A Plea for Compassionate Copy: Stop Selling Solutions and Start Solving Problems

freelance copywriter makes plea for compassionate copyWhen I want to get people thinking about better web content, I tell them about selling mattresses…

Let’s say a man can’t get a good night’s sleep. He doesn’t know his crappy, decades old mattress is the reason he can’t sleep. He only knows he can’t sleep, and he’s tired all the time.

What problem is he trying to solve? The need for a good night’s sleep. And he’s looking for a solution to that problem through medication, meditation, reading dry text books, drinking chamomile tea, listening to Gregorian chant, and all kinds of other ideas.

Now let’s say you sell mattresses and you know this man needs a new mattress in order to sleep better. You know a new mattress is the solution to his problem. But if approach him and say, “I want to sell you a new mattress,” he’ll brush you off with, “I don’t need a new mattress. I need a good night’s sleep.” Because that is the problem he is trying to solve.

But if you approach him and say, “I know how you can get a good night’s sleep,” he will be all ears because you’ve framed the solution in a way that matches his problem. Now he is listening. Now you can tell him about the mattress.

Now you’ve made the connection between his problem (as he sees it) and your solution.

When I’m presenting about web content and I use my example of the mattress vs. the good night’s sleep, I watch “ah ha” moments happen for everyone in the room. And almost everyone in the room is guilty of selling mattresses, meaning being focused on their solution, not the customer’s problem.

“Me” focused marketing copy is rampant. I would guess 90% of web content is focused on what we are selling, not what the customer is buying. And that’s just web content. I’m not even talking about print or email marketing content.

When it comes to our marketing, why do we turn into such annoying narcissists? We are not here to lie, cheat or steal. We aren’t in business to be self-serving. We are in business to help others solve problems. That is why we do what we do, so why does our marketing copy fail so miserably at conveying this message? Why is our content about us when we are in business to serve them?

My challenge to myself now is to figure out how to get more marketers thinking this way so their marketing content reflects this customer focus. So I am have been playing with this idea of “compassionate copy,” meaning copy (or content) that reads in a way that reflects why we are really in business.

What if we stopped thinking of it as marketing copy? What if we started thinking of it as compassionate copy? Here’s what comes to my mind when I think about what some of the differences might be:

Marketing copy wants to sell. Compassionate copy wants to help.

Marketing copy pushes the solution. Compassionate copy addresses the problem.

Marketing copy shows arrogance. Compassionate copy shows empathy.

I am still mulling this idea over, so I don’t pretend this is a solution to your problem as a marketer looking to create better web content. But even if you don’t buy into my idea of compassionate copy, I hope that the idea of it gets you think a little bit more about talking to customers and not at them.

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