Friday Fusion: June 5, 2020

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Every week, I write about web design, copywriting, and digital marketing for independent consultants and small firms. Friday Fusion is a collection of said writing from Quora, LinkedIn, and email conversations with consultants. You can follow me on Quora here, connect with me on LinkedIn here, and email me here.

What’s your favorite copywriting formula?

My favorite copywriting formula is the PDF formula — courtesy of Amy Hoy, creator of 30×500.

PDF stands for…

  • Pain
  • Dream
  • Fix

The “C” at the end stands for “Call-to-Action.” Your customer won’t buy your fix unless you prompt them too. That’s what the “C” is for.

Here’s an example of the formula in action:

It’s a simple formula that works exceptionally well. It works so well because it follows the narrative structure:

Your favorite novels and movies follow this same formula.

Using narrative structure for your copywriting positions your customer as the “hero” of their journey:

You can make this copywriting formula even more effective by paying attention to your customers.

  • What are they struggling with? (Their “Pain”)
  • Where do they want to be? (Their “Dream”)
  • What is holding them back from getting there? (“Tension” that your “Fix” can relieve)

When you write your copy using this formula — and record the “Pains” and “Dreams” of your customers — your copy will practically write itself.


What does it mean to be concise in business writing?

Being concise in business writing means following the Iron Imperative:

Treat the reader’s time as more valuable than your own. That couldn’t be simpler. And yet everything that’s wrong with the way businesspeople write today stems from ignoring this principle.

—Josh Bernoff, Writing Without Bullshit

How do you treat your reader’s time more valuable than your own?

Be more direct.

Hemingway App is a fantastic tool to help you write concisely.

It gives your writing a readability grade. Aim for a Grade 3–8 readability level when writing in business.

Here’s a good example of concise business writing from Patagonia. The image below is an email to customers about their COVID-19 operations:

But, being concise in your writing doesn’t mean being monotonous or boring.

Read the following paragraph by Gary Provost out loud and you’ll hear what I mean:

In business, you write to get things done.

Be direct, cut the fluff, and stand by what you write.

But remember — you are writing for a human being, not a robot.


What is the difference between content writing and copywriting?

With content marketing, you write to educate your customer.

With copywriting, you write to sell your customer.

Content marketing is a form of marketing: identifying your customer’s needs and wants so they buy from you.

Copywriting is a form of salesmanship: aligning your customer’s needs and wants with your product so they buy from you — in a direct interaction.

An article is a form of content marketing. Your article must attract customers and educate them.

A landing page is a form of copywriting. Your landing page must get your customers to take action.

You can — and should — mix the two. Educate while you sell. Sell while you educate.

Customers buy from who they know, like, and trust.

Educate them with content marketing so they know you, like you, and trust you.

And then, when their need arises, use copywriting to persuade them into taking action — and buy your product or service.

Content marketing and copywriting create customers — the purpose of your business.

There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. The customer is a foundation of a business and keeps it in existence. The customer alone gives employment. And it is to supply the customer that society entrusts wealth-producing resources to the business enterprise.

Peter Drucker, The Purpose of A Business

How can we add value in any organization?

If you *really* want to “add value” to any organization, reduce or remove pain.

It doesn’t matter who (or what) your God is — everyone believes that pain is real.

If you’ve ever been in bad physical pain — and you’ve had a doctor or physical therapist remove your pain — you know how valuable their knowledge becomes to you.

In the context of business, pain comes in many different forms:

These forms are more subtle than physical pain, but they can hurt just the same.

Consider the 3 levels of value:

  • Level 1: What you do or produce (ex: Software consulting)
  • Level 2: The outcome of what you do or produce (ex: A well-functioning web application that helps the sales team track their performance)
  • Level 3: The pain that what you do or produce removes (ex: Your client or employer doesn’t have to spend 8+ hours per week manually checking in on the sales team)

Most people are focused on level 1. Clients and employers do not care about these.

Level 2 is much better. Clients and employers have a desired future. The outcome of what you do or produce should align with that desired future.

Level 3 is the best. Pain is more of a motivating force than gain.

Being likable, fun, or punctual might help you stay in business.

But removing pain and solving problems will make you irreplaceable.

So, whenever you think of “adding value” or “creating value” in the context of business…

…replace that thought with solving problems and reducing pain.

There’s nothing more valuable than that.