Problem Agitate Solve (PAS): A Foolproof Formula for Writing Persuasive Copy

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The Problem Agitate Solve (PAS) formula is a simple and effective copywriting framework that can be adapted for nearly any product or service. Confidently approach that blank computer with this time-tested approach to copywriting.

What Is Problem Agitate Solve (PAS)?

The PAS formula gives your writing a simple chronology:

P = Accurately identify the problem.

A = Agitate the problem.

S = Solve the problem with your product or service.

Whether you’re writing a landing page, a flyer, or a sales letter, the Problem Agitate Solve formula will help lead your readers to your desired response.

Why Does PAS Work?

PAS works because we as humans are highly motivated to avoid pain. Physical pain, emotional pain, financial pain... we want it gone.

People are more likely to spend money on a painkiller over a vitamin. Sure, theoretically, the vitamin might make more sense in the long run. But we won’t go out of our way to take one every day. Wake up in pain though and we’re calling the doctor, looking for the heating pad, popping the Advil, and generally halting life until the pain subsides.

We want to escape pain more than we want a mere improvement in our circumstances. Some would say we want to avoid pain even more than we want to pursue delight.

With this as our premise, we focus our copy first on the pain.

How Can You Use the PAS Formula?

First, the P.

What problem is your product or service meant to solve? Dig some here, as the answer isn’t always obvious. Research your customers to determine the real pain points.

For example, what problem is your lawn maintenance guy addressing? He says he’ll kill your weeds. Okay, but do you really feel anxious over dandelions or crabgrass?

He says he’ll plant some seasonal flowers to give your home more curb appeal. Nice touch, sure, but the absence of spring tulips isn’t really a pain point either.

No, what many people really want from their lawn maintenance service is simply freedom. They want someone else to do the job, so they don’t have to do spend time doing it themselves.

So your copy will identify the real problem.

Then the A.

Here is where you agitate. Use emotive language to paint a clear picture of the disappointments, hassles, and regrets this problem brings.

Describe how life isn’t what it should be. And what life will be like if this problem isn’t resolved.

In our lawn maintenance example, you might agitate the stress of putting another obligation into your readers’ already overscheduled lives. The resentment of prioritizing property values over quality family time. The frustration of never doing it well enough anyway.

I’m not recommending fear mongering or over-the-top worst-case scenario copy here. That’s a turn-off for most people, not to mention a red flag for credibility.

But the fact is people are already thinking about their problem. That’s why they’re reading your copy in the first place. You’re simply validating it. And poking it.

So you’ve identified the problem, empathized with the pain, and did it all in a way that led the reader to nod in agreement: “Yes! That’s exactly how disappointed/lonely/anxious/stressed/tired/bad I feel! Make it go away!”

They’re ready for the painkiller now.

Enter S.

You introduce the product or service that will solve the problem and end the pain.

New York Times bestselling author Ramit Sethi offers this example of PAS for his Dream Jobs course. Can you identify the Problem Agitate Solve elements in his brief landing page? And can you see how effective they are?

Summary

The Problem Agitate Solve (PAS) formula can be applied to any type of sales copy. No matter if you're writing a sales letter or landing page copy, identifying the real problem, agitating it, and then providing a solution is what will motivate your readers to click on your CTA.

Persuasive copy speaks directly to the heart of a readers' pain, and a talented copywriter can help you craft the copy you need.

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