From Pain to Desire

The obsession with “pain points” is well known as a tool to address customer requirements. To my mind, while this is a nice tool, it is restrictive.

Think of it this way. We visit the doctor much less frequently than we actually think of keeping ourselves healthy. We visit the doctor when we are in “pain” and she addresses our “pain points”. Our efforts at improving our living and health are aspirational and not quite driven by the immediacy of pain.

Focusing narrowly on pain points can result in either missing the big picture or concentrating efforts on a tactical solution rather than moving customers to a level where they experience something that makes their lives that much better besides merely relieving the pain.

In the days of portable CD Players the customer pain point was around making their music collection portable. Several companies solved this pain point by designing CD Cases (innovation centered on storage mechanisms, eye candies, media life enhancer etc.). Did the pain get solved? Yes. Customers however aspirationally desired to take their music mobile and not necessarily take their CD collection mobile. Apple, with its “media-free” i-pod took a completely different approach in solving this problem. They focused on the “desire-point” rather than the “pain-point”. The rest is history.

It takes a different skill to understand the user, drive his inputs, marry that with a business model and create “desire-point” solutions. That merits a post all by itself.

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