Value Proposition Canvas - Redundancy between Gains/Pains and Pain Relievers/Gain Creators

Dear all,

I have been working recently with a client on their value proposition using the Value Proposition Canvas.

I found that we tended to put the same items both in Gains and Pains on the Customers side, only seen from opposite angles. Two examples:

  1. "Product exceeding budget" is an important Customer Pain, but we also put it as "Low price' into Gains.
  2. "Time to customize the product" as Pain, and "Quick customization" into Gains.

On the Value Proposition side, we found it simlarly difficult to decide wether we should put items into Pain relievers or Gain creators. To use the aforementioned examples, a feature that reduces the price could be considered both as Pain reliever or as Gain Creator, depending on where you put the corresponding item on the Customer side.

Did others have the same problem? How should one approach the VPC to avoid this redundancy?

I tried to find more information on how to use the VPC, but a part from Alex Osterwalder's explanation here, I found neither more detailed indications on how to use this canvas, nor case studies as they exist for the Business Model Canvas.

So all feedback on the VPC would be appreciated:

  • Help to resolve the described redundancy problem
  • Case studies for the VPC
  • How-to guides for using the VPC

Thanks in advance for all your contributions!

PS: I also take this opporunity to reiterate my request to make me aware of explanations of the VPC in French or German (already expressed in another thread).

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Hi Frank,


Glad to see I am not the only one struggling with these terms when using the VPC in my daily work!


My first answer is: don’t make it an academic activity discussing the semantics – put it on the canvas where ever it makes sense:-)


On the other hand, having a bunch of people at a workshop working with VPC , you need clear terms.  In my case I try to implement this VPC in the front of innovation at my company – and I also need to be clear on the terms.


The way I usually explain Pain/Gains is using the terms for Blue Ocean:


A)     Pain is something the customer like to avoid. So Pain Relievers can be phrased on the VPC  using “Reduce/Eliminate”

B)     Gain something the customer desire. So Gain Creators can be phrased on the VPC  using “Raise/Create”



To stay with our example. The pain of “Product Exceeding Budget” – which job-to-be-done does it relates to?

1)       If the product exceeds budget already when browsing prices on the web – then our have one case: the price upfront is to costly!

2)      If the product exceeds budget after installation – then maybe the pain is actually “Avoid unforeseen cost”, the gain would be “Transparency in the price structure”

3)      If the latter is the case,  a pain reliever could be phrased like “Reduce the risk of customers having unforeseen cost”, the gain would be “Create a transparent price structure”

4)     Then you move into which product/services/solutions that might help create the gains and remove the pains.


This is how I so far have tried to manage these terms. My best advice is to stay “technology/solution neutral” as long as possible in this process. So try to avoid solutions/technology when phrasing the Gain Creator/Pain Reliever – try focus on the outcome expectations from your Product/Service instead.



The same goes for defining the Jobs-to-be-done. Do not get caught in describing the technical aspects. Example:

Bad Job-to-be-done description:  “Trying to open his/her map app on the iphone.”


Better description: “Get directions on-the-fly”


The last phrasing lets you stay more open for different solutions and avoiding spending time discussing technical details.


I hope this helps a bit – but I have not totally nailed how to use this. But hey…if it is too easy, is it not fun:-)




Hello Jonas,

Thanks for the reply and advice!

I am definitely with you when it comes to not being too academic, but at the same time customers (internal or external) want to have clearly defined tools, so being too pragmatic is not ideal either.

I like your suggestion to use the shortcut Pain/Pain Relievers = using Reduce/Eliminate and Gain/Gain creator = Raise/Create.

I'll try to use these in the future.

Any sources for explaining the VPC or case studies?



Hi Frank,

Nope, no cases.Sorry

Still working with applying the VPC (and the thinking) in my company:-)

So I build the plane while flying:-)

We are working on combining the Jobs-to-be-done, pains/gains with what is known as "User Experience" or "Customer Journeys". So looking at all the touchpoint along the way of a certain product/service, we try to analyse which stakeholders is carrying out the job and what are the pains and gains - and where in the process/journey?

