Customer Gains vs. Pains

Last week one of our designers facilitated her first brainstorming session. It was fantastic.

We started with a clear objective. Increase our app store rating. In less than 60 minutes, we generated 100’s of ideas which we are now planning to put into action.

One of the tools from the brainstorm stood out to me. To help us prioritise our ideas, she asked us to sort them into three broad categories. Pain Killers, Vitamins, and Candy. The pain killers worth double points.

I think that’s an awesome way to think about things. Some ideas ultimately will be more valuable to your customers than others. If you have a toothache, it will consume you. You will do whatever you need to solve that pain… taking vitamins won’t help you at that point. But taking your vitamins is probably a good idea for your long term health. It’s a strategic choice to look after your body.

Finally, life would be pretty boring if the only thing you ate was pain killers and vitamins. Including a pop of candy every now and then is a great way to leave a delightful memory with your user.

Strategyzer, creators of the Value Proposition Canvas, describe vitamins and pain killers, as Customer Gains and Customer Pains.

Customer Gains

Customer gains make your customer happy, save effort, time or money. These are the objectives that would make their life and the primary job-to-be-done easier.

Customer gains have varying levels of priority:

  • Required Gains - These are the gains which a solution can’t function without.

  • Expected Gains - These are the gains we expect from a solution, even if it could work without them.

  • Desired Gains - These are the gains that we would love to have if we could, but are not expected from a solution.

  • Unexpected Gains - These are the features that go beyond what is expected.

Customer Pains

Customer pains describe what is annoying and troubling for your customer. These are the blockers that are preventing your customer from getting their job done.

Pains can take the form of undesired costs or situations, negative emotions or unwanted risks.

Customer gains are not the opposite of pains. Gains are the ambitions that people have. They are the things that ultimately make them happy.

Like jobs to be done, both pains and gains fall into three broad categories - functional, social and emotional.

Creating Gains and Pain Relief

These two lenses are a great way to evaluate your product.

It’s important to regularly ask yourself how you are creating value for your customer:

  • What savings do you deliver to your customer?

  • How do you go beyond their expectations?

  • How do you surprise and delight and create memorable interactions?

  • What risks do you eliminate?

  • How do you help your customers sleep at night?

  • What superpower do you give them to make them look awesome?

Getting to know your customer is the most valuable thing you can do for your business. By seeking to understand their needs you are reducing a critical risk - desirability.

Great product teams develop an obsession like focus on the customer. Get out of the building and talk to as many people as you can. Create bets and test, test, test!



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