Welcome to Episode 38 of Write with Influence. Today I’ve got a super simple lesson for you that will help you identify the key benefits of your product so that you can get straight to the point in your copywriting. Simplicity in copywriting and in sales is critical – people need to know within seconds:
- What’s your big promise?
- Why should I care?
In this episode I’m going to show you the path of least resistance when communicating with your target audience by giving you a really nice framework that boils down the essence of your product into simple but evocative terms. It’s called Stop, Start, Without and it will help you create messaging that zeroes in on what your customer really cares about rather than giving them a sensory overload of everything you do.
Listen to discover:
- How to break your product down into the Stop, Start, Without categories.
- How to find something different about your product/ service to make you stand out from the competition.
- Examples of the Stop, Start, Without framework in action.
This week’s sketches will not disappoint, we’ve got:
- Pinky Sprinkles Ice Cream Parlor – 87 flavors, 25 bowl choices, and DNA testing to match you to the perfect flavor.
- Write A Novel In 30 Days Bootcamp with NO EXCEPTIONS.
Remember, you’re not looking to pepper people with everything that you do, try to boil it all down to the main things that will create the biggest change in your customer’s life and show them that getting there will be easier than they think.
Don’t forget to subscribe and feel free to leave a comment or questions on the podcast episode page over at www.writewithinfluence.com.
STOP, START, WITHOUT – A SIMPLE FORMULA FOR WRITING SUCCINCT PRODUCT PITCHES
Welcome to another episode of Write with Influence. I’ve got a super simple lesson for you today that’s going to help you get clear in your mind about what some of the key benefits of your product are. This is so important in copywriting – you’ve got to get straight to the point and people need to know within seconds, what’s your big promise? Why should they care?
So last week I actually took a week out from work to do a screenwriting retreat with 10 other attendees to study writing for film and TV. Now, this was a subject that I studied at university, and it was a brilliant refresh of those skills. The people on the course were great – lots of award-winning writers, even a BAFTA winning producer, just very, very sharp people and great storytellers. Now, one of the reasons I love screenwriting is because it’s very similar to copywriting. You can’t be waffley, you’ve got to get to the heart of a story very quickly, your characters need to be vibrant, and because you’re writing for screen, you can’t tell the audience what your characters are like. You’ve got to find ways to dramatically and visually demonstrate their essence. One of the examples that we looked at was the opening scene of Killing Eve, which is a British drama about a female assassin. In the first scene we see Eve in an ice cream parlor, she’s eating a bowl of ice cream and she makes eye contact with a child who’s also there eating her ice cream. The child smiles at her and for a minute or so the two playfully watch and mimic each other without any dialogue – they’re at two separate tables and the little girl is with her mum. Eventually, after she’s finished. Eve gets up and walks towards the door and before she strides out of the door she casually, but deliberately knocks the girls ice cream into her lap, much to the shock of the people around her. Immediately, we have a sense of Eve’s essence of her character. We get the idea of her dark humor, her playfulness, but also her cruelty. It’s brilliant, such good writing. So how does this relate to copywriting? Well, you kind of want to do the same when you’re thinking about your product. You want to boil down the essence of it in simple terms – simplicity in copywriting and in sales is critical. There’s a book that I’m reading at the moment, I’ve just finished it, it’s a neat little sales book called Samurai Selling, it’s by a guy called Chuck Loughlin and a lady called Karen Sage, and it looks at parallels between samurai training and sales training based on the idea that the code of the Japanese samurai is grounded in service and in personal character. It’s got a lot of practical advice, it’s only short, but it’s written by people who really understand how people make buying decisions and how to make great sales demonstrations. One of the things they hammer home is this idea of simplicity. In fact, at one point they actually quote a study that was done using mice, and they found that the more sensory distractions the mice had, the harder it was to make even simple decisions. And I think most people can relate to that, it makes me think of when you’re driving someone new, but you’ve got a car full of chatty people or someone asking you constant questions, and