• Orit Wittenberg

Agitate pain without making anyone cry—the 'Write Your Own Homepage' series

YES, pain points are an essential part of your homepage. NO, they shouldn't leave anyone in tears. Use them kindly. But effectively. Here's how.

Let's talk about PAIN.

Naming and agitating pain is an important part of selling your product or service, because as we know, "people don't buy products; they buy better versions of themselves."

In other words, they buy solutions to their problems.

And speaking meaningfully to the heart of their problems begins with understanding what hurts.

Mine for pain points

The best way to come up with the pain points for your copy is to steal it – straight from the mouths of your customers.

In your customer interviews, you'll want to include questions like:

  • What was going on in your life before you turned to us?

  • What were you hoping to gain from our product or service?

  • Can you paint me a picture of life before and after?

  • What were the problems with other solutions you had tried?

If the customer says something vague, don't be shy to ask them to elaborate.

You: "What was going on in your life before you turned to [new dish soap brand]?

Customer: "I don't know. I just hated doing dishes."

You: "Can you tell me more? What did you hate about it?"

Customer: "Well, the soap I was using was drying out my hands. I always had to wear gloves. Whenever I'd get a call, I'd have to first take off my gloves, and then I'd miss it."


Dry hands. Gloves. Missed calls. Now we're getting somewhere.

In the absence of customer interviews, you can also check online reviews (e.g. via Amazon or Yelp) or send out questionnaires to people who would be part of the target audience.

In those cases, you might have to get a bit more creative with reading between the lines.

Get to the root of the pain

Problems present in layers.

The first layer is often cognitive and unemotional.

When you dig a little deeper (so what?) you often reveal a wealth of emotional pain.

Here's an example.

PROBLEM: I don't have a car (in a place where most people do)

  • PAIN LAYER 1: It's hard to get around.

So what?

  • PAIN LAYER 2: I'm resentful because I have to miss a lot of opportunities and waste a lot of time. I'm stressed because public transportation is often hectic and unreliable. I feel like a loser asking people for rides all the time.

Your messaging should speak to layer 2, i.e. resentment, stress, and feeling like a loser.

Here's another.

PROBLEM: I have back pain

  • PAIN LAYER 1: It hurts!

So what?

  • PAIN LAYER 2: I'm frustrated because I can't do a lot of things. I'm angry because I can't focus on much else. I'm tired because I can't sleep at night. I feel guilty because I rely so heavily on medication. Oh, and I feel old.

Again, you want to make sure your messaging hits on the underlying or emotional aspect of the problem. In this case, that's feeling frustrated, angry, tired, and old.

If you stop at layer 1, you'll never quite strike that chord. You want to go beyond the superficial and get to what's really nagging your prospects.

Don't confuse pain points with solutions

Remember that the pain has nothing to do with the solution.

Good messaging (that's your job!) might lead to a solution, but, like the cheese, pain stands alone.

Generally speaking, the person with back pain doesn't care if the solution is a chiropractor, medication, or a magical elixir containing some rare Burmese cactus species. They will do whatever works.

Once you've shown them that you really understand where they're coming from, they will be ready to hear about your proposed solution.

Image credit: ceralytics

Meet your prospects where they're at

Pain points should be positioned somewhere towards the top of the page (of course, there are exceptions).

That's because a strongly structured page will meet your prospects where they're at, and take them on a journey culminating in YOUR solution and a call to action.

In other words, your solution is only meaningful to the extent that you have named and agitated their pain.

But here's where the "without making them cry" part comes in.

You want prospects to read through your pain points and nod their heads in agreement, saying "yes, yes, yes. That sounds like me."

Not to hang their heads in shame, x out of your page, and vow never to return.

You might even choose to avoid "best writing practices" to get your message across with sensitivity and tact.

For example, it can sometimes help to:

  • Avoid speaking in second person. Choose first or third instead.

  • Use common euphemisms, if the subject matter is on the embarrassing side.

  • Speak in the passive voice instead of active.

And always keep your writing tight. (The only thing worse than reading about a shame-inducing pain is reading about it forever and ever and ever...)

Once you've strategically and empathically talked about what hurts, you're in a position to introduce your solution, and craft a compelling argument for why it's the best solution for your prospects' needs.

Key takeaways

  1. Take the pain points directly from your customer research.

  2. Ask effective questions that uncover emotional pain.

  3. Don't stop at the superficial layer. Get all the way to the root.

  4. Don't confuse pain points with solutions.

  5. Meet your customers where they're at.

  6. Address pain points towards the top of the page.

  7. Choose tact and sensitivity over "best writing practices."