Persuasion 201: They Have Problems

…and you’ve got answers.

Last week in Persuasion 101, we talked about the importance of simple calls to action in your web copy. A CTA is important, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Just like all communication, context is everything.

This week, we’re going to look at one of the simplest ways to set the stage for your CTA: a problem-solution organizational pattern.

Assessing your clients’ problems. 

When I start working with a new client, one of the first things I do is send them a survey that asks about the problems they think their clients are facing. The reason I do this is because solving problems is basically the only reason we buy anything, even if that problem is “I like this thing, but I don’t have it yet.” Still, I personally look for something more deep-rooted.

Example. Let’s say you’re looking for some new wall art to redecorate your apartment. It’s easy to stop at “I don’t have wall art” as your problem. But eventually, you find a  hand-painted watercolor you love. It comes with a custom framing option and even though it’s three times more expensive than buying a poster or grabbing something from Target, you decide to buy it. Why? If the problem was as easy as just not having wall art, then really anything would do. However, if you dig a little deeper into your own thought process, you might come up with other problems like:

Nothing I’ve found fits my aesthetic.

The things I’ve found require too many nails in the wall.

I don’t want to have to spend extra time to frame anything.

Whatever it is needs to match the particular blue of my couch. 

Everything I’ve looked at so far is mass-produced; I want one-of-a-kind.

And this purchase will solve every one.

As a business owner, you need to think hard about the problems your potential clients might be having. Even if you sell a luxury like cruise ship packages or a creative service like photography, you need to think about what it is that’s driving them to consider your services specifically. If you can’t figure out their problems, you won’t be able to sell them anything.

Positioning yourself as the answer. 

Once you’ve figured out the problems, you need to assess how what your selling can solve those problems. Let’s take the example from above. If you are the artist and seller of the watercolor painting and you’d thought long and hard about the kinds of problems potential buyers might have, how would you use those problems to sell your painting?

The answer is COPY. (Duh.)

The way you do that is pretty simple. On your website, you’d simply address those problems and then talk about how your product solves them. Don’t like mass-produced? This painting is one of a kind! Its colors compliment a variety of color schemes, and it comes pre-framed in a style of your choosing!


Essentially, you’re using the features and benefits of your product to solve the aforementioned problems. You see talk of features and benefits often when copywriters are discussing effective product descriptions, but this set-up works for almost everything: About pages, Service pages, Investment pages and even sales funnels.

Getting organized. 

My students never gave a speech off the tops of their heads. OK, well they did, but only when we did a few impromptu speech exercises in class, and those were never graded. For graded speeches, they HAD to submit a written outline of their speech that was basically word-for-word what they were going to say. They weren’t even allowed to speak until I had the outline in my hand, and the completeness of the outline was a portion of the overall speech grade.

Did I do it that way because I hated my students? No.

I did it because effective persuasion takes planning and organization.

This is one reason hiring a copywriter is often more expensive than some might expect. I’ve said it before, but we copywriters don’t just sit down and spit out words. We research, brainstorm, and go through drafts of copy before we even send you the one we deem the “first” draft. It’s a process. For every About page or sales page I write, I come up with a handwritten outline of the organization I want to use to create the final product.

Problem-Solution organization.

After you’ve taken stock of your clients’ problems and how you’re going to use your product or service to solve them, plug it into this outline.

I. Introduce your product/service with an attention-grabber. (Yes, that’s a technical term. I said so.)

II. Identify the problem(s) your reader is facing.

III. Identify the features and benefits that will solve those problems.

IV. Insert your call to action.



Well, no.

Not completely. There’s a lot of meaty goodness that goes into persuasive speaking/writing, but I’m not teaching a writing course here. This is the bare bones crash course on the basics of persuasion, and the introduction and subpoints of this outline change slightly depending on what kind of content you’re writing. About pages will address different problems than Investment pages, for example. But yes, that’s the gist of it.

It seems simple, but when I browse websites that belong to potential clients, I’m often surprised at how unorganized everything is, especially if the copy was DIY’d. By taking the time to really think about your organization, you set up your reader for that call to action at the end. If you can tell them plainly how your business can help them, they’ll be ready to make contact or to buy. Take a few moments to plan your copy in advance in order to prime your leads for the sale.

So here’s your homework:

Go make a list of the top three problems your clients are most likely facing (and don’t stop short… really dig). Then go to your website and ask yourself honestly: are you addressing those problems? Where? If you are, are you doing so in a way that sets your business up as the obvious solution?

Come back next week when we talk about the importance of credibility.

Class dismissed.

Prof. Lauren


2 thoughts on “Persuasion 201: They Have Problems

  1. theredheads says:

    I am LOVING this series. As an author, I decided to DIY the coy for my website. I’m certain now that I’ve had it up for several months (and after reading this) that I need to spend some time making sure it’s meeting my customers’ needs and not just talking about myself. Especially before publishing my next book…


    1. Lauren Patton says:

      Nothing makes me happier than to hear this, thank you! It’s so easy to think that websites are all about you, especially when you’re selling yourself. (Does that sound wrong? It sounds wrong. You know what I mean). But making sure your customers are the focus of your copy is essential to good salesmanship! Good luck!


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