you’re trying to split your attention between negotiating directions, driving safely and the distraction of someone in your ear rabbiting on. Something else I’ve experienced is the inability to make a decision in a food market. Now, I’m a big foodie. I love food. I love the idea of a food market, bustling and vibrant, but I just personally can’t deal with that kind of chaos and then make a choice from 50 different sandwiches that all sound amazing, and the authors of the book of samurai selling mentioned this. They talk about how, if a prospect is facing information overload, if you’re just like a walking encyclopedia about your product, telling them everything it does, it quite often results in irritation and boredom and an inability to want to take decisive action, as well as a resounding feeling of, so what? You’re basically just pouring water into the fire of desire for your product. So when you’re talking about your products and about why someone should care, you want to boil it down into simple terms. So today I’m going to give you a really nice framework for doing this that helps you boil down the essence of your product into these simple but evocative terms. It’s called Stop, Start, Without and it’s a way to think about and identify the contrast and the transformation that you have in your customer’s life, and how to really drive the message home by explaining why achieving this transformation is easier than they think. It helps you create messaging that zeroes in on what your customer really cares about rather than giving them this sensory overload of everything that you do.
[NEW SCENE – Pinky Sprinkles Ice Cream Shop]
Shop Assistant: Welcome to Pinky Sprinkles Ice Cream Shop. Have you been here before?
Shop Assistant: Let me walk you through it. It’s very simple. We have 87 different flavors. This week’s featured flavors are mango and onion, salted orange with a hint of toothpaste and passion fruit, rum, and Bovril.
Amy: Oh, they sound disgusting.
Shop Assistant: We also have 25 different cones and bowls to choose from including a classic waffle but if you’re not a monster, you may be interested in our vegan corn starch bag, which disappears almost as soon as the ice cream is served. Finally, we have 32 different combinations of sprinkles, including edible glitter, inedible glitter …
Shop Assistant: Between the 87 flavors, 25 bowl choices and 32 different sprinkles, it’s possible to create four billion unique combinations of dessert. If you came here every day, which I hope you will do, it will take you around three years to try them all.
Amy: I don’t think that’s right.
Shop Assistant: What’s more, we have 41% less packaging between the months of February and May this year than we did in the months of June – September of 1989, so it really is guilt-free ice cream, not in terms of calories of course, but environmentally. Do you like ESG?
Amy: I’m pretty sure that brings me out in hives.
Shop Assistant: We even do DNA testing to match you to the perfect flavor. So, what will it be?
Amy’s Friend: Alright Amy?
Amy: Where did you get that?
Amy’s Friend: Ice cream van.
Amy: What did you get?
Amy’s Friend: A 99 with a flake.
Amy: Does he have any other flavors?
Amy’s Friend: No.
Amy: Let’s see if we can catch him …
Shop Assistant: Hey, come back, give me your blood type.
Okay, so let’s start with the “Stop, Start” piece of the “Stop, Start Without” framework. What I want you to think about is this: as a result of using your product, what can your customer stop doing and what can they start doing that they couldn’t do before? I’ll walk you through, but what’s important here is that you’re choosing things to show a contrast that your customer wants to have. So, when you’re thinking about the stop elements, you need to really think about what your customer no longer has to do because of your product. There are many different ideas that you can come up with, but here’s a few areas that tend to generate good stop ideas:
- Negative emotions
- Wasted time
- Annoying tasks
So, first let’s look at negative emotions. Can you help your customers stop feeling bad about something? If you’re a life coach, this might be stopping people feeling bad about not living the life they feel that they’re supposed to or have the potential for. If you’re an optician, you could stop your customer from feeling embarrassed or uncomfortable for not being able to see things crystal clear. I just went to the opticians this week and my eyesight has improved because I’m a very high achiever, I’m kidding! My prescription is only very slight, but even when I was younger, I would feel pretty intimidated if I was in a club or a restaurant without my glasses or my contact lenses. If I couldn’t see things crystal clear, it made me feel very out of place. So, if you can eliminate a negative emotion, unease, discomfort, embarrassment or fear, it’s a really good thing to include in your copy.
