Easy Email Copywriting with the PAS Formula

Mallory Mongeon | 2014-07-28T16:25:27+00:00 | email on acid logo

What does PAS stand for anyway?

When you enter into the world of copywriting, there’s no perfect system for fashioning killer copy. There are, however, various copywriting frameworks and guidelines that can help get your creative juices flowing. One writing formula that has proved its value a thousand times over when I’ve been staring at a blank page is a little something called the PAS formula.

PAS stands for “Problem-Agitate-Solve” and is not only incredibly simple, but also extremely effective.

The formula breaks down as follows:

  • Problem: Identify a problem
  • Agitate: Agitate that problem
  • Solve: Find and present the solution

PAS is applicable to any business/service/product that helps solve a problem. Since businesses exist to offer solutions to problems, chances are PAS will work for what you’re sellin’. Let’s get a better understanding of this writing style by painting a picture of what PAS looks like in email copy.

The PAS Formula in action.

Say you own a gym and want to up your number of monthly memberships. First ask yourself, “Why do people go to the gym?” Yes, people go to the gym to be healthy, stay in shape or lose weight, but what you need to tap into are the emotions that drive those actions. Why would a lady, for example want to lose weight? Well the answers are endless but some of the driving forces would be to feel beautiful, to have self-confidence, to elevate their perception of themselves and to be appealing to a mate. I threw together some sample copy below to tap into a problem overweight women feel, agitate that problem and then offer an appealing solution.

Insecure about your weight? Feeling the negative effects your weight gain has put on your personal life as well as the lives of those closest to you? You aren’t alone. Millions of women admit to feeling doomed about the number they see when they step on the scale. Yet, you are sitting idