PASO: How one letter can make the most effective copywriting formula even better

Copywriting formulas and copywriting swipe files can seem like cheating at your craft until you sit down to use them.

You see, swipe files and copywriting formulas give you a framework. Nothing more. They are the studwork behind the walls… but the studwork alone does not make a luxury villa. You must fill in the blanks and how you do that is critical to the success or failure of your copywriting. That’s where your craft kicks in.

One of my go-to copywriting formulas is PAS: Pain, Agitate, Solve. Or Problem, Agitate, Solution. It’s a favourite because it works for all kinds of marketing, from landing pages to flyers.

Here is a description from my first post on this formula.

Lay out the problem

In order to write copy that evokes a response, it is critical that you understand the problems your audience faces. And that is the heart of what good copywriting does.

The more vividly you can paint the pain, the more you demonstrate that you understand it. As someone reads your description, they should feel like you’re tapping into the conversation going on in their head.

And that’s a fast track to trusting you.

Agitate it until it really hurts

The next step in the PAS copywriting formula is to stir things up.

You’ve identified a point of pain. Now you need to make it painful by making it more emotional. This is where you pour salt onto the wound you’ve just pointed out.

The trick is to not agitate too much. Don’t let your reader wallow. Show them a way out.

Provide a solution

This is where you get to make everything better. This is when you reveal the solution – your solution – that will be the balm your audience has been looking for.

The reason I like using this copywriting formula is that it forces me to focus on a big-ticket pain point for the audience I’m writing to, and dig the emotions around it.

The point of this formula is to make your audience – whether they’re a customer or a blog reader – think, “That’s exactly how I feel and I’m bloody sick of it!”

Your copywriting tells the reader, I hear you. I understand

And empathy is incredibly powerful.

But what if you could make this copywriting formula even more powerful? Your copywriting would be unstoppable!

Results matter

Turn PAS (Pain, Agitate, Solve) into PASO by adding an outcome to your reader journey.

Highlight their pain.

Make it seem unbearable.

Offer them a way out.

Explain the outcome (and offer some proof ).

This addition doesn’t just let them know about the solution. You make sure your reader can picture themselves after the transformation (and every purchase is rooted in the desire for transformation).

Let’s see PASO in action

For an imaginary holiday website

PROBLEM: Finding the perfect hotel can be stressful. Almost too stressful to bother.

AGITATE: Hunting down all your options, working out how far away the local hotspots are and reading reviews from other ‘guests’. Then, of course, there is the price.

And all within your lunch hour? Impossible!

SOLVE: Not impossible. Awesomehotels.com makes finding the best hotel deals quick and easy. We compare hundreds of travel sites for you so you get the best hotel deal available. And all faster than you can say “ham, cheese and pickle on rye”.

ADDED OUTCOME: In just a few clicks, you’ll have your ideal accommodation secured – at the best price – leaving you free to daydream about how to treat yourself with the money you just saved.

I was overwhelmed by hotel choices and the prices seemed to differ on each website. Awesomehotels.com did all the hard work of searching online and they really did have the cheapest prices!” Lara Taker, Holiday Maker.

Copywriting for a real consultation (Leads to Clients)

PROBLEM:

We’ve all been there.

In the rut.

Your business is doing ok but not great. You treat your clients well and they love you but your client base is growing slower than a snail across the wet cement.

You read articles on SEO and email marketing, attracting website traffic, effective design and conversion strategies. They make sense on paper but applying those tactics to your business is another matter.

AGITATE:

You feel overwhelmed with ideas about what you should and shouldn’t be doing online and the tech stuff just makes your head hurt.

And then there is the small matter of actually running your business! So you do nothing.

SOLVE:

Being stuck sucks. I get it. So let’s get you unstuck.

The UNstuck strategy session isn’t about giving you more stuff to do. It’s about finding the tactics that will give you maximum return on your efforts online.

ADDED OUTCOME:

You’ll discover a calming sense of purpose as you prioritise your focus. Your goals will be achieved, one task at a time, and you’ll be free to expand the horizons for your business. Out of the rut and into the sunset.

