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If you can’t point to the cause of a problem, you’re wafting away smoke while the fire burns

[read time: 3 minutes]

If you go to your doctor with pain in your left shoulder, there’s a chance you’re on your way to the ER.

Because doctors can tell the difference between a symptom (your pain) and the real cause (your heart).

Quite often, a client will come to me with a problem which, after a conversation, will turn out to be a symptom (I’m sure you have similar experiences).

And they may already have poured time, money and effort into fixing the wrong thing, such as rewriting their website or new case studies.

In this article, I’m going to help you avoid that trap.

I’m going to introduce you to one of the most important frameworks copywriters and direct-response marketers use to find the source of their clients’ biggest copywriting/marketing problems.

It’s called List, Offer, Copy.

Once you can use this framework, you’ll be able to move past problems that are symptoms and focus on the real causes of your marketing bottlenecks.

To see how it works, we’ll use a mini case study…

The Problem

A potential client reached out to me a couple of years back.

He was running ads to a sales page for a course he was selling. It was a proven market and his offer had a track record of delivering great results.

His problem was this…

He was constantly working on his ads and with each iteration he was getting better and better click-through rates. But zero sales.

He thought I might help him with the sales page to convert that traffic into sales.

What do you think I did next?

I started with the List, Offer, Copy framework. Here’s how it works…

The Framework

The framework is based on something called Upstream Thinking: if you look at a river and see it’s polluted but you can’t see the cause, it’s probably because of something upstream.

If you have a system (and your marketing is a system), and there’s a problem at point C that isn’t immediately apparent, you need to consider that the problem is being caused by something at point B.

In marketing, that river has three distinct sections…

  • Your List (people you can engage with – an not necessarily on an actual list)
  • Your Offer (your service + how it is delivered + terms + fees)
  • Your Copy (messaging and the strategy behind it)

This is how List, Offer, Copy helps solve problems…

The Solution

If you have a sales page (Copy) that doesn’t sell, look upstream and ask, is the problem with my Offer? Because if you don’t have a great offer, there’s no reason for people to buy, right?

But if you have a good Offer and there are still no sales, then look at your List (who you are marketing to).

Because outdoor swimming pools are a tough sell in Iceland.

The potential client who had reached out to me was too focused on the Copy part of their system.

They thought better sales-page copy would sell their course. But when I looked at their page, I knew it should have been getting at least some results.

And when I looked at the Offer, I saw only good things. It was a solution to a well-defined and well-understood problem in a proven market at a good price point. Plus, the course had great social proof (testimonials).

So, we moved to List.

And there it was.

The ads were attracting the wrong audience. They were not calling out ideal buyers. Instead, they were calling out people who wanted free stuff.

The Takeaway

Your marketing begins with your List. That’s the people you can market to.

If you call out to the wrong people or fail to filter them out as you also attract the right people, you will flood your client pipeline with non-buyers. That will have significant costs and negative downstream consequences.

Next, your List must be matched with the right Offer.

Offers are a big topic and we’re not going there today, but think of your Offer as your service + all the additional value that comes with how it’s delivered.

And here’s the big takeaway…

If you have the right audience and a great offer, your copy has much less work to do.

No selling, no persuasion, no gimmicks, no fake scarcity.

So, next time you are wondering why your page or ad isn’t performing the way you think it should, ask yourself, is my Offer strong enough? And am I putting it in front of the right people?

Because in a nutshell, that’s what good marketing is all about.

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