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.

Categories
Marketing

Are All Business People Dishonest?

Seems I'm ranting a lot these days, and a little more opinionated than the norm. Perhaps it's my back problem, which is killing me, that's making me more sensitive or irritable. I don't know.

But something someone recently said in my copywriters forum irritated me. And it's not what this person said specifically, but the mindset behind it that's bothering me.

In a thread about an Internet marketer who was recently arrested (yes, it had something to do with forced continuity, but it had more to do with refusing refunds and avoiding customers than it had to do with forced continuity itself), one member said:

“There is NO such thing as an honest business man. (…) Ask any accountant.”

Now, I have no clue as to why this person said this. And my opinion here is not about this person specifically. Again, it's about the thinking process that some people have when they make such assertions.

Personally, I believe this view of business people is skewed, off, and wrong. It's destructive, too.

In fact, copywriter Marcia Yudkin said it best. In her reply, she said this gem: “I feel sorry for you. That is a terrible philosophy to hold, hurtful to you and hurtful to the honest people who deal with you.”

Well said.

I know what the original commentator was trying to say, but I wouldn't have said “dishonest.” I believe the word choice is wrong because of the implication. Are all business people really dishonest?

Saying it that way can be easily misconstrued. And it can also be easily misinterpreted, too.

That's the power of words. That's what makes us copywriters, too.

We choose our words carefully. The words we use can be incredibly powerful — both good and bad.

If “dishonest” is referring to communications, I'll be the first to admit that we do exaggerate from time to time. We try to put our product in its best possible light. We focus more on the benefits than we do on the downfalls.

But you know, that's not reserved to business people only.

We do it when we try to explain a movie we love to our friends. Or when we bolster our ego talking about a great deal we got at the local store. Or when we court a potential life partner.

It's human nature.

Words have emotional impact. Even with the most logical, analytical people out there. Our choice of words can make or break the sale, whether the product is good or not. Just as words can make or break relationships, court cases, even wars.

For example, real estate agents will say they sell “homes,” not houses. Dentists will say they create beautiful “smiles,” not “teeth.” We tell stories to communicate a product's purpose or brand. We use words that paint vivid mental pictures.

(I recommend Seth Godin's book, “All Marketers Are Liars.” By the way, Seth is referring to the power of telling stories in marketing.)

But to say all business people are dishonest, and even implying that one should ask any accountant, is a terribly skewed vision of the world. And I'm speaking generally, not just about business itself.

Business people do try to make maximum profit with every transaction, and they will try to do it at the least amount of expense.

That's business.

The difference is, the honest ones will do so at the service of others, while the dishonest ones will do so at the expense of others.

Making a profit can be seen by a lot of people as “dishonest.” I'm a capitalist through and through, and I believe in win-win. I don't see anything wrong with mutually beneficial transactions, which is what business is and should be, in my opinion.

We sell products and services that benefit our customers. But just as much as we are responsible not to mislead, lie, or deceive, customers are just as responsible for their own lives, their own decisions, and their own actions.

What I have a problem with is, some people do see any kind of marketing, or any kind of selling, as dishonest.

And for some reason, that bothers me.

For example, in the same vein as “all business people are dishonest,” some have said, in the recent forced continuity debate, that all marketing is unethical.

They say that a product should sell by itself based on its own merit. And that marketing and selling (and to that I would add copywriting) exist because it's the only way to sell a poor product that can't sell itself.

Oh, really?

If so, then we must be all psychics, because we should know about all the good products in the world. We should rely only on word-of-mouth — we all have friends who will tell us what we need to know, right?

And we should all buy everything that “is good” (even though “good” is subjective and personal) solely because they alone merit our attention, our patronage, and our money.

Forget about life getting in the way.

Forget about competition.

Forget about our innate fear of loss.

Forget about the state of the economy.

Forget about the need for marketing to help better decide how we spend our money.

And forget our natural proclivities to want to be secure, to procrastinate, to avoid making bad decisions, and to save our money to buy only what we need — not what we want. (Goodness forbid we buy what we want, not what we need!)