“In my first UnStuck session, I got some much-needed clarity about my business goals. Now that I have achievable and measurable goals, I can get stuck into achieving them with weekly accountability sessions to keep me on track!” Richard Fetter, Goal Setter.

But it doesn’t end there

The presentation of the solution will usually be very detailed. Details add credibility after all.

You will also need a call to action, of course. Multiple calls to action if you’re writing a long landing page.

But the PASO (Pain, Agitate, Solve, Outcome) formula gives you a fantastic way to structure your copywriting so that your powers of persuasion are at the top of their game.

Do you have a favourite formula?

Belinda

What about other formulas? Oh yes. There are a tonne of copywriting formulas. Kate Toon and I talked about copywriting formulas on our Hot Copy podcast and Copy Hackers did a mega post on them all.

19 Responses

  1. Belinda! Did you read my mind (have google analytics do it for you haha)?
    I’m just going for my first job as a copywriter for a small PR agency. The potential employer is busy, so I thought the best way to pitch him my work & skills would be within a swipe file set up using PAS to structure the pitch (how I can help him grow his business).
    Thanks for being so on point in your field. I’m coming out of the baby zone haze & look forward to joining the Master Class discussion group again.
    Cheers,
    Rachel Biffin (Master class student 2016)

  2. Thanks for your insightful article. A very good example of PAS formula being applied I’ve seen is this ad: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d-BPMVPtL9c

    I’m new to copywriting. One thing I’m confused about is how PAS is different from AIDA formula. Are both formula mutually exclusive or we can use both at the same time?

    1. Oh my, I need one of those!

      They aren’t mutually exclusive and can be used together. Formulas really only give you a starting point from which you can adapt the flow of the copy to suit. When we compare PAS and AIDA, the pain is the attention grabber… the solution presented is the desire. Same Same but Different.

      1. Hmm, that actually makes sense.

        Grab potential customer’s “Attention” by representing their “Problem” in an innovative way.

        Then “Agitate” it long enough to keep their “Interest” alive.

        Now, provide your “Solution” with some details to make them “Desire” (target their emotions) it.

        At the end, present the “Outcome” (how they would feel after getting the solution) with some third-party testimonials (also provides some “logical” reasoning to support their decision) to emphasis the trust element together with a “Call to Action” immediately.

  3. Hey Belinda!

    Yeah that really works as a good foundation when you have writer’s block. Typically I like to hook the writer’s pain with a story (since everyone loves good stories) before I explain tot hem how I could fix it.

  4. Nice article. Totally makes sense. Here’s another variation I’ve used successfully in the past: PAES. Now, let’s combine everything into a powerful persuasion template:

    P: Problem
    A: Agitate
    E: Eliminate Other Options (USP)
    S: Solution
    O: Outcome (Paint the Picture)

    Even better: If you can find a story that walks your reader thru all the above elements, then your persuasion power will be on steroids.

  5. Copywriting is for selling goods and services. At that point, it’s useful to remember a fact that has never changed since time immemorial: “People buy for two reasons — fear or desire.”

  6. Awesome. I have always love and use the formula PAS. You have done an amazing job by improving upon it. I’m definitely going to test it. Thank you for the valuable contents you share.

  7. Did you happen to use FAB in the O part of the writing formula? I see Features – Advantages – Benefits type of feel in that latter part of the copy. By design or just coincidental?

  8. Hi Belinda
    You say use multiple calls to action for a longer landing page but where should you put these? Wouldn’t it be best to get the person through the whole PASO process before getting them to buy?

    1. You’re right but as part of the presentation of the solution, you might have several instances of the call to action. Then as you lay down testimonials and meet objections and introduce pricing etc, you will have more calls to action. And so on. You don’t want someone to be convinced to buy without a call to action nearby.

  9. I’m also a big fan of writing down goals and keeping up with them for that very same reason–to see my progress and get encouraged to keep going. If there’s no feeling of progress, then motivation can dwindle before you accomplish what you set out to. Great article!. I found nice posts here. I love the way you write. So perfect!

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