questions to start with and modify according to your needs and goals.
There are three kinds of questions you need to avoid, though; leading questions, closed questions, and “why” questions.
Leading questions are questions that suggest a particular answer. The questions you ask should elicit honest, unbiased answers and not lead respondents to answer in the way that they think you want them to.
An example of a leading question is “How frustrating is it when you don’t get the support you need?” This question implies that your interviewee feels frustrated when you don’t really know what your interviewee feels; you just assumed it.
A better question to ask is “How do you feel when you don’t get the support you need?” This gets you an honest answer about what they actually feel. Remember that you’re looking for your readers’ pain points.
Closed questions are ones that are answerable only with a yes or no. If you want nuanced answers, you’ll need to ask open-ended questions that inspire interviewees to elaborate.
For instance, “Does this solution work for you?” Your respondent can just say “yes” and unless you ask a follow-up question, that’s where it will end. You can instead ask “How does this solution compare with others you’ve tried?” to get of the “yes” or “no” conversation killer.
“Why” questions compel interviewees to rationalize and come up with reasons why they do or feel things. You want to know how they feel, not how they think.
3. Choose who to interview.
Because interviews take plenty of time and cost a lot, you probably don’t want to do interviews often. So if you’re picky about which of your readers could answer your survey, you should be even pickier about which of your readers to interview.
Here are some qualities to consider when deciding who to interview.
4. Extend the invitation.
When you have 5 to 7 candidates on your list, the next step is to invite them to be interviewees.
Who you invite is important, of course, but how you actually invite them can mean the difference in the success of your interviews.
Here are some tips to convince your candidates to be interviewees.
Tell them exactly what to expect. How you will conduct the interview (e.g., video call, audio call), how long it would take (aim to keep it below an hour), what software to download, if you will record the interview, if you will publish any part of the interview in any format (text, audio, or video), if they have the option to remain anonymous, how you’ll protect their identity and their personal information.
Be courteous. Treating your readers respectfully makes them feel valued and makes them more inclined to help you out with what you want to know.
Introduce yourself, even though they’ll probably recognize you from your name and email address or social media account. Give them a concise summary of what the point of the interview is and what you’re hoping to learn from them so they can prepare accordingly.
Provide them at least 2 choices of timeslots for when you can do the interview, with an invitation for them to suggest an alternative time if the timeslots you suggested won’t work for them. Lastly, allow them enough time to think about it before they respond. A week is a reasonable timeframe. Meanwhile, don’t bombard them with emails or messages.
Make them feel important. You know your readers are important, but do they know it? Underline how valuable their input is in helping you grasp their pain points and how to alleviate them.
Offer something in return. Set up an incentive, such as discount coupons for services they’re likely to use, gift cards for stores they’re likely to be shopping in, and so forth. If you know your target audience well, you should be able to know what gifts they’ll appreciate.
5. Conduct the interview.
So your interviewees have agreed to be interviewed, and you’ve agreed on schedules and all the details.
The next thing is to do the actual interview. Here are some helpful pointers to make your interview a success.
Choose the right tool. The most popular video conferencing tool for interviews is Skype. It’s free, it already comes with Windows, and it’s familiar.
The problem is that you’ll want to record your interviews (more on this below), and unfortunately, Skype doesn’t have a way to record video calls incorporated in the software itself. You’ll have to download third-party software, such as MP3 Skype Recorder or iFree Skype Recorder to be able to record your interviews.
Fortunately, other video calling applications exist that have built-in recording capabilities.
Roundee is a free alternative to Skype that allows you to automatically record up to 1 hour of your video call for free. Its AI-based technology provides a transcript when you’re done with the video call. Best of all, you and your interviewee don’t need to download anything. On your internet browser, sign up on their site, get the URL to your “room,” and provide the URL to your interviewee so they can join the video call.
Zoho Meeting is yet another alternative to Skype (but it’s not free). As with Roundee, you provide a URL to your interviewees to enable them to join. It also has recording capabilities, but no automatic transcriptions. Choose this tool if you’re already using other Zoho tools, so you can integrate seamlessly.
Build a rapport with your interviewees. Sharing genuine feelings and emotions doesn’t come easily for everyone, but people are more likely to communicate honestly when they’re relaxed and comfortable enough to trust you.
To help put them at ease, start by reaching out to them after they’ve accepted your invitation to be interviewed but before the date of the actual interview. Having a pre-interview conversation can help both you and your interviewee shake off that initial layer of apprehension so that when the actual interview takes place.
