Pain points are a big deal in copywriting, and for good reason: People will do more to avoid pain than they will to gain a positive benefit in their life.
It’s one of the core reasons we procrastinate as well.
The pain of starting on a task (or facing it) can easily outweigh any and all benefits we might receive by Doing The Thing. So we move away from that pain, even though the greater cost is one we’ll regret later.
Pain points, then, are used in marketing to leverage that quirk of human psychology.
If you can make the potential customer experience enough pain about their current situation (or fear of loss in the future), it’s a lot easier to encourage them to take action and buy your product.
Most human beings don’t like causing other people pain.
This presents a bit of a challenge for you, as a marketer.
You don’t want to cause people pain. And you certainly don’t want to take your knowledge of pain points and engineer it to cause the maximum amount of pain just to make sales.
And yet… your product solves a problem that causes people legitimate pain or unhappiness. And you want them to know that their pain can be helped by your product.
So what are you supposed to do, while still keeping your integrity?
You have options, and I’ll tell you about them in a moment.
First, we’ll look at how they’re done badly, and then use that to help us see ways to use them in ways that are respectful to the reader.
Pain Points: How they’re used at the extreme end
If the idea of using pain points makes you cringe a little inside, you’ve probably seen copy that paints a terrible picture of what will happen if you don’t own the product.
This happens when marketers position their product as the only savior for you, or assume that solving one particular problem will be your only help.
You’ll see copy like this:
“You have a decision to make – enroll in this course and learn how to succeed, or keep doing what you’re doing and ultimately fail.”
I saw this once on a sales page for Facebook marketing, and the huge pull quote LITERALLY said:
“Either embrace Facebook and succeed… or ignore it and fail.”
Riiight. Like there’s no other way to do business other than feeding the Zuck Monster.
The same thing happens on opt-in lists. I recently saw a signup box for conversion tips, and the buttons said,
- “Yes! Show me how to convert”, and
- “No, I like losing money every day.”
This is bullying.
Does it work? Absolutely, and for a certain slice of the market. Many people will respond to that pain point and make the purchase or sign up to the list.
But it’s bullying, and the marketers doing it know that, and they do it anyway.
And at its core, it leverages the pain point of “I don’t want that to happen!” very effectively.
Now, let’s look at two ways you can connect with your customers’ “I don’t want that to happen” feeling in a way that’s kind and respectful to them.
Softening pain points through story
When you’re writing your sales copy, you have a certain section of your page where you either tell your story, or you illustrate the customer’s story, or something similar.
That’s one place where you can refer to pain without being harsh to the reader.
When you can refer to your own common pain points, you can create rapport with your readers while not scaring them.
For example, if I were writing copy for Easy-Peasy Sales Pages, I could write something like this:
“My early days writing sales copy were always a source of stress. I stared at a blank page for so long I felt like a moron, and when I did write I was always afraid that what I wrote would either sound stupid or like an infomercial.
And I was stressed for good reason. My copy sucked, and I really wasn’t very good at this in the beginning, and I actually lost a few jobs because of it.”
I took a different story angle on my sales page, so I didn’t include this. But I could have, and it would have connected with my customers’ pain points without being intimidating.
Instead of telling them they suck, or they’re going to lose a lot by not writing good copy, I told them I sucked.
I went first.
So that’s an example of connecting with pain points without scaring the reader. They can make the connection between their struggles and pain, without experiencing something that could require a trigger warning.
Softening pain points through freedom
Another way to soften a pain point is to mask it in a statement of freedom.
When I did market research for Easy-Peasy Sales Pages, my interviewees told me their pain points.
Here are a few of them:
- Fear of the blank page
- Fear that they’re not “doing it right”
- Their experience of a flopped launch due to their poorly-written sales page
These are things that in the hands of a bully marketer, would translate into:
- “You’re just going to sit there staring at a blank page, feeling stupid”
- “If you don’t know how to do it right, no one will buy”
- “Your launches will fail, and you’ll never know how to fix it.”
As an alternative, I could soften these pain points in my copy by framing them as statements of freedom.
- “No more staring at a blank page”
- “You’ll never have to worry about if you’re ‘doing it right’”
- “Your launches won’t flop because of a poorly-written sales page”
All of these statements illustrate freedom from the pain, rather than fear of it.
It’s wonderfully effective, without the sleaze factor.
You never have to use pain points in a harsh way.
Your customers want their problems to be solved, or to go away.
They don’t want to be bullied. They don’t want to be scared into reacting, rather than making a conscious, proactive choice.
And they’re very used to marketers leverage their fear in ways that make them feel badly about themselves, because unhappy people are more likely to buy.
If instead, you use these two approaches to connect with their pain points, they can experience their own internal motivation to solve their problems out of power rather than out of fear.
So use these two approaches, and you’ll never have to worry about being manipulative in your copy.
(Bonus points if you noticed what I did in the sentence above.)