What’s the one thing all humans have?
Besides opinions and, well, you know.
We all have problems.
They come in all sorts of varieties. Big ones, first-world ones, meaningless ones, even good ones.
Despite this shared human condition, we overlook other people’s problems on a regular basis. We are entirely focused on our own.
Someone else’s problem
So sorry you have a cold – when are you coming back to work?
Oh my gawd! My nose is so stuffy, I can’t lie down to sleep. But I’m so tired, I need to lie down. What’s happening to me?!
When problems are our own, they’re so much worse.
So we go through our days entirely focused on ourselves and our own problems.
This changes in the business world where products and services are created to solve other people’s problem and needs.
And maybe your product or service is THE solution for your target audience. They have a real problem that you can solve. This is great news! Now, you just need your audience to understand what it is you offer, and they’ll see the light.
This is easier said than done of course. Because nobody seems to see your offer as the answer to their prayers. So, now you have another problem to think about.
You’re not sure why. You have concise copy that not only explains the features, but the benefits too, dammit. You’ve done your research and you know it’s critical to show the benefits. But you’re still not getting the conversions you’re looking for.
I have an answer for you. An answer that may solve this problem. An answer that will not only have your audience begging for the chance to buy your product or service, but to feel grateful you’ve become a part of their lives.
And once you have this answer, you can go on your merry way and worry about some other problem.
But first, the framework.
The ‘you really get me’ framework
It’s not actually called the ‘you really get me’ framework. It’s called the Problem Agitation Solution (PAS) framework, and it’s in the back pocket of every effective copywriter.
At its most basic the PAS framework opens with a problem your reader is having. It then moves to agitate the problem to really make ’em feel it. And only then do you introduce the solution: your product or service.
It is especially effective for readers on the less aware end of the stages of awareness:
- Unaware – no idea who you are or what you offer
- Pain aware – they have a problem, but don’t know if there’s a solution out there for it
- Product aware – they have a problem, know there’s probably a solution, but don’t know what it is
If a reader is very aware of a problem they’re having and they know your product or service will solve it, they are ready to make a decision. You’ll probably benefit from a different framework.
The PAS framework sounds appealing to so many clients I talk to, but when they actually see it applied to their product or service they get a little wobbly. I’ve heard it all:
- “I don’t want to sound negative.”
- “Do you think we should be bringing up problems? I want my readers to be happy and excited.”
- “I want my customers to see the immediate benefit of x.”
- “Why is the font smaller on the solution than the problem?”
Why the change of heart?
The PAS framework is a bold move, unconventional. This is why it’s not often used on websites. And why it’s so easy to find generic websites that speak to no one. Just because many websites sound and look a certain way doesn’t mean they should sound and look that way. It doesn’t mean those websites are doing the job they’re supposed to be doing – whether that’s collecting email addresses, providing services or selling a product.
Here’s an example of someone doing it right:
So why don’t we see more of this?
Because it makes people feel uneasy. They think the right strategy is to solve problems, not remind people of them.
This is where understanding your specific target audience comes into play – the way Basecamp does in the example above. I’m not saying you need to know what makes everybody tick – I’ll personally never understand the appeal of raisins in bread or social events that take place on boats – but you do need to understand our need to be validated and valued.
Monkeys’ role in conversion copywriting
Heard the expression monkey see, monkey do?
This came from an experiment conducted in the 1980’s by Italian neuroscientists. They discovered that the motor neurons in the monkeys’ brains would fire when the monkey would perform an action such as picking up food. They also discovered the same neurons responded when a monkey would see another monkey pick up food.
The researchers named these neurons mirror neurons. It is thought that mirror neurons are the basis of empathy. Empathy, of course, is when you validate someone else’s feelings instead of dismissing them.
So if we see someone drop something heavy on their foot, we cringe. We didn’t hurt ourselves, but we recoil at the thought of the pain.
Dr. Mark Goulston, author of “Just Listen – Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone,” developed his own theory based on the macaque monkey research called mirror neuron receptor deficit.
His theory is that we’re always looking for love and validation in our interactions, and often we don’t get it. Just think of any parent looking for appreciation or a mere acknowledgement of our existence when we rush home after a busy day to make our children dinner – instead of validation we get indifference and possibly disgust at our lovingly prepared culinary masterpieces – or fish sticks if you’re at my house.
But when we do get that love and understanding? We feel overwhelmed with gratitude. We feel seen.
So when your reader lands on your website or opens your email and it starts with an acknowledgment of the struggle they’re having? They’re grateful and relieved that someone understands. And with this feeling of “you really get me” they are more responsive to your message.
Now you need to push some buttons
Ok. You’ve gotten your reader’s attention by mirroring their struggle. Now what?
Now you need to introduce some agitation.
But why? You might be asking.
Well, sometimes it takes some pushing, or a lot of pushing to get people to move.
Sure, they may be annoyed by some inconvenience in their work life, but when you start agitating that inconvenience it reveals more pain.
If we introduce a solution before your readers gets in touch with the pain they’re feeling, they won’t see it as a solution. They won’t see it at all except as more noise in their life.
It’s important to reach your reader emotionally. We all know people make decisions emotionally first, and then justify that decision with logic.
So if your reader is on the less aware end in the stages of awareness, they may not even be aware of the pain they have.
I know, it sounds cruel to agitate the pain in someone’s life. But you’re not actually introducing pain, it’s already there – they just aren’t very aware of it or they just accept it because they don’t know of a solution. This doesn’t mean you should create pain where there is none – don’t make your reader feel scared or stupid in the hopes of a sale. That’s just not cool.
You’re trying to solve this pain, not make it worse.
And, to be moved to solve the problem, it needs to be on your mind. Reminding them (through agitation) of the challenge they’re facing puts them in the frame of mind of wanting to solve it.
OK, now your reader is aware of the pain or the problem they’re facing and are agitated by it. And what do we do when we’re in pain? We try to make it stop. Immediately.
Because who want to keep dealing with the pain?
This makes your reader open to a solution. And you’ve got the perfect one.
Ahhh, feel the relief
The moment you’ve been waiting for. And let me tell you, it is well worth the wait.
I know, you’ve been a little worried that we’d never get here. Worried that you’d introduced something negative into the lives of your readers, when they were craving something positive.
But you didn’t actually introduce something negative, you were simply mirroring the feelings they were already experiencing – even if they weren’t aware of it. With their feelings mirrored, they feel less alone. And as the relief of not feeling alone starts to spread your reader is now willing to hear your message.
So give them what they need. They need your solution and they need it now!
When you introduce the solution, be sure you show them exactly how it will solve their pain. Don’t just list the features. The features are important of course, but it’s the pain relief they’re looking for.
Give them a picture of what their life will look like with your product or service in it. Are they better at their job? More attractive? Or richer than they are right now? They need to be able to see it.
And when your reader sees their future self without pain and with a solution that makes them a better version than they are now? You have yourself a new fan.
A fan who will want what you’re offering.
No pain, no gain
Understanding your reader’s problem is a critical first step in grabbing their attention. If they’re not ready or aware of what you have to offer, you can’t just hope they’ll see the light because you have what they need.
You need to show them in a way that makes sense to them.
And now you know how. With the PAS framework you can reach them emotionally and help them get in touch with their feelings.
They’ll feel grateful that someone finally understands what they’re going through. (You really get me!) And with this feeling of gratitude they’ll be much more willing to give you a chance – a chance to solve the problem that’s plaguing them.
So next time you want to grab your readers’ attention – and keep their attention – use the PAS framework.
When you do, you’ll have a legion of new admirers ready to hand over their hard-earned cash just so they can escape the pain and find relief in what you offer.