Expound on your interview goals so they’ll know what to expect. Aside from that, talk to them with the aim of getting to know them better and getting them to know you better.
During the interview itself, encourage them to open up more by showing genuine interest in what they have to say. Offer acknowledgments like “I see,” “I understand,” or “I’m glad/sorry you felt that way” when they say something.
Slow down your speech rate so they don’t feel like you’re rushing them or that you’re impatient for an answer. Also, allow them to completely articulate their thoughts; don’t interrupt.
Listen actively. This is probably more difficult than you think.
Listening, truly listening, involves an effort to understand what the other party is trying to tell you without applying your own biases to their answers. This allows you to really absorb what they’re saying.
Minimize note-taking; record the interview and have it transcribed after the interview is done so that you can give your interviewee your full attention during the interview itself.
Paraphrase and say back what they’re saying occasionally, particularly for longer answers. This shows them that you understood what they were trying to say. Be careful not to question your interviewees’ feelings or inject your own ideas when you do this.
For instance, you can say something like “If I’m understanding you correctly, [paraphrased answer]” or “So what you’re saying is [paraphrased answer], is that right?”
Another thing to remember is that you need to concentrate on listening more than asking questions. You don’t want the interview to feel like an interrogation.
Allow the conversation to flow naturally. Build on the answer you get instead of asking question after question.
Dig deeper. Listening, no matter how well you do it, can only get you so far.
You have to trust that your interviewees are answering your questions to the best of their ability, but there will be times when you’ll still need to probe to discover the deeper meaning behind their answers. This is especially important when you’re asking about how they feel.
When asked how a specific event made them feel, people find it simpler to give a one-sentence answer, like “I felt [emotion]” or “[Event] made me feel [emotion]”.
When this happens, you don’t want to comment in a way that makes their answer and thus, their feelings, seem insignificant. The more suitable approach is to ask more follow up questions to tease out deeper problems or motivations behind their answers.
Some probing questions you can ask are the following:
Remain courteous all throughout. When you’re trying to get potential interviewees to agree to be interviewed, you do have to be polite, but it shouldn’t stop there.
Being courteous and treating your interviewees with respect should continue on throughout the interview phase, right up until the end.
Make good on your promises when you were convincing your readers to allow you to interview them. From how long the interview will take, to the incentives that you offered them, you need to fulfill all of them. If there are any of these promises you can’t make for any reason, let them know, apologize, and offer a substitute to make it up to them.
Thank your interviewees for their time and effort. An hour doesn’t seem too much time, but it’s still a slice of their day that they’re never going to get back. Similarly, spending that hour talking about their struggles and feelings can’t be too easy. Sincerely express your appreciation for spending their time and doing their best to answer your questions.
Finally, maintain communication. When you abruptly cease all contact after the interview, this gives the impression that you only had a relationship because you needed something from them. Never make your interviewees feel like they’ve been taken advantage of.
Follow up with them afterward. Use all that rapport and connection you’ve built as a foundation for a relationship. Let them know that you’re interested in what’s happening with them and whatever they have to say.
It’s also good to let them know how you’re going to use the information you gathered from the interview.
6. Analyze and implement what you’ve learned from the responses.
The information you have collected will turn your content into a valuable resource that touches on what exactly your readers want to know to solve their problems and alleviate their pain points.
The first thing you need to do is to have the interviews transcribed (if you haven’t had it done yet), go over the transcripts, and analyze your interviewees’ responses.
Notice any patterns that emerge from the responses. Take note of the common answers and investigate the common underlying cause beneath these answers.
Unexpected responses, also known as the ones that throw you off, could be valuable insights as well, so don’t dismiss them as invalid just because you weren’t prepared for these responses.
Also, if you interviewed different people for diversity as I suggested above, you might find some contradictory responses. Pay attention to these contradictions because you’ll want to do further research on these to confirm if it was a fluke or different groups of your readers really do have different pain points.
The key to getting the most out of the analysis stage is to not rush it. Take time to examine and digest the answers. Look deeper into what your readers are trying to tell you.
Once you’ve analyzed your interviewee’s responses and understand where they’re coming from, the next thing to do is to apply this knowledge and use it to write content that focuses on solving your readers’ pain points.
Sometimes, no matter how good you are at asking questions, there will always be some things that they can’t or won’t share.
Or they may not even be aware of the pain point they’re experiencing, or they may think it’s not even a pain point.
