On the Importance of Opening Wounds

Ever broken something and been forced to wear a cast?

I’ve actually broken four different bones.

I even broke my collarbone twice (that’s a story for another day…)

One of the most annoying things about the recovery process – besides the aches and pains – is the maddening itching sensations under the cast.

You can’t get to the itchy skin of course. There’s a giant hunk of plaster of paris in the way.

So you have to get creative with forks, rulers, and other long flat things to reach the itchy spots. But when you do… oh man, there’s hardly anything better!

The itch is so uncomfortable it’s worth the trouble it takes to scratch it. This usually lasts as long as it takes to get the cast off.

The same goes for selling products and services online…

There has to be an “itch” – an impetus – driving people to find out more about your stuff and (eventually) buy it.

You could have the highest-quality widget in the world. But it won’t sell well if it doesn’t address a legitimate problem or frustration.

Think about how world-class authors do this to hook readers in their novels.

First they introduce a few characters. Then they immediately present a situation the characters are forced to get out of. This has to happen in the first few pages. If it doesn’t, they’ll lose most readers’ interest.

There’s a caveat too: the situation or problem has to be significant. It has to be something readers actually care about for the story to work.

No one cares how Jane’s struggle to decide between a white or blue blouse ends.

Practically everyone, on the other hand, is intrigued by Frodo’s quest to destroy the one ring in Lord of the Rings. That’s literally a situation of life and death.

Compelling prose isn’t enough. It takes a compelling problem to really get those pages turning.

Sometimes consumers know exactly what their problems are. They fall down the stairs, and they know right away they should probably get to the doctor.

But other times the problems are more subtle. The iPod solved a problem most of us didn’t know we had: not being able to store or access our digital music in one place.

The people you want to become your customers are walking around with plenty of open wounds. Many of them have just scabbed over.

It’s practically impossible to create desire, but you can uncover it if it’s already there.

Do this early on in your website copy. This isn’t the time or place to be subtle.

You already have the hero to the story you’re writing – the potential customer. Now’s the time to introduce the situation that only your product or service can help them solve.

The sales-driving formula: a “hero” + an undesirable situation to escape from + the solution (product/service) that helps them do just that.