Next is wasted time. Does your customer currently have to waste time either doing something the long way around, or maybe waiting for something to be done that you can help with? For example, you might have software for analytics that means customers can pull reports in minutes instead of weeks. A lot of software companies that I’ve worked for in the past have really been focused on this area of efficiency resulting in huge time savings for clients, and naturally we would want to show those time savings and mention that in the copy. In addition, or alternatively, does it mean that you can help customers get results sooner? Maybe you have some kind of accelerated program so that they can learn to play The House Of The Rising Sun on the oboe in just two weeks instead of 12 months or however long that usually takes! So, think about the ways that you can save them time, which basically equates to how you can help them stop wasting time.
Finally, the third thing that is a good area to focus on in terms of things that you can stop is annoying chores. So, what irritating tasks can you take clean off their plate so that they never have to deal with them? I think of this in two ways, it might be an actual task that they have to do that your product eliminates, or it could be a knock-on effect. So let me explain what I mean by that. Some products eliminate the need for a task altogether – a dishwasher eliminates the need to wash dishes, a dog walker eliminates the need for you to rush home from work to let the dog out. Other products have a knock-on eliminating effect, for example, let’s say you’re a manager and you take an intensive facilitation and coaching course. Now, this might mean you’re able to get your team to work better together, eliminating the need to play referee or deal with fights, conflicts or squabbles over petty disagreements. So, those are three springboards for you to think about ideas for what your customer can stop doing – emotions, stop wasting time and stop doing annoying chores.
So, now let’s think about what your customer can start doing. To come up with ideas for this, I want you to think about the following – now that they don’t have to spend time and energy on the things that they can stop doing, what do they have time and energy to do? Another area to think about is, what actual results will they see from using your product? So, for example, if they no longer need to wash dishes, they can spend more time cleaning other parts of the house, yay! I’m kidding – that’s a terrible start! But if they stop washing dishes, maybe they can spend some more time with their family or catching up on some more fun activities. If you’re a fitness coach and your clients no longer have to spend time sifting through confusing or conflicting information about getting fit, then maybe they can really start focusing on bigger fitness goals like a marathon or competitions etc. If you’re a Life Coach and they no longer have to feel bad about not living the life that they want, then maybe they can start feeling more excited and more motivated to get up in the morning and design a day that they’re going to love. It’s good to remember that when you’re looking at this stop/start area, the start things shouldn’t just be the opposite of the stop. A weak stop/start would be, “Stop feeling bad so you can start to feel good.” You really want to think about these things and try to create a vivid, contrasting experience that they can visualize. Another example would be, if you provide debt advice or consolidation help, perhaps instead of scrimping for coupons, they can stop that and start planning their next holiday or a new car that they can actually afford with peace of mind. You need to really focus on the contrast of specific hassles and frustrations that they can give up and all the wonderful things that they can do, see, and feel now that your product is in their life.
All right, finally, we’re going to talk about the “without” peace in the Stop, Start, Without framework. The “without” piece is there to soothe potential objections, to get attention and to show people that the promise you’re making to them in the stop/start area is actually easier than they thought. Now, if you go to the podcast page, you’ll see that this week’s artwork is based on The Matrix (the film) where Keanu Reeves’ character is able to master Kung Fu without having to spend years and years and thousands of hours of practicing – who wouldn’t want that? We love shortcuts. So, this is also an opportunity, the “without” piece, to find something different about your products or the way you do things to make you stand out from the competition. I’m going to give you a couple of examples.
Unbounce is a tool that I use and it allows you to build custom landing pages using a drop and drag interface, which means that you don’t need any coding knowledge, you can just click, drag, drop and put together a landing page pretty easily and simply. So, our Stop, Start, Without columns may look like this:
- Stop losing leads, missing sales, spending hours building landing pages, hiring expensive design agencies.
