The copy rejections usually come when the opening paragraph describes the downside of a business problem. Companies losing revenue due to missed opportunities. Inefficient workflow dragging down productivity. Poor training impacting employee safety.
It’s all too negative. Really? The reason customers buy your product is because they are dealing with something negative. They’ve got a business problem, a “challenge,” speaking euphemistically. To them, it is scary. It’s worrisome. It’s a threat. Leading with this fear is actually a smart way to start your copy. Here’s why:
Set the stage for the selling process
Notice how many news stories start with a personal story illustrating the broader topic of the article? They put a face to the problem. At this opening point in your copy, it’s a bit early to bring in your products. You first must show you understand their world and their problems. That gives you the right to talk about answers and alternatives.
Once you have your reader thinking and worrying about their business problem, exactly the problems you solve, you have their attention. You have them in the right mindset for the next stage of your copy. Then it’s time to switch gears and lead them into the realm of sweetness and light, the happy spot where customers chose your products and services, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Let the copy pre-qualify the reader
Use fear-based copy as a means of qualifying readers. If the problem you describe doesn’t worry them, they probably don’t have a need for what you offer. No point in wasting time.
Get inside the buyer’s head
Don’t lead with the pretty picture of where they will end up after buying your product. They probably aren’t there yet. Where they are is concerned and fretting over a problem a situation, something that needs to change or be fixed.
In Happy Marketing Land, we only write about positive things. Unfortunately, that’s not the world of our customers. They’ve got a problem – don’t be afraid to talk about that. It shows you get their world. Get real. Show your customers you understand the downside, the worse case scenario, but that you also know how to pull them out of the tailspin.
Create a home for good keywords
Leading with copy about a business problem is a good way to work in keywords for search marketing. What phrases do customers use to describe this problem? These are the same ones they will use when they do a search for something to help. Lead with the problem and you can get those good keywords and phrases right up front where they count.
Use emotion to capture attention, commitment and interest
Emotions create a connection between the content and the viewer, and you want to bond with a potential customer. Start with a picture of the threat, the risk. That gets attention. We recognize and are attracted to descriptions of our problems. Humans are drawn to reading about troubles and disasters.
If you lead with the happy stuff, you risk not capturing their attention. The role of the opening paragraph is to take the handoff from the headline and keep your reader engaged. If they recognize themselves and the reality of their life, interest is created, followed by a commitment to reading more.
Embrace the duality
It’s okay to be negative sometimes, just as it’s okay to be sad or mad. Without the bad, there can’t be good. And that’s not me talking. I think God or somebody said it first. Without a problem, you can’t sell a solution.
“Negative value marketing” isn’t new. Case studies are frequently structured in the problem/solution/results formula. Same thing. You may also recall the FUD sales approach of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt, often associated with IBM. FUD typically refers to scaremongering to establish doubts about a competitor’s product. Leading with the negative in your copy isn’t exactly the same thing, but it does play on emotions and uncertainty. Clearly, IBM knew a thing or two about that. The “fear” copy I’m talking about is more along the lines of what’s your greatest fear if you don’t solve this problem?
Face the Fear
Is it negative to point out the consequences of failing to find an answer to a nagging business problem? It’s a set up for an alternative vision of what life looks like with an answer to the “challenge.” I say it’s realistic to write this way. Don’t be afraid to tap into customers’ fears, as long as you can suggest a way to make them go away – the fears, that is, not the customers.