Business-to-business, Corporate copywriting, Email copywriting, Marketing Copywriting, Maslen on Marketing, Selling, Web copywriting

I feel your pain

Neck Pain WorkingUnderstanding how your customer feels is crucial to establishing rapport, trust and, ultimately, the sale.

In general, and perhaps a sad reflection on the human condition – or maybe just marketing – we are not selling to contented people. No, that’s not precise enough.

When contented people buy things, the part of them doing the buying is not the contented part.

People buy stuff to solve problems.

Those problems could be basic: “I am hungry”.

Or they could be more, how shall I put it, middle-class: “I need a Pilates teacher within walking distance of my beach house”.

Your first goal as a writer is to pinpoint their pain.

Find what’s causing their discontent and you can start building a case for a sale.

(Incidentally, I’m assuming the pain we’re trying to find is one your product can alleviate. If you sell rabbit hutches and your customer is suffering existential angst, you need to do more digging.)

Having identified their pain, then what?

There are a number of ways you can exploit your new-found insight.

You could use it as your headline.

Let’s say you are marketing copper bracelets that relieve rheumatic pain.

You COULD run with

“Are you ready to experience the miraculous healing properties of copper?”

But I would advise you to choose the more prosaic

“Painful hands?”

People whose hands hurt because of their rheumatism are looking for something to stop them hurting.

They don’t care whether it’s copper, aluminium, elephant hair or string.

When he was selling a treatment for hernias, US copywriter John Caples used the one-word headline … you guessed it …


This approach has the effect of becoming magnetically attractive to every single person seeing the ad who suffers from a hernia.

It’s enough to stop them in their tracks and make them want to read the next sentence.

Which Joseph Sugarman, another garlanded US copywriter, claims is the single job of the headline.

But you don’t have to stop at the headline.

It makes a pretty good opening too.

Here are three different ways we could continue the “painful hands” copy.

“Three questions”

Do you find it hard to concentrate when your hands are hurting? Have you ever had to stop doing something – a hobby perhaps – because the pain was a distraction? Are you fed up with drugs, creams and needles? Well, I have good news for you.

“Startling news”

Leading scientists professed themselves baffled after an 86-year-old woman in Minnesota claimed the pain she suffered in her hands from rheumatism had completely disappeared … without drugs.


“I wish I could cut them off!” That’s how bad the pain in her hands was for rheumatism sufferer Elaine Rich. But just two weeks after making that shocking statement, Elaine is playing her piano again.

As you get into the copy you’ll want to start talking about benefits, I hope.

Rather than simply listing them, you can weave them into a future story…

“Imagine, within a few days of putting on your bracelet, you could be doing simple tasks without pain or discomfort: opening jars perhaps, or even just finding the right change to pay for your parking.

“Dropping off to sleep becomes so much easier without that niggling worry that the pain will flare up.

“And you can start to enjoy your hobbies again, whether it’s updating your blog, emailing grandchildren or playing cards with friends.”

The value of this approach lies in its universal applicability.

It doesn’t matter whether you are selling copper bracelets or copper futures; lipstick or lathes; products, services or ideas.

The person who’s going to buy from you has a problem. That problem looms larger in their world than any product you have to sell.

They have painful hands, underperforming assets, low self-esteem, unhappy customers, disgruntled workers, twitchy regulators… and you can make them go away.

So the next time you start writing a new piece of copy, try beginning with your customer’s pain and work back to your product.

And I’m telling you this because

Your view of the world and your customer’s are radically different.

In yours, your product occupies a central position; in theirs, it is nowhere.

So to infiltrate their mind and get their attention, you need to talk about something they find interesting.

Most people love to talk about their problems. So should you.

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