Categories
Copywriting

Can Your Prospects Take An Oath?

Preamble: I wrote this article back in 2003 and I rewrote it in early 2005. Back then, it was meant primarily for a copywriting audience. Now that I specialize in SEO, and seeing how the concept of “funnels” is gaining popularity, I took the liberty to slightly update it.

One problem in SEO, copywriting, content, or any kind of communications, is that the audience is not targeted for the message or the message doesn't march the intended audience.

When it comes to SEO, if the content doesn't match the search intent and fails to align with what the user's searching for, the user will bounce back and search engines will conclude that your website doesn't meet the user's needs, which will impact and lower your rankings.

When it comes to copywriting, an untargeted, unqualified prospect won't buy, no matter how good the copy is. If the content is targeted, it can still miss the mark because it doesn't speak to the customer at the stage of awareness at which they happen to be.

It is absolutely essential to ensure that the your content or marketing message appeals to, qualifies, educates, and converts the user. It's about connecting with them at their level of awareness.

What are these “stages of awareness?”

There are four.

I've used these before I ever learned about their existence. Mostly unconsciously through researching a target market. For example, Eugene Schwartz talks about this and at great length in his book, “Breakthrough Advertising.”

Schwartz discusses the various stages of market sophistication, but I prefer to use an acronym so it is easier to remember and follow.

I call it “OATH.” As in, “Is your prospect ready and willing to take an oath?” It's a cool mnemonic to help you remember how aware is your market about the problem, their need for a solution, and of course, your solution specifically.

Here's what I mean.

Depending on what stage of awareness your reader is at (determined by their knowledge of the problem, the solution, and their desire to solve it), the amount of education, credentialization, and persuasion you need to provide will vary.

Maybe they're hurting right now and need a solution fast. Or maybe they're not there yet, which means they may not be aware they have a problem in the first place. Maybe they are aware, but they don't appreciate how big the problem is or might become, and the reasons why they should solve it.

With SEO, this is answered to some degree by the search intent. The way they search Google will say a lot about their awareness level. Your content or sales message should flow from, and follow with, that stage of awareness in order to bring them to the next stage.

I like to look at it this way: how prepared they are to take an OATH? Meaning how confident, ready, willing, and able they are to buy?

The answer is based on any one of those four stages.

“O” is for Oblivious.

At this stage, they're unaware of the problem let alone a need for a solution. They don't know. Or they don't know that they don't know. In the world of marketing funnels, this is often referred to as problem-unaware.

So in this case, your content needs to educate them about the problem. It's to bring it to the top of their minds. If you hit them too early with your solution, without being aware of the problem in the first place, you're only going to confuse them, push them away, or create unwanted hostility toward you.

Often, this is what happens when your copy is too short or presumptive. Or when your content discusses your solution as if they're already fully aware of it. If they simply have an unmet desire, an unmet desire is also a problem to be solved. But they're still unaware of it.

“A” is for Apathetic.

They know they have a problem but they're indifferent. They don't care, don't care enough, or aren't aware of how important it is (or that it can be solved). In marketing funnels, this is often referred to as problem-aware.

So your content needs to make the problem more real and concrete. Your content must educate them on the seriousness of the problem. It could be about the risks or drawbacks of not solving the problem, since inaction is a potential problem, too.

When you understand and cater to your user's stage of awareness, copywriting won't seem pushy but merely an attempt at preventing procrastination. The more aware they are, the more their inaction is about the need for reassurance than it is about the lack of desire.

“T” is for Thinking.

They know they have a problem and they're thinking about solving it. They're shopping around, considering solutions, and investigating options. In marketing funnels, this is often referred to as solution-aware.

So at this stage, when it comes to SEO, your content should take them from thinking about the problem to wanting to solve it. With copywriting, they're considering solutions, so you need to sell them on your solution and why it's better than others.

This is where you have to build value and differentiate yourself. Why is your solution the best solution? What makes it so unique, different, or valuable? What makes it better than all other alternatives? An alternative may also be a totally different solution that soothes the same pain.

“H” is for Hurting.

