Few people I know enjoy a hard sell. When someone is pushy, it’s easy to zone out because you’re not part of the conversation. There’s no listening, just someone telling you what to do.
But I see and understand this from the other side.
When you are so steeped in your product, it can feel frustrating to educate your customer that they will love what you have.
Why won’t they just trust you when you say it’s what they need?
As a result, we can write copy that suggests our product or service is the only way to do things, rather than being a better way to alternatives.
The marketing rugby tackle
Let’s say you have a friend running towards you, but you want her to go in a different direction. You could slam her to the ground, pick her up and point her which way you think she should go.
But this takes a lot of effort to overturn her current momentum. Instead of attracting someone to your way of thinking, you may just attract assault charges.
An easier way would be to run along side your friend, gently leaning on her until – using her own momentum she is going the way you want.
The marketing rugby tackle is the marketing equivalent of saying:
“Buy my stuff… do things my way”
“Hey – I see what you’re doing there. That looks like a good idea, but there’s an even better way…”
‘The Workaround’ copywriting technique
When it comes to copywriting, running alongside your customer means addressing the conversation they’re already having in their mind.
In the same way LEGO gets into the mind of customers, you need to do the same and articulate that knowledge in your copy.
Last year I was working in Gothenburg, Sweden and flew with Norwegian Air. I’m becoming a big fan of the airline but that’s neither here nor there. However, in the in-flight magazine I spotted this advert which is a great example of ‘The Workaround’ copywriting technique.
I’m not a huge fan of Regus because of the office-enquiry debacle of 2017. They were one of the companies that hounded me under a bait-and-switch ruse.
However, this is a good advert from which to learn The Workaround copywriting technique.
The Workaround is when you address the fact that an ideal prospect knows they have a problem, is trying to solve that problem, but isn’t using you. In this advert, Regus are asking the question:
What other methods are prospects using to try and solve the problem we solve?
The ‘try’ part is important. You want to highlight a method that is, of course, inferior to yours. You don’t want to highlight something that works better than what you have (as if that’s possible!)
So in this example, we have someone looking for an affordable way to run a business and using cafes and free workspaces to do so. This solves the problem of keeping costs low. Unfortunately it comes with pitfalls that could create more danger to them, including harm to their reputation plus additional annoyances of noise, interruptions, etc.
The Workaround Formula
To use the workaround in your copywriting, I recommend building out the following narrative points in your notes:
- Here’s a problem you face
- You might be using this method to solve it
- That makes sense!
- It’s just a terrible idea…
Which, without the conversational aspect, translates to:
- Logical reasoning for workaround
- Dangers of workaround
It always makes me think of the scene in the film Step Brothers where Dale and Brennan-2 forty-something stepbrothers-want more space in their shared bedroom. They decide the best solution would be bunkbeds that they build themselves…
And, this seems to make sense. They can use material they already have and get a march on with the project without having to wait for a professional. The result seems blissful:
But, there are hidden dangers.
As the step brothers discover when the beds collapse.
If we look at the above formula we can see:
- Problem – Lack of space
- Workaround – Build bunkbeds (themselves)
- Logical Reasoning – Materials to hand, cheaper and faster than hiring a professional, (plus permission from parents)
- Dangers – Potential collapse
What you need to do is identify your prospect’s workaround, then build a compelling argument that shows you understand why they are doing it this way, but then point out the hidden dangers. Here’s a quick example crib sheet that we might build for a business that provides invoicing software for small businesses.
To build your own, simply answer the following questions:
- What problem does your prospect want to solve?
- How are they trying to do this?
- Why does this make sense?
- What are the potential dangers of doing this?
If you build these pieces and use them in your copy, it’s an alternative to the marketing rugby tackle. Instead you meet prospects where they are and guide them to your (much better, less dangerous) solution.
What would you discover by answering the above questions? What workaround is your prospect using, and what are the dangers of them continuing down this path? Let me know in the comments!
Camilla Hallstrom says
Yup yup yup: “When it comes to copywriting, running alongside your customer means addressing the conversation they’re already having in their mind.” So true! No pushy sales copy or creepy manipulation, just a helpful nudge. 🙂
David Coghlan says
Aah Amy, perfect timing! Our tech business is building brand new stuff using as yet unavailable data from small business bank accounts. It’s going to revolutionise financial services in 2018 but no-one knows about it and trust is going to be a huge challenge for us. Enter our work-around marketing prop!! Thank you, massively helpful. 🙂
Amy Harrison says
You’re welcome David. Sounds intriguing! Revolutions + financial services will need a lot of education to build that trust. Sounds like you’ve got an exciting marketing adventure ahead! 🙂
Mike Cohn says
Great advice, I can definitely see how this would work. I think the following qualifies as an example of saying there’s a better way:
A fast-casual restaurant (Chipotle) here in the US puts up big billboards that says, “We’re anti-antibiotics (but pro-chicken).” And then smaller below that just says they use “naturally raised chicken.”
I have no idea if I should be anti-antibiotic in my chicken. But this ad makes me think their competitor restaurants must serve antibiotic-laden chicken and that must be a bad thing or they wouldn’t put this sign up. And, so I go eat at Chipotle.
Amy Harrison says
Great example Mike, and a subtle way of suggesting that the alternatives aren’t up to scratch. I also think this could be a good example of telling a story that no one else is telling. There may be restaurants out there that already use naturally raised chicken, but because that seems obvious to them, they don’t talk about it. By staking a claim on this story, Chipotle have first mover advantage. It reminds me of the famous copywriting story about Claude Hopkins revitalising sales of Schlitz beer…And now I’m hungry for naturally raised chicken. 🙂
Mike Cohn says
Great example. I was remembering that Schlitz story as I was reading your reply and that you mentioned it! Enjoy your naturally raised chicken.
Thanks Amy for the great info.
So what we need is less marketing rugby tackles and more marketing Jiu-Jitsu.
Amy Harrison says
Thanks Nigel! I love a rugby tackle in its proper place (I’m going to see my home team Hull in the challenge cup final in a few weeks at Wembley)… but in marketing, you definitely don’t want a prospect to feel slammed to the ground, face buried in the mud! 🙂