Looking for a marketing angle likely to yield high returns? The solution is right under your nose: pain point removal. Stop selling; start solving problems.

Ever have one of those “attempting-to-drink-from-the-fire-hose” moments? Lately, I’ve had more than my fair share, including this one…

“You know what I don’t get about content marketing, Ronell?,” said John, the owner of a construction company in north Texas.”It’s like I’m always being sold to. It’s like ‘Hey, you need this. We make the best of whatever this is, so buy it. Buy it now, then go online and tell all of your friends on social media what a great company we are and how they should come give us their money.’ Correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t content marketing supposed to be a ‘softer sell’ compared to traditional marketing?”

Keep in mind that, as I’m listening to these comments, I’m standing in front of a large TV in my local gym, with more than a dozen onlookers watching the NBA Finals and simultaneously eavesdropping.

All I could offer was “Eh, I mostly agree.” And I do, to an extent.

Content marketing shouldn’t be complicated marketing

When I first started working with small business, from 2000 to 2004, I reasoned the boisterous, hyper-salesy approach arose from cash-strapped business owners’ desires to gain attention in competitive verticals. It’s what they know, and it has been shown to be effective, I reasoned.

Then, from 2005-2011, when I had the opportunity to work with some of the largest brands on the planet, I saw a very similar thing: big, splashy ads; sales-focused information; and little attention paid to post-purchase content.

With the rise of content marketing, I’ve been happy to see more and more business leave behind the tactics of yesteryear—e.g., product placement, cheesy PR campaigns, large-scale print media buys—replacing them with blogs, a heavy emphasis on social media and strong, resonant content.

All is not rosy, however, as far too many brands, large and small, still too frequently and too easily resort to me-too, egocentric content that’s all about the business and very little about the needs of prospects and how their product or service can help.

Here’s a news flash: Customers don’t care about your product or your service. They care how your product or service can help them achieve the task they are trying to accomplish.

Maybe this quote says it best: “There’s only one thing prospects are interested in, and it ain’t you,” D Bnonn Tennant said in a guest post for KISSmetrics. “It’s whatever problem they have in mind when they get to your page.”

Removing Pain Points Is The Surest Way To Success For Content Marketers

I’ve written in the past that most small and midsize businesses should focus on three main areas:

  1. Pain point removal
  2. Scalability
  3. Audience development

For now, let’s shine a spotlight on how your business can put a serious dent in the competition by moving away from a focus on sales and instead emphasizing the removal of pain points.

Let’s say you’re looking to start a lawn maintenance company. You’ve secured a loan for a truck and equipment. You were even lucky enough to make a successful pitch to the homeowner’s association (HOA) for the new neighborhood in your area, landing a contract for the upkeep of the community’s green space and trees.

What you really need, though, is to secure agreements with at least 100 homes in the 800-home development, which would enable your business to generate enough revenue to hire two additional employees.

Where do you start?

Thanks to your contact with the HOA, you’ve secured agreements from 15 homeowners, who are now paying you $45 for bi-weekly lawn service.

Your next steps:

  • Get to know them—who they are, what business they are in—and develop a rapport where they know, respect and trust you
  • Make them aware that you’re always open to feedback, suggestions and constructive criticism
  • Request five minutes of their time (once you have built a solid rapport), where you ask whether they’d be willing to refer you to other area homeowners
  • Listen intently during these conversations, keeping an eye and an ear open for ideas, concepts, etc.
  • Share your ideas about their yard/landscaping, and ask about vendors being used for the planting of trees, shrubs and other plants

The goal here is not to attempt to upsell them. Rather, your focus must be on gathering as much information as possible about the things that could be a problem for them as new homeowners.

Quit selling and start sharing

During this process of “discovery” with the homeowners,  you could find that a big issue for many of the homeowners is the cheap plants the builder added after constructing the home. The homeowners would like the plants removed and new plants and flowers added in their place, but they haven’t taken the time to find a resource to handle the job.

That’s where you step in:

  1. You engage them in conversation.
  2. You inform them of the best plants for their area and yard.
  3. You make them aware that this is a service you could provide.

In the process, you’ve expanded your service line by removing a significant pain point, one that pays handsomely. (As someone who has purchased several new homes, I know very well the expense of landscaping efforts, which can easily reach into the thousands, even for the mini-mansions prevalent in most cities today.)

All this came about not because you tried to sell to them, but because you provided useful information that enabled you to open the door to removing a pain point.

More business should use this approach. Instead of always being on the hunt for an upsell, they should look to (a) seek genuine, open, two-way interaction, (b) provide useful information and (c) be sincerely interested in helping prospects and existing clients.

A number of very successful businesses are already taking this approach. Might you do the same?

I’m eager to hear your thoughts on the efficacy of pain point removal.