At this stage, they want to solve it. They're convinced they must fix the problem. They're acquainted with all possible solutions and considering your solution specifically. In marketing funnels, this is often referred to as product-aware.

So your job is to convince them, reassure them, and provide information that they can use to make a decision and take action. Perhaps it's understanding the risks and guarantees; your expertise and credentials as a medical professional; or social proof with before-and-after case studies.

Perhaps they don't know how or what payment options you offer. Perhaps they have fears you need to assuage first. Maybe they're overwhelmed, skeptical, or suspicious, or they've used other solutions unsuccessfully and are afraid.

At this stage, procrastination is the culprit.

If they're hurting, what do they need to get over the remaining hurdle? What objections or unanswered questions do they have? Your content may need to increase proof, reduce risk, and remove fear.

Often, it's based on the fear of making a bad decision. Your content or copy needs to allay that fear. To do so, you need to truly understand your patient at a deeper, more intimate level. You need to learn what information they need to go ahead, and then you need to give it to them.

In SEO, their search intent is often dictated by their level of awareness. Here are some searches as an example:

  • Oblivious: “hairloss” or “what causes stretch marks”
  • Apathetic: “how to stop hairloss” or “how to get rid of stretch marks”
  • Thinking: “micrograft before and after” or “tummy tucks Chicago”
  • Hurting: “hair transplant pricing” or “book consultation Dr. Smith”

That's the OATH formula in a nutshell.

Bottom line, your audience may be oblivious, apathetic, thinking, or hurting. In other words, they're unaware of the problem, aware but don't care, aware of the various solutions, and finally aware of your solution and ready to solve it.

Knowing this will tell you a lot about not only how much information you need to give your reader, but what kind of information and what kind of offer that will transition them into buying your solution.

It's not about serving content that meets their awareness level. If that was the cause, your patients would only need Wikipedia. It's about meeting them at their stage of awareness and taking them to the next.

Categories
Copywriting

Apply The Law of Contrast to Build Desire

In a recent critique for a coaching client, the issue of “gap analysis” arose. Gap Analysis is something I learned in sales, and it was heavily taught by sales trainers like Brian Tracy, such as in his course “The Psychology of Selling.”

Gap Analysis is an immensely powerful selling technique. It's also an important feature of copywriting. Most people will know a variation of it, which is often called “Problem-Agitate-Solve,” a term coined by top copywriter Dan Kennedy.

I prefer “Gap Analysis” because it drives home the relationship between those three elements. So what is Gap Analysis and how can you apply it to your sales copy?

A gap is the perceived difference between the problem and the potential outcome. That is, you have to describe life with the problem and life without it.

Your product, which is your solution, is the bridge between the two. Showing the benefits enables you to position your product as the bridge over the gap.

Once the gap is established, your words can widen the gap by aggravating the problem, or by pushing away the solution — i.e., making it seem less achievable or reachable.

I know this might sound contradictory, but a great strategy is to start out by making your prospect feel uncomfortable and raise their level of discomfort. You do that by exacerbating their problem or pushing the solution as far away as you can.

Specifically, once you identify the gap, you should widen it as much as you can — in their mind. Your sales copy should make your prospect as uncomfortable as possible and any solution for the problem it solves as unattainable as possible.

Why? The reason is, once you widen the gap, then when you do eventually present your solution, it will become far more compelling, desirable, even mandatory.

You're turning what was once a desire into a necessity.

Your product becomes like a cool, refreshing oasis in the middle of a scorching desert, as if magically appearing only after walking for miles under the sun's blistering heat.

Granted, you must first identify your prospect's problem before showcasing the benefits of your solution. But just defining the problem and presenting the solution is not enough.

You must give your readers a clear, common vision of what relief from the problem will mean to them on a personal level. It's an essential step in the sales process — the one that fosters desire and increases the need and the urgency to find a solution.

Thus Gap Analysis is a powerful tool that should be included in your copywriting toolbox.

A large part of its power is in it's simplicity. It boils down to only four steps:

  1. Introduce the problem.
  2. Introduce the “other side”.
  3. Widen the gap.
  4. Bridge the gap.

Here's a very simple example.

