Direct Response Copywriting Tip from a Potato Bug Picker: – Contrast To Convince

by Sarah on September 19, 2010


“You’ve got potato bug picking duty.”  At these words, my daughter’s face transformed into a grimace.  As if she had just eaten one of these striped rascals.

It’s Saturday morning and we’re starting out our weekend chores.  The kids moan and groan a bit – almost out of obligation – and then we get going.

But this morning my daughter kept the groaning going. “Mom, it’s so hot.  And I hate picking potato bugs.” Complaint tagged after complaint, ending with the usual “Do I have to?”

Several years of chores like this one have helped turn these squeamish kids into reasonable farm hands.  But there are some things that still just get to them.  Picking potato bugs is one.  I have photos from when they were ages 5 and 8, taking on these spud leaf nibblers.  They geared up like they were taking on toxic biohazards.  Not only did they put on gloves, but they also had on full rain gear – coats and pants – big boots, and goggles to top things off! (BTW it was in the high seventy’s that day!)

I guess I’ve spent enough time messing with grubby stuff and grubs that it doesn’t faze me anymore.  And with a big to-do list on my mind, I was in no mood to back down.  I figured, she just had to get over this one, too.  But I knew there had to be a way to send her off to the potato patch with minimal cajoling.

Copywriting technique saved the morning . . .

“Okay, you can either pick potato bugs . . . or clean out this pig barn . . .”  Ellie looked beyond me to the mess of straw, dirt and pig manure, made into a noxious stew by two weeks of rain.  Her face wrinkled up even more, like she had swallowed two potato bugs frosted with swine sludge . . .

“I’ll do potato bugs . . . ” she sighed, turned around and headed over to the garden.

I just used one of my essential copywriting techniques.  A standby that million-dollar health copywriter, Clayton Makepeace, revealed to me.  Something that should always go into your copy at some point, but most strategically towards the end:

Compare and contrast buying the product with other outcomes and with other uses of your money.

Basically, no one wants to spend money.  And now especially, getting someone to open up their wallet is like pulling teeth.  So your job as a copywriter is to create a context for this distasteful act.  A context that transforms it to being palatable if not delightful.

You want your prospect (who’s feeling that anxiety about shelling over money for a book or supplement or services) to relax, feel confident.  Not feel that cramp in her stomach of “Ooh, do I have to spend this?”  Am I going to regret it?

The best way to do this is a two-step process:

One, keep your focus on the benefits of your product.  Reiterate the image your prospect should have of how your product will change and improve their life.

As part of this image, contrast it to the yucky-muck alternative.  Perhaps it’s spending lots of money on doctor’s visits and prescription drugs.  Perhaps it’s never having the energy to visit friends or get that pile of laundry folded.  Perhaps it’s the frustration of watching jeans after pair of jeans go into storage as you go up another size.

Contrast the life you offer with the unsavory alternatives.

Two, contrast the expense to other expenses.  Minimize the amount your product costs in the context of how much your prospect is spending on other items without even blinking. You see this all the time in sales materials. Simply because it works.

The usual contrast is to a cup of Starbucks or a gallon of gas . . .

The cost of a newspaper subscription . . .

The cost of orange juice . . .

The cost of a bagel and cream cheese . . .

The cost of cable each month . . .

Essentially you’re positioning your product in the context of your prospect’s hopes, fears, dislikes, habitual comforts and more.

You’ve got something that can make your prospect’s life better, so let them know about it.  And just like it’s your job as a copywriter to explain the benefits, it’s your job to diminish the pain of parting with some of their increasingly-precious money by placing the purchase in a context.

Just like forty minutes picking potato bugs can turn into an easy – relatively painless – Saturday morning chore.

Now if I could just find a way to make the pig barn palatable . . .

Add your comments – I’d love to hear them.


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