8 Problem-Focused Copywriting Frameworks to Write Copy That Sells

People are more motivated by the threat of losing than they are by the prospect of winning. That’s why addressing people’s problems or fears works so well in marketing. Discover 8 problem-oriented copywriting formulas you can experiment with.

Some of the most powerful copy appeals to people’s problems. Let's figure out how to write it.

I wrote a book on copywriting called From Reads to Leads. It’s a real gold mine for anyone working in the content marketing industry. One chapter of this book is talking about using problems to create messages that make people sit up and listen which I’ll cover in this video. But you should definitely check out my book for more insights.

Why talking about problems works

Have you ever wondered why appealing to people's problems works in marketing? The thing is, the more vividly you can paint the pain that your target audience is experiencing, the more you demonstrate that you understand. And that’s a fast track to trusting you.

What is your problem?

If you could just ask this question to your target audience, life would be so much easier. Yet people don’t like to tell you about their problems (unless you’re a licensed therapist or a family member). Problems are entirely a writer’s job to find out. And the only way to do it is by getting to know the people you’re selling to.

You can ask your prospects to give you an interview, talk to your existing customers, browse Twitter, read blogs, check out comments on Reddit, or investigate your competitors’ websites. All of that might shed some light on your customers’ pains. You can toil away days, weeks, months, and years trying to figure out those pains, but in the end — voilà! You’ll know how to position your solution as the miracle cure. And then comes the fun part: How do you address the pains you’ve discovered in your copy? 

Ray Edwards, a famous copywriter and the author of "How to Write Copy That Sells" has a few problem-oriented formulas to help you out.

8 copywriting formulas to talk about problems

1. If–then…

This formula addresses people’s challenges by basically saying “if you have this problem, then buy this solution.” Here’s how you can make use of it:

If you want to understand how to get your blog heard through the noise but you’re confused about which strategies could work for you and which will just waste your time, then check out [my course] because I’ve carefully crafted it for someone just like you.

2. If you don’t do anything, it will just get worse…

People tend to ignore problems, hoping they’ll somehow resolve themselves. Sometimes they do. But most often, unsolved problems get even worse. Driving this point home encourages people to act. Let’s see how:

If you’re not investing in regular SEO and content marketing, your competitors will crush you. You’ll lose your positions in Google search results until you’re forced to spend more money and twice as much time to get back on track as the market gets more competitive. Why wait for this to happen? 

3. What most people do…

We all want to be faster, prettier, and smarter than others. So why not use this desire in your copy? Here’s how:

What most people do about their SEO is copy what their competitors are doing and call it good. But you’re not like most people. You’re someone who knows that successful strategies are based on knowledge of the customer and how they search for information. That’s why you won’t work with SEO folks who mine the same tired opportunities. You’ll partner with someone who thinks just like you.

4. Imagine this…

Think about your solution. Why does it exist? Most likely, it solves a problem to achieve a successful outcome. You can get people to picture themselves experiencing this outcome in a way that makes it too seductive to let go of.

Imagine your content marketing efforts start bringing your company so many more leads than any other marketing activity. Imagine top players in your industry coming to you for content marketing advice. Imagine your boss giving you a big fat raise because she doesn’t want you to take a job anywhere else. Does that sound like a fantasy? Well, it isn’t.

5. If the only thing you get is…

Your sales pitch most likely contains many benefits of your product or service. The formula “if the only thing you get is…” gives you unique opportunities to list all those benefits.

If the only thing you get is certainty about who you need to hire to crush it in content marketing and how to hire them… If the only thing you get is a plan that points you down the path of building an effective content marketing process…If the only thing you get is a deep understanding of what tactics actually move the needle…If you get any one of these things, it’ll be worth the investment and the time to order [my book]. But you won’t get only one of these things. You’ll get them all.

6. Don’t let this happen to you…

Our most powerful negative emotion is fear. Aaron Orendorff wrote an amazing piece (“The Only Copywriting Formula You’ll Ever Need: How to Unleash the Most Primal Human Motivator) on how to use fear in marketing copy. People are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain. If you want to motivate people to act, here’s how to incorporate the fear of missing out into the “don’t let this happen to you” formula:

Content marketing changes as fast as technology. Don’t let yourself fall behind. Instead, be the first person in the room to use new tools, apply new strategies, and get faster results. Subscribe to [my newsletter] to be that person!

7. What if…

If I could write a book in a week... If I could speak 20 languages… If I could fly… And what magical possibilities would you like to have? Wait, not you. Your customer. Use the “what if” formula to evoke a sense of endless possibilities in readers. For example:

What if you could be ahead of everyone else for high-frequency commercial keywords?

8. You’re standing at the crossroads…

Remember Hamlet? Like Hamlet, people always doubt. To inspire action, you can go Shakespeare and give your readers a binary choice: to use your offer or not to use it. Here’s how: 

You’re standing at the crossroads. One road you can choose is continuing to use the same approaches and tactics you and every other company in your industry have been using for the past couple of years. Or you can go down another road and start applying new content marketing methods that get better results, are more engaging, and cost less. This road is the one you’ll take if you team up with [my marketing agency]. So make sure you choose the right road.

There you have it, 8 problem-oriented formulas you can experiment:


When you can accurately describe your reader’s problem in your reader’s terms, your reader will instinctively feel that you must have an answer to that problem. This brings about another feeling that we all want to achieve through words: trust. When readers trust you, they’re much easier to persuade.

Watch it on YouTube:


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