You qualify the reader by introducing their current situation into the conversation. Relate to the issues presently facing your prospect. You can discuss how bad things are or at least how bad things are as it applies to the problem you are introducing.

Once the problem is introduced, you will want to present the other side. That way, you also introduce the gap. For example, you might say things like:

  • “Wouldn't it be nice if…”
  • “What all of us dream of is…”
  • “Would you like to know how to…”

Followed by “avoid,” “leapfrog over,” “skip,” “eradicate,” “reduce,” or “solve” [problem], and “achieve,” “enjoy,” or “picture enjoying” [the benefits of solving the problem].

Now that you've created the gap, you can work on widening it.

You can make the problem appear bigger by focusing on it, exacerbating it, and making it more real, concrete, and painful. Or you do so by making the solution seem unachievable and describe the frustration of not having access to it.

To push away the solution even further you can remind them of how great it would be if they get benefit, benefit, benefit. You can do that by painting pictures of them enjoying the benefits of solving this problem — or of not having it in the first place.

You also emphasize how urgent it is to solve the problem. Talk about the importance of solving the problem quickly, or the downfalls of not taking action right now. Use vivid descriptions and mental imagery to enlarge the effects of the problem going unsolved.

Then you can move on to the final step.

Now, with perfect timing, you release your solution.

Just like the mounting pressure of a soon-to-erupt volcano that has built up over a period of time, growing, expanding, and festering with no end in sight, your solution comes along to finally relieve the ballooning stress and pent up frustration.

It's at this point that your solution will be far more in demand. By finally bridging the gap, they can grasp more fully how achievable “the other side” really is, and this increases their desire to buy your solution in order to reach it and relieve that pressure.

It's applying the law of contrast, really.

If I offer a solution to your problem, you may be apathetic about it, regardless of how fantastic the solution is or how great its benefits are. Why? Because the problem is not as important to you. If it is important, it may not be as urgent.

In other words, even if solving the problem is important to you, you may be shopping around for alternate solutions, or the solution may not be as desirable since solving the problem is not at the top of your mind at the moment.

(For instance, when do you think about seeing your doctor the most? Before a problem happens in order to prevent it? Long after a problem has happened and is now in the back of your mind? Or while the problem is happening and hurts you the most?)

But you will be a lot more excited about the solution if the problem is indeed at the top of your mind at that moment, and if you know how bad the problem really is — or you know how bad things can be if the problem is left unsolved.

Now that's the power of Gap Analysis.

Also, it also helps you to apply the law of contrast in another way.

Since paying for your solution is a problem in itself (money is security, and nobody wants to lose their hard-earned dollars), then by widening the gap the problem of not owning your product is now a lot larger in comparison to the smaller problem of paying for it.

In other words, by blowing up the problem, you're also shrinking the problem of making a decision to buy. You're reducing the price in their minds and its psychological impact.

Of course, you can and should lower price sensitivity by increasing the value of your solution. But by using Gap Analysis and the power of contrast, you make the pain of paying for your solution a lot more bearable in contrast to the pain of not owning it.

The pain of the problem is greater than the pain of paying for the solution.

Ultimately, by now it's probably quite clear to you how important it is to introduce both sides of the gap during a sales presentation. It's the only way to provide your readers with a complete picture of how impressive an impact your product will have on their lives.

Remember to use your target market's most basic yet dominant desires — we all hate problems — as emotional highlights to your descriptions. It's important to elicit an emotional response in your reader, and “widening the gap” has the potential to do so.

An added benefit is, the whole of this process works to build your relationship with the reader, and by extension the reader's relationship to the product.

By presenting the gap effectively, you connect with your reader by relating to their predicament as well as their dominant desires, while inflating both at the same time.

So that, when you finally reveal your product, they are not only ready for the solution, but also predisposed to accept it, desire it even more, and eager to buy it.

Obviously, you will want to practice and perfect this technique.

Just remember the four steps outlined. Mind the gap, and it will help if you keep a solid picture of your target market so that you use words, phrases, situations, stories, and “reasons why” that your reader will be able to relate to, appreciate, and be compelled by.

You'll soon find that “widening the gap” is a natural part of your copywriting repertoire.