Note: This article was first published October 12th, 2014 and has been updated.
If you have been reading my website or newsletter for any length of time, then I am sure you have read something where I was bragging about my great editor. She is the best! (And more importantly she has become a good friend.)
She does more than make sure my dyslexic writing is clear and readable, she really cares about the quality of work that appears on the site. When what I have written is unclear, she provides great recommendations. If I have written something that is not quite accurate, her research ensures I am set straight. If I am behind on newsletters and articles, she gently reminds me about deadlines.
AND she is always (and I mean always) challenging any inflated, hypey language that I use in headlines, subject lines, or in sales letters.
On the surface I think this happens for two reasons. First, she is looking at my copy from how it feels as a consumer, rather than a marketer. Second, she is not American. The American style of marketing tends to be hypey. She is from Africa and lives in Europe, so she provides a larger perspective that I might miss.
Both of these things are invaluable, but it goes much deeper than that.
Marketing that points out the pain
I spend a lot of time working with my clients on marketing their products and services. I help them tweak their message, I clean up their sales copy, and I help them practice talking to prospective clients.
In the last fifteen years I have spent more time and money on learning how to write good sales copy and communicate in a sales setting than on all of my other training combined.
I understand the key to selling anything is getting your potential customer in touch with the pain they are experiencing. For extreme examples all you need to do is think of infomercials where you are shown an example of a blunt old knife smushing a tomato, the old garden hose in hopeless tangles, or an ancient mop making more of a mess than it is cleaning up.
As we have talked about many times before, we are most likely to make changes in our lives when we are either in a great deal of pain or really close to achieving a goal.
Effective marketing helps you to recognize your pain. It points out everything that is going wrong. The more clearly you see how bad your problem is, the more likely it is that you will want to take action to relieve your pain.
This is my life, not a salad
In principle, I do not have a problem with pointing out the pain someone is experiencing.
If you read any of the sales letters I have written, you will see I spend a lot of time doing just that. I am not trying to make your life worse. I am not trying to cause you more pain. I can honestly say I am trying to get you to level with yourself so that you recognize the cost of not changing.
But this becomes a tricky business.
It is one thing for me to point out how you are wrecking your tomatoes when you are making a salad with a blunt knife. It is a totally different matter when I am pointing out a part of your life, your work, or your body, with which you are less than satisfied.
When I (or any other marketer) start talking about what is unsatisfactory in your personal life, we are tapping into something that could be acutely painful.
In doing this my goal is always to be working from a place of wanting what is best for my readers. So when I point out dissatisfaction and pain, I am doing it because I know you are made for better and I want better for you.
But just because my intention is to do that in a helpful way doesn’t mean I am always successful.
Pain for sales’ sake
In some ways it is easier to sell self-help products than it is to sell anything else. It is hard to get you worked up about not liking the way your tomatoes are cut. It is really easy to get you worked up about the things you don’t like about your life.
You already know what those things are. They are the reason why you might emotionally eat or drink too much or stay in a job that isn’t right for you. For the most part we are able to numb that pain in our daily life.
But a good sales letter will pull all that pain to the surface and expose it to the bright light.
As marketers, once we have you in that pain, it is easy.
All you want to do is find relief from that pain. You read the promises of the product being sold. You read the glowing testimonials of the people who have used it.
You think, “This is too good to be true!” AND you are in so much pain that you pull out your credit card.
A hard drive full of self-help tools
I want to be clear. I am not saying self-help tools and coaching programs don’t work. Nor am I saying that all self-help marketers are hucksters and cheats.
I know lots of them. There are so many in the world who are creating amazing products, running transformational programs, and are making a real difference in their clients’ lives.
At this moment I am more concerned about the hard drives full of digital products that are collecting digital dust.
I am willing to bet your computer is full of them.
You don’t need another program. You don’t need another sure thing. You don’t need a miracle catch-all.
The first step is to look through the hard drive of materials you already have and use one of the tools.
If you are unable to find time or a way to use the tools you already have, then the problem probably isn’t in the tools. More than likely the issue is about actually doing the work. It is about the struggle of creating a routine or having a system to keep you accountable to taking consistent action.
Before you buy the next thing
I would like you to do this for me. Before you buy your next self-help thing, from me or from someone else (but especially if it is from me!) I want you to tap to these phases:
Right now I am in pain…The sales letter I just read…Has helped me to reconnect with this pain…But it is a pain that I already know is there…This is something I know I need to change…As I consider buying this product…I am open to the possibility that it might be helpful…It might be the exactly right thing for me to buy…And it might also be something that I think will fix my problems…I know that change is possible…I know that I can have better…I know that I am made for better…But buying another product…Or signing up for another class is not going to do it…I need to take the tool set I am considering buying and apply it…And I need to apply it consistently…That is how change will happen…It is OK if I buy this…If it is the right thing for me.
Print this out. Bookmark this. Or just think of it the next time you are considering buying a new self-help product.
I want you to have the life you want. I know my life is better because I have invested in self-help tools. But I also know that my computer is filled with tools and programs and guides I have never used!
Make good choices, not just choices in the hope of a quick fix.
You are worth it.
[Note: Let me know if you are looking for an awesome editor or someone to do other tasks for your business. I would happily connect you with mine. Like I said, she really is the best!]