Also, even if two readers have the same exact problem, the causes may differ greatly between these two readers.
This is where being nosy can actually get you somewhere.
It’s going to be harder to do your own research instead of just outright asking them, but it’s worth the effort if you’re going to find out what exactly your audience’s pain points are.
Here are some indirect methods to determine your audience’s pain points.
People like to read, and they not only read for entertainment but to improve their lives by finding out how to solve their problems.
Whatever these problems or pain points are, and no matter how big or small they are, learning what your audience is reading gives you a peek into these problems and how your audience expects them to be solved.
What blogs are they reading?
Every niche is likely to have at least a few blogs associated with them, and knowing which of these blogs your readers are reading (aside from yours, of course) will give you an idea of what your audience is looking for.
Identify the top blogs in your niche. Knowing which blogs are popular in your niche and knowing which posts in these blogs are popular will help you get an idea of what your readers are looking for in the content that they want to consume.
Find out which blog posts are being shared the most. The blog posts that readers find most useful are the ones that they share most often.
Thus, determining which blog posts are shared the most and looking deeper gives you information on the type, subject, format, and quality of the content that readers find most useful. This information should help you create content that’s useful for your readers.
Which social media posts are they reacting to?
Aside from the top blogs in your niche, you can also scour popular social media accounts and groups to see what type of posts have a lot of reactions and comments, because these are the social media posts that have the most impact on the audience.
Social media analytics would be useful if you’re trying to find out who’s responding to your posts. Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest each have analytics tools that can give you enormous insight into your social media followers.
Whatever these problems or pain points are, and no matter how big or small they are, learning what content gets your audience talking gives you a peek into these problems and how your audience expects them to be solved.
Knowing how your readers speak allows you to learn their language so you can attract new readers to your blog as well as understand how to speak to your existing readers so that you can establish greater trust and credibility.
You already went over social media to know what your audience is reading, but this time, don’t focus so much on the content of the status update. Shift your focus to the conversations happening among your audience.
These conversations can be found in the comments, so lurk on the comments section and see if you can observe and learn more from their interactions.
You can also find these conversations in communities, such as Facebook groups, Pinterest group boards, and even in Twitter hashtags. Join communities in your niche and pay close attention to how your readers interact with each other and what topics seem to get them really interested and engaged.
Quora and Reddit
Quora and Reddit are other great sources of information on what your readers are chattering about because, in these forums, they get to post content or specific points that are niche-related, and their peers get to react and discuss their insights on that content.
In Quora, the topics are posted strictly in a question-and-answer format, so browsing through these questions should give you an idea of what your audience is trying to know more about or getting more information about, and browsing through the answers should give you an idea of what your readers know or where they research to gain knowledge on how to solve their problems.
By contrast, in Reddit, the format of the posts isn’t that strict, but is still dependent on the subreddit, as they’re called, where the topic is posted. Similar to Quora, the post gives you information on what your readers are trying to figure out and the comments on the post are where you can find out what your audience already knows and where they get information.
Note how they talk to each other and the words that they use when communicating as well; it might be different from how they talk when they know they’re not only talking with their peers.
This should already sound familiar because this is otherwise known as keyword research.
One of the most basic things in starting a blog is doing keyword research to know what your audience likes, but you can also use keyword research to discover what your readers dislike.
Your readers want to know how to solve their problems, and in search of that information, they’ll be searching for content about their problems as well. Doing thorough keyword research can give you insight into the problems and pain points that your readers want to know about.
You don’t have to learn new tricks; perform your usual keyword research, with special attention to negative phrases that describe problems. You can even use the usual tools you’re using for keyword research, free or paid.
Pain points are the problems that keep your readers up at night. They may be inconvenient, exhausting, or simply annoying.
Whatever they are, understanding and solving your readers’ pain points will help you increase your audience so you can eventually monetize your blog.
Your customer’s pain points are the driving factors behind their need for your content and, in due time, your products and services.
Here’s a recap of how to find your readers’ pain points.
Now it’s time for you to go forth and research on your readers’ pain points. Remember that wherever you get your information from, you’re doing this to create content that helps people overcome their most pressing obstacles and accomplish their most important goals.
How do you find your target audience’s pain points? Is there anything you’d add to this article? Tell us in the comments!
JoAnne is your average, everyday, sane stay-at-home mom who believes in the power of the internet to make dreams come true. She has an insatiable appetite for chocolate, as well as all things internet marketing. She keeps up with the latest trends in blogging, affiliate marketing, e-commerce, and more.