Those are all things this product can help eliminate.
- Start converting more customers, running multiple campaigns faster, testing more creative ideas, running more segmented testing and advertising much easier and faster.
That’s what people can now do with this product.
- Without knowing how to code, without spending hours building a landing page that looks terrible, without spending thousands of dollars or pounds or euros on a web designer.
Let’s have a look at another example, this time for Beachbody On Demand, which does online streaming of fitness videos. It’s something like $99 a year and you can access all of their workouts of which there are over 1500. It’s brilliant, I love it. They have a great headline, which is,“Reach your goals anywhere.” It really boils down the essence of what they offer. So, let’s look at what their Stop, Start, Without elements might be.
- Stop spending money on a gym that you don’t attend, stop spending time traveling to the gym, stop missing workouts because of bad weather, stop skipping exercise because it’s boring.
- Start reaching your fitness goals and stay motivated with a simple workout plan, start getting excited with a variety of workouts, start something completely new, start a class in less than five minutes.
- Without leaving home, without investing in expensive workout equipment, without feeling self-conscious, especially if you’re not comfortable going into a gym.
I want you to sit down and think about your product and break it down into those categories. What is the stop column? What can people stop doing? What’s the start column? What can they start doing? That’s the contrast, that’s the big transformation that you have on their life. Then think about, what’s the without piece? What’s the bit that they may not be expecting?
When thinking of using this framework, cast your net far and wide for ideas and come up with as many as you can think of, but then you want to narrow it down to maybe the one or two things that you think really matter to your customers. We’re not looking to pepper people with everything that we do, but we do always want lots of ideas to choose from. So, try to boil it down to what you think will be the biggest change in your customer’s life and then use the “without” element to show them that getting there may be easier than they think.
That’s all for this week. Don’t forget to subscribe and feel free to leave a comment or questions on the podcast episode page over at www.writewithinfluence.com. And remember, while we all know that we can’t all be like Keanu and learn Kung Fu in minutes, if you can show your customer that it’s easier than they think, that will definitely get people’s attention and encourage them to sign up for what you have to offer.
[NEW SCENE – Write a novel in 30 days bootcamp]
Speaker: And that concludes day one of your “Write a novel in 30 days” bootcamp. Big round of applause to you all. Yes, well done, well done Norma, you did so well. The way you described that young boy’s friendship with his imaginary owl, it was poetry.
Norma: I’m so inspired.
Tom: I thought it was wonderful, thank you.
Speaker: Um, where are you going?
Tom: I’m going home.
Norma: Countdown stats in a minute.
Speaker: You’re not going anywhere.
Norma: You said day one was finished?
Speaker: Of the boot camp workshop lessons! Now you write.
Speaker: Here. Lock the doors. Sorry, but you all signed up to write a novel in 30 days and I know what you’re like, you’ll leave here now and that’s not going to happen. You’ve got to work for it. You’ve got to bleed for your art. I want to see you bleed Norma.
Norma: I’m on blood thinners.
Tom: They said it would be fun and easy and that we didn’t need to be professional writers or have years of writing experience.
Speaker: Today, you wrote a story about a cat that finds a ball of wool and plays with it.
Tom: It was based on my cat, Ginger.
Speaker: It was bull****. Picador aren’t going to pick that up. I want you to write about a cat that brings home dead baby birds and then one day wakes up to realize its own venomous, evil existence and goes on a journey of repentance.
Tom: Ginger didn’t go on any journeys; she was a house cat.
Speaker: Enough. All of you sit down. No one goes anywhere until the 30-day boot camp is up.
Tom: I’m going to miss my grandson’s wedding next week.
Norma: Oh well, at least that’s something, weddings are s***.
Tom: That’s true. Ginger picked up the ball of wool and wished it was a dead baby bird.
Speaker: Yes, Tom. Yes.