Three Questions Your Copy
Must Answer to Succeed

Three Copy Questions

We’re all the best. I don’t know one single person who tells a prospect, “I suck at this. Don’t work with me or buy from me, because I can’t do a good job or deliver a quality product.”

No, of course you wouldn’t say that. You’re great. You exceed expectations.

Is it enough?

Most likely not. Prospects are tuning out “best”. They’ve heard it before. They don’t care. They’re applying selective perception and suffering ad blindness to get rid of the noise.

So how do you go about telling people you rock? Easy. Prospects have three questions that factor into the decision to purchase. If you answer these three questions properly, you’ll convince them that you really are the right choice.

1. Why Do I Really Need This?

People often know what they need, but that’s irrelevant. They don’t take action to fulfill those needs because they often can’t justify the purchase to tip the scales to “Sold!”

You need to tell them why they really – and I mean really – need what you have.

Look beyond the obvious. The short-term benefits are a given. What’s beyond that? What’s down the road for the customer? What changes can you provoke right now that create an impact in a person’s life going forward?

Let’s say you’re a freelance writer. Seriously, the client doesn’t need great content for his site. What he really needs is the ability to pay off his Visa bill, feed his kids, and make the mortgage each month. Your job is to convince him that great content will achieve his real goals.

That means tapping into the emotion of the buy. Find the root emotional needs whispering in the person’s mind, and you’ll turn that person into a customer.

2. Why Should I Choose You?

We all know the competition is stiff. There are few barriers to business entry and even fewer in the virtual world. That means a vast selection of people can fulfill any need under the sun.

Tell a story that convinces people you’re right for the job. It’s going to be a challenge, trust me – everyone is fast, affordable, professional and creative these days. But you can do it.

Delve into who you are. What are your qualities? Flaunt your brand image. What’s your personality? Show your values, both business and personal. What do you stand for? Aim for the heart. Tap into what matters to people.

Now use all these answers in your copy. Your “About Us” page is a great place to start. If you have a “Mission” page, stick them in there too. In fact, just about every page of your site could have these convincing answers sprinkled around to encourage people to choose you.

3. Why Should I Decide Now?

Most people are great procrastinators when it comes to spending money and changing their life. Put those two actions together and convincing someone just got tougher.

We like things just the way they are, even if things aren’t so good. Stagnation is nice and comfy. Change? Ha! What if trying to change doesn’t work out? What if we fail? Better the devil we know than the devil we don’t. We’ll sit right here and ignore opportunity, thank you very much.

Convincing people that you can change their life for the better is hard. You can’t prove good things will happen. They have to trust you – and extending trust can be risky.

So try to instill that sense of trust. Focus on all the potential positive effects of taking the decision. Talk about the benefits – short term and long term. Discuss the domino effect of change: the good that will happen immediately, the nice stuff that might happen as a side effect and the change that might happen in the future.

Of course, there are more ways to help convince people you’re the best (without saying you’re the best) – can you think up a few?

About the Author: If you want someone who tells you the truth, holds your hand when you need it and makes you look good so that you can earn more clients, money and reputation, then visit James Chartrand’s blog, Men with Pens. Better yet, grab his RSS feed here.

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Reader Comments (34)

  1. says

    Amen! This is one of the best articles on building trust and a sense of urgency I have seen. Trust takes time – but you can create an instant “Trust Connect” that you have described with these strategies that will at least start the process of building it. Great stuff.

  2. says

    Brian? If you could be so kind as to edit the typo in section 1, paragraph four, I’d be in your debt. Less people will catch me with my pants down and the grammar nazis will be gentler.

    To those who did catch the typo, milles mercis (that’s a big thank you.) I wrote this post while ill, so I forgive myself. (Hey, I’m human!)

  3. says

    Letting other people do the talking for you is another way to convince a client to go with you. A great client list or portfolio, client testimonials, comments, and a lively social media presence all speak volumes without you having to say a thing.

    Also, it’s worth noting that your second point has less to do with talent and much more to do with business, service, and marketing savvy than most people realize. One of the biggest complaints people have about freelancers is that they are unreliable. Be reliable and you have the edge over most of your competition.

    Another wonderful article, James! :)

  4. says

    Thanks James, particularly for the point about why customers should buy now.

    And… Michael Martine makes a nice point about good word of mouth.

    As a freelancer I get most of my work via referrals. But thanks to Copyblogger and some other resources, I’ve re-worded a lot of the copy on my art website so that it’s “you” oriented, not so much me, me, me.

  5. says

    Watch out, Brian.

    James’ stated goal is to take over Copyblogger one day. He keeps writing stuff like this and you keep publishing it, you might actually be in danger of losing your seat;)

    I especially like the third point – promoting the point of decision with your copy. There’s nothing that sells like a sense of urgency.

    Great stuff, James.

    Seriously, Brian. Hear me, bro.

  6. says

    Nice twist on the tried and tested sales triumvirate: 1) build rapport 2) establish need 3) establish urgency.

    It does work!

    As far as telling a story to communicate your USP goes, I couldn’t agree more. One of my clients is an asphalt repair company, and when doing sales calls on his behalf, I often explain what “a lot of guys do”, then immediately contrast with “what we do differently and why that matters.”

    The story structure and the effective use of contrast works like a charm every single time (combined with a little rapport building and a limited-time discount to cover the other two bases.)


    Daniel Smith
    Smithereens Blog:
    Productivity, Persuasion & Prose

  7. says

    Don’t worry Bob, because I’m not.

    James, what do you notice that’s different about the order of your three questions at publication? So close, grasshopper… :-)

  8. says

    About point 2 — As marketers, this is the key, because there are going to be times where our analysis of what we truly “are” will be contrary to our current positioning and management strategies. At this point, it’s a good idea to get one or two of the VP’s together (Sales and Marketing, ostensibly) and talk about if we’re really getting at the heart of the matter, or we’re simply regurgitating standard company dogma.

  9. says

    “Discuss the domino effect of change: the good that will happen immediately, the nice stuff that might happen as a side effect and the change that might happen in the future.”

    Painting a picture, helping them see themselves there. I like this.

  10. says


    A good post that answers the three marketing/sales questions, why, why you, and why now.

    I would like to expand on the why now part of this conversation. Now is very often related to a ‘Trigger Event’. These events fall into three categories:

    1) A bad experience: Usually caused by an upgrade/ modification in the product or service being sold, a change in the people dealing with the customer, or a material change in the supplier (like a merger)

    2) A change or transition: Usually a change in people on the customer side, a change in location, or a change in priorities

    3) Awareness: Usually a new awareness of a legal reason to change (statutory or regulatory), an awareness of a way to reduce risk, or a way to dramatic change in economics (productivity or expenses)

  11. says

    Great post. David says that’s this is going to become his favorite blog. It is mine for the past few months.

    Another small typo I noticed :
    We like things just they way they are (the firtst ‘they’ should be ‘the’)

  12. says

    It is a really interesting posting. However, I would say that it is not only for the copy, I would say that the entire objective of the communication with the customer will be focus on this.

    For example if you are developing a landing page, the design should reinforce this copy. I see all working as an integral solution, all the elements of the pages should answer your three key questions:

    1. Why Do I Really Need This?
    2. Why Should I Choose You?
    3. Why Should I Decide Now?

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