The Passion in Friction: A Totally SFW Marketing Brain Dump

I’m a sucker for descriptive language. And while lots of newfangled internet-borne slang doesn’t do it for me, there’s definitely some industry jargon that just slaps and gets right to the dang point. That’s right — bring on the marketing jargon, folks. 📊

Today’s walk down marketing jargon lane features a look at the customer journey, specifically: passion and friction points.

Let’s define passion points and friction points.

Here’s how I describe these two concepts in the context of the customer journey. ⬇️

Passion Points refer to crucial steps where a customer’s emotions are (or can) be stirred, compelling them to take deliberate action. However subtly these surface in your product experience, these moments are crucial to building positive perception and accelerating decision-making.

Friction Points describe where you’ll find gaps between the customer’s expectations and their actual experience. At these junctures, the customer’s decision-making process slows or comes to a stop thanks to (literal, figurative, arguable) roadblocks in the way. 

TL;DR: A focus on passion points helps to drive awareness and compel a forward-moving decision-making experience. Centering on friction points helps to uncover opportunities for improvement.

So as a marketer, which one should you focus on?

Here’s the thing— passion and friction points should coexist within your immediate sphere of influence. In general, what you should focus on at any given time depends on what your primary desired outcome is.

💡 Are you looking to make incremental improvements or dial in on improving segment performance? Task yourself with identifying and optimizing the passion points along your customer experience map to make the already validated process quicker and easier to get through.

💡 Is your funnel feeling less than fresh, leaving you looking for a way to revive your TOFU ➡️ BOFU completion rates? Fantastic! Have a look-see at your lead funnel friction points to see where the bottleneck is. In friction points, you’ll find opportunities to try new messaging, test new pricing, or explore new, updated, and maybe even completely different product offerings.

The concepts of passion and friction points are not mutually exclusive. The presence of a healthy feedback loop means that you and your team should constantly be juggling the balance between passion points and friction points— and that’s what you want for a thriving, evolving customer experience that’s primed for iteration rather than inertia.

Passion Points vs Friction Points; This cartoon graphic shows a balance scale with a person holding a clipboard on one side, and a stack of coins on the other.
Fig. 1: Balance, y’all.

Don’t be inert.

If you sit exclusively in a friction-focused silo, you’re going to spend all your time chasing a carrot on a stick. There are a million and one reasons why someone didn’t buy, and while the most common of those reasons should absolutely inform your decision-making, they certainly shouldn’t drive it. An solely friction-driven strategy aims to make things suck less rather than actually make things better.

By intentionally seeking out passion points, you’ll be continuously engaging in an immersive exercise to understand the holistic customer experience. In addition to “Why didn’t this customer buy?”, also ask, “Why did that customer buy? What delighted them? What elicited an emotional response?” Seek out reasonable criticisms as well as fair praise.

Focus solely on passion points, however, and you could find yourself stuck treading the same ol’ waters without making any headway in the innovation department. Strive to give each side thoughtful consideration, and you’ll be better equipped to uncover the most meaningful of opportunities — spotting more potential quick wins and high-impact bets with the most likelihood of payoff.

And then back again.

Passion Points vs Friction Points | This graphic
Fig. 2: A totally useful graphic that shows just how easy it is to balance passion and friction.
(P.S. it’s definitely easier said than done.)

To sell or to market, you need to know your customer’s why

As Jeffrey Gitomer states on page 6 of Little Red Book of Selling:

‘Why do people buy?’ is a thousand times more important than ‘How do I sell?’

Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer

Those why’s? Those are these passion points we’ve been discussing.

And ‘why they buy’ is all that matters.

Little Red Book of Selling by Jeffrey Gitomer

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