Obviously, that's wrong. At least to me, it is.

My opinion?

(Here comes the rant.)

In my experience, people who think all marketing is unethical or that all business people are dishonest are usually people who feel everything should be free.

Now, I'm not trying to start a political debate regarding capitalism versus socialism. I'm talking about people who have a sense of entitlement, especially those who whine and complain all the time.

People who bitch about businesses exploiting them are just as much trying to exploit businesses themselves by always trying to find, or haggling for, a good deal.

This is called “projection.” (I'll come back to this in a moment.)

People who feel that they deserve great products and great customer service (which is a given and expected) but for the least amount of money possible.

People who feel they should get the most by working (or paying) the least.

These people who have a sense of entitlement blame others all the time, never take responsibility for their own circumstances, victimize themselves constantly, and whine all the time about how unfair the world is.

To them, not only are all business people dishonest and all marketing unethical, but also everything costs too much. They automatically assume that all marketing is a scam, and that they, in turn, will do their darnedest best to scam businesses, too.

They will suck them for freebies. They will never buy anything. They let coupons and deals dictate their lives. And they will be the first ones to pounce on any mistake a marketer makes — such as a grocery store accidentally pricing an item too low.

They're the ones who think, “if it's that good, then it should be cheap… Or free.”

They try to get the most by paying the least (now tell me, how different is that from the business owner who tries to make the most profit with the least expense?).

People who make such assertions should look in the mirror first.

In a recent blog post, one of my favorite authors and speakers, Larry Winget, talked about banning one of his blog commentators who was toxic, always negative, and went out of his way to badmouth Larry.

This person was so incensed, even to the point of going on Amazon and giving every book Larry wrote a bad review.

In that blog post, I commented that, if only the bad commentators would put as much work into, well, working on their own success, I betcha they wouldn't find the time to bitch.

They would be too busy being successful.

Larry once noted that the hardest thing one can and will ever do in their lives is to look at themselves in the mirror and say, “It's all my fault.”

These “bad commentators” aren't looking in the mirror as they should be. And I would venture to say that people who don't look in the mirror expect everything else to be one. (That's what I mean by “projection.”)

Remember the old Einstein saying that, when your only tool is hammer you see every problem as a nail? It's the same idea, here.

That is, when these faultfinders blame others, they are projecting their own self-loathing onto others.

Similarly, what I found is that those who whine and complain are usually the ones who aren't happy with themselves, and feel the need to blame others.

And they put a lot of work, effort, and even money into dragging other people down, or into whining about how bad things are (e.g., how broke and tired they are, or how scammed they've been).

Why don't they spend all that energy and money on getting ahead instead? Or dare I say it, into starting a business, and — here's a novel concept — marketing and selling themselves?

Go figure.

In Larry's program, “Success is Your Own (Damn) Fault,” he quotes the Sanborn Maxim, which goes: “The customers who are willing to pay you the least will always demand the most.”

While that might be true in terms of money, I think it's the same with everything else.

For example, “The people who are willing to pay you the least respect will always demand the most.” (And I believe they're the ones who deserve it the least, too.)

I agree that there are some business people out there who are dishonest. Thinking that all of them are honest is just as skewed as the converse.

But that kind of thinking can be a lot more hurtful and damaging than the simple comment “there is no such thing as an honest business person.” Damaging to oneself as it is to others.

In conclusion, let me quote something Michelle MacPherson said, a marketer I admire a lot, which sums it all up beautifully:

“If you don't take responsibility for your own actions in life and instead hand that responsibility (in the form of blame) to someone else, you have no power (you've effectively given that power to someone else, since it's ‘not your fault'). If you have no power, you'll never have success — you'll just spend your days blaming others for your lack thereof.”

Thanks for listening.

P.S.: What do you think of the new blog design? Just a larger font, more whitespace, and less “busyness.” It's based on your feedback, which I appreciate immensely.