Furthermore I think adding a "severity" and "frequency" dimension to the job-to-be-done makes it more easy to discuss if you actually want to help the customer get rid of the pain. Theres is no point in solving a pain in a job that only occurs every second year. (If you take on your profit glasses!). And you can not solve all the jobs-to-be-done anyway...

So prioritising the job-to-be-done is actually also a way to clean up in the big pile of post-it notes with pains/gains:-)


By the way, if you want to understand the job-to-be-done thinking I recommend the book

"What Customers Want"

It is a bit "theoretical" and "unflexible" about the term for my taste, but still have some nice and valid points!

Hi Frank, 

I totally agree with you, it may be confusing... the way I have used it with students in the classroom (B-School setting) is to think about the pains as something that the customer is telling us (aka complaints or in satisfactions) and the gains as something that you, as an "expert" on the job or the solution addressed by the VP, can detect as existing in the way it is being solved for the customer. You will directly get the pains from the customers words, but for the gains you will have to use techniques like the "Outcome - based interview". Pains will create more incremental VPs, whereas gains will develop more innovative VPs... you could say that gains tend more towards a "Blue Ocean" kind of VP versus gains (although I am not a big fan of the Blue Ocean concept, but it is easily understood by the participants).

I hope this helps.


Hello Jaime,

Thank you for the input.

If the idea of the VPC is to visualise the customer expectations, I think that it is too restrictive to say that a customer can only express pains while an "expert" can see gains. There are very informed customers that can very well reflect on benefits. I would tend to say for example that the more a job-to-do requires involvement, time and money, the more customers think about what they might gain. If we go to the B2B world, it becomes even likely that customers will reflect in a very detailed way about advantages and disadvantages.I'd fear that your approach would lead to discussions on what a customer is able to express or not. But thanks for bringing it up nonetheless. It is interesting to see who different practicioners use the VPC.CheersFrank

Hi Frank.

Is a Good issue this one you have presented.

I used some sort of similar approach as Jonas proposed, based on Blue Ocean (BO) main principles.  BO is Easy to explain, use, document and share during workshops, or along iterations/pivot validation-experiments. Auxiliary VPCs, or simple excels aux. tables to cross-manage “Reduce/Eliminate” and  “Raise/Create” cycles,  has been good enough in my cases.  100% full ears to more ideas/experiences … Cheers 

Hi Frank, 

I totally agree with you that the customers are very informed and can be considered (at least) experts in their field. My point was that if the customer is going to give you their money (or "hire" you to get a "job" done in their business) is because you add something else that they don't see / possess... and there is where I would put the "gains" in the model.

And that is just my way to make sense of it... I guess that we all need to get our heads around it, and this is a great discussion to move forward.

Best from Barcelona,


Perhaps there is a simpler way to look at this relationship.

Customer jobs (or problems) can be identified within three categories. Functional job entails getting a specific task done. Social job describes how customers interact with others (an external view). Emotional job describes how a customer wants to feel (an internal perspective).

Pains represent barriers to getting the job done, or solving the problem effectively. What is getting in the way of getting the job down, or makes the job difficult.

Gains are outcomes the clients hopes to achieve or outcomes that would be expected by the customer, or would surprise the customer.


I have found differentiating between pains and gains as:

Pain: What Pain is experienced because the important job is not being done right 

Gain: if the job is done right what is the gain to be had by the customer (whether this is an expected gain or some 'AHA' moment!

I will be running a workshop on VPC to some start ups in a week or two so I will let you know what we gather, and if you have any tips let me know!

Ciao for Dubai


Your perspective on pains references the outcome if it is not done well, which again makes it difficult to differentiate from gains. As both views are concerned with outcomes you may wind up with the original difficulty Frank identified, redundancy or same items expressed inversely in the two areas.

I suggest the idea of 'pains' is to identify the barriers and complications that are preventing the customer from getting the job done or the problem solved. The concept of outcomes is best left to the gains where you can focus on creating positive outcomes for your customer.

good point Mike, i think each customer will be very different, one of the posts mentioned an NLP finding which i concur with we all look at pains/ gains differently the important aspect in all this is asking the right questions and keep asking those 'why' questions until that aha moment when the 'fit' jumps out and smacks you in the face! 


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