In Brain Audit, Why Customers Buy (And Why They Don't) Sean D'Souza tells us we are too fast to throw out our solutions to customers before we've even defined the problem. And it's no wonder – you can't read a missive on copywriting today without being told time and again to hit the benefits and hit them hard.
But as Sean writes, brains have much stronger reactions to problems than they do solutions. Imagine someone in the passenger seat of your car telling you that if you slow down you're less likely to get a ticket. There's a real benefit, yet if you're like most drivers you wave it off and continue at the same speed.
But now imagine you see red and blue lights in your rear view mirror – suddenly you have a very real problem and your brain is on full alert searching for a solution. What do you do without even thinking about it? You lift your foot from the gas and place it on the brake.
This is the power of placing the problem first, followed by the benefit. Your brain recognizes that something is wrong and takes measures to ensure your safety. Conversely, if you present the benefit first then the brain has no real motivation to act.
Compare these two headlines:
"Get Rid of Your Allergies Forever"
"Do Cats Make You Sneeze Uncontrollably? We Can Help You Get Rid of Your Allergies Forever"
The first headline is pretty standard and the one most marketers tend to use because it's the way they've been taught. But it's not the best way. Presenting the problem first activates that part of the brain that sits up and pays attention, that wants a solution NOW. And you give them the solution, right then and there, after you've presented the problem.
Also notice that the headline is quite specific – not, "Do you have allergies?" but "Do Cats Make You Sneeze Uncontrollably?" Sean calls this isolating the problem, and it's a way to elevate the problem in the prospect's mind. Everyone has multiple problems at the same time. If you're going to get your prospect's attention laser locked on your solution, you're going to have to isolate the problem down to something quite specific.
So in the case of allergies, even if you can treat every allergy known to man, you still name the particular, specific allergy. This will increase your response more than if you just use the general term "allergies." And of course once they are in your office, you can find out what else they're allergic too and recommend follow up visits to treat those allergies as well.
So next time you're writing a piece of copy, lead with the problem and follow up with the solution and see if you don't improve your response rate.