Imagine that you’re buying a weight loss product. Which one of these two benefits make more sense to you?
“You’ll receive a holistic solution that will balance your body so your body will automatically burn more calories”.
“I’m going to teach you a five minute technique that allows you lose weight even when you sleep, by burning calories 24 hours a day, seven days a week”.
The first example is what most copywriters would use. It sounds fancy, it makes the product owner say “yes, yes, that’s true, I like how this makes my product appear” and … it is completely useless.
It is an internal concept that makes no sense or has little relevance to the end customer. This is because when an overweight mom with two kids who is afraid of losing her husband because she’s not attracted to her anymore … but he’s attracted to his sexy assistant … wants to lose weight, she doesn’t care about that.
That’s what you care about. That’s what makes you special.
She just wants to take a pill and lose weight fast. She wants a practical solution, an approach that she can use to obtain the outcome she truly desires in the fastest, easiest and most convenient manner.
When I used to do copywriting coaching, my number one frustration was “sell what the customer wants, not what you want”. This was especially true when the copywriter was also the product creator. Since that person invested tens of hours into making the product happen, he wanted it to be sophisticated and to look high value.
The disconnect though is that you’re not buying the product. The client is. So when you frame a feature or a benefit or an offer or anything, you do it in terms of her self-interest. It doesn’t matter how sophisticated it is, it matters only if it clearly communicates that this product will help her lose weight fast, easy and cheap.
I sometimes do copywriting hot seats with clients and acquaintances. I ask something like …
“What does your product do?”
He answers …
“It is a complete solution that allows the customer to build a marketing machine which will generate leads at a low cost from PPC”.
I ask again …
“So what does it do practically?”
He answers …
“It employs the best practices of PPC to optimize Facebook ad costs …” … and so on.
It takes several minutes to actually get to the core benefit, which in the above case is “it cuts your PPC costs in half”.
There’s a short story to illustrate this point.
Once upon a time, a hot shot salesman rang a door. A small, elderly lady answered. He made his pitch and she invited him in.
He talked at length about the heater he was selling. He presented a huge list of features, explained the technology behind it, he quantified the savings that the elderly lady would receive and even explained the years of research that went into it.
After he finished his pitch, both sat silent for a while. The elderly lady finally opened her mouth and said …
“But will it keep an old women like me warm during the winter?”
So it is with any other type of product. Sell what the prospect wants, not what you want. Good copy rarely has to do with how much copy you write or how many persuasive tools you employ. Instead, it comes to congruency, to how close it actually speaks to the true desires of the prospect.
People take actions for their reasons, not ours. No matter if it is a sale or a date or a wedding proposal or a fight in a bar, the reason to take A vs. B is something that appeals deeply to them. People fall in love with us when we love them for what they wish to be loved, not what we find valuable. People are persuaded when we talk to their self-interest, not ours.
It seems as such a basic lesson but I assure you that most marketers don’t get it. I’ve seen freelance copywriters who charge $1000 – $2000 per copy who still don’t get this basic thing.
Then there’s another point … rationality or better said, the complete lack of it.
I admit it. My mind appears rational and very logical but it is a storm of emotions. There are fears, there are desires, there is lust and indifference, there is hate, there is passion, there are prejudices that I’d not admit to myself in 1000 years and I will certainly not admit them to you. So is the mind of your prospect. The true reasons why he does something have nothing to do with what he tells you. After all, how often are we really honest with our motivations?
We aren’t, there’s too much of a social stigma and negative feedback attached to it. We say what others expect us to say, what is neutral or rewarded. But deep down inside, we’re not that moral or fair or pure. Housewives want to cheat on their husbands. Husbands fantasize at night about their young and sexy administrative assistant. Business partners think about cutting corners and stealing money from the company’s account if only they would not get caught. There are many ugly emotions lurking in all of us and usually these, jealousy or hate or envy tend to push us towards a sale.
Let’s take the example of fitness. Someone who doesn’t understand human nature would think that most people exercise because they want to be healthy. This is what I think of myself and what is an universal recognized answer. However, why do we really exercise? To have sex mostly. We do it to be attractive to the opposite sex and to get attention. We don’t do it to get “high fives” from our gym buddies, nor for our doctor to say that we’ve improved. We’re doing it, generally, because we want to attract the opposite sex easier and this is the fastest method.
Of course, there are people who exercise for other reasons like a desire to set a record or for health reasons. I’m not generalizing. But the vast majority do it in the hope that they’ll sleep with more or higher quality people.
So when you’re asking a prospect about this, would he admit this? Not in a thousand years. Nobody wants to be so vain and superficial. It’s something we don’t admit even to ourselves, we rationalize. Yet, if you are a man and you exercise, you can admit to yourself that you’ve at least thought about this.
This means that this denial will not appear in the market research. It won’t appear in the beliefs or motivations of the avatar we’re selling to. So the amateur copywriter just sells to what people say they want – like playing with their kids when they’re 80. And that may be, I do want this and so you to but we rarely ignore the needs of the moment for something that will happen in a few decades.
On the other hand, we gladly ignore the needs of the moment for sexual gratification.
This means in return that when that copywriter writes the copy, it will sound good and make a lot of sense. It will have all the right reasons why the prospect SHOULD buy. It’s what it is responsible to do – to improve our health, to get our 10.000 steps daily, to improve our cardiovascular health, etc.
And your prospect, if this were your product would nod yes.
He’d say “yes, he’s right, I must do this”.
But he won’t buy. He won’t buy because while it makes sense rationally, it is not pulling him emotionally. It is not that urgent or that appealing to sacrifice time and money in order to pay for your product and here’s where most sales letter fail. It’s when they make sense and they should make the sale but they don’t.
It’s the nice guy syndrome.
A nice guy buys the girl flowers, take her to an expensive dinner, tells her that she’s beautiful x 1000. Yet, when the night ends, there’s no kiss and he’s not invited in.
The girl is SUPPOSED to like him and she’s even going to say to herself that he’s a great guy.
But she’s not going to take action.
The bad boy treats her like crap, doesn’t care about her, even abuses her emotionally. Yet, she wants him with all her being.
She knows that she’s SUPPOSED to stay away from him but can’t do that. Her emotions tell her otherwise.
If you want to improve as a copywriter, don’t be a good guy, predictable and politically correct, talking to surface needs that just hide what’s lurking inside. No. Sell to the core.
Sell to his desire to be respected by others and for his neighbor to be so jealous of his new Porsche 911. Sell to his desire to attract beautiful woman and to have gratifying experiences. Sell to his vanity – being envied by others and even hated by this. Sell to his nature, don’t sell to his social persona.
Be the bad boy. Nice guys in dating finish last and nice guys in copywriting don’t make sales.