How to attract customers by talking about symptoms

What’s the best way to attract new customers to your website?

One thing is for certain: They’re probably not searching for your solutions. It may even be the case that your potential customers largely don’t even know about your product category. Even worse – they may not even be aware of their own pains that you solve.

Why writing about your products is not the way to attract new customers

To illustrate this, we can take a multi-billion-dollar industry: Customer relationship Management (CRM) systems.

If you’re reading this blog post, you most likely already know what a CRM system is: tools to manage customer relationships. The industry is HUGE! Therefore, it is easy to believe that “everybody knows what CRM is” – especially if you work as a sales or marketing manager. If you experience problems that a CRM system may solve, it’s reasonable to assume that you would go out and search for “CRM”.


Even in a well known industry such as this, only a fraction of the market actually has a CRM. Most people still live in the world of XL files that you send to colleagues via email. (It’s very hard to gauge how big the total market penetration for CRM systems is, but industry experts think the penetration is very small. One interesting way to get to a number is available in this article.)

Therefore, if you want to capture as many visitors as possible, you cannot write about your solutions. People just don’t search for that. Even if they did, they probably wouldn’t understand that your solutions are relevant to them.

Customers are attracted to their perceived symptoms

What are they looking for then? Their problems?

In our experience, no – they’re usually not even aware that they have a problem. Your biggest competitor is usually not other vendors. It’s the fact that your potential target group is not aware of the possibilities.

What the customer is experiencing are the symptoms underlying the problem you address. Symptoms such as: “The kitchen in our restaurants smell bad” (your grease separator is old). “Our electricity grid is riddled with outages” (you need better ways to test your transformer oil). Or “Our developers let through too many bugs” (you may need to consider your product strategy).

All these examples come from companies I’ve worked with in the past, and it’s always the same: customers are not good at connecting their perceived symptoms with problems that you solve.

Usually you need to go even further than the symptoms to attract customers

In many cases, the customer is not even aware of the symptoms-but about the indirect side effects that the symptoms give rise to (e.g. many of their electricity network customers call the support).

Therefore, you need to think one, two, three and sometimes four steps further than your solution. You need to keep in mind:

  1. The problems that solution addresses
  2. The symptoms that these problems manifest as
  3. The indirect side effects that these symptoms give rise to
  4. Maybe even one or two steps to if possible

Only then can you get your potential customers’ ears – because it is the perceived symptoms they think they are interested in.

What do you do with the customers you attracted that way?

A good example of this is the company Recurly. The company provides a system that manages online payments. But in their blog they have a whole bunch of articles that deal with “customer churn” (i.e. customers stop using your product). What does a payment platform have to do with churn?

Very much, it turns out! But customers who are searching for “how to reduce churn” have no idea about that, until they read Recurlys blog posts and understand that connection.

After getting the customer’s ears and understanding that their perceived symptoms are not at all due to what they thought from the beginning it is time to kick-start the customer journey towards a purchase. You can read more about that in this blog post about what marketing really is.


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About the Author

Yusuf Young

Yusuf helps companies use Marketing Automation to grow B2B sales. In his role as a Marketing Automation consultant implementing systems such as HubSpot and Salesforce, he discovered the need for better services at a lower cost. Today, he runs FunnelBud to make the fruits of sales and marketing technology available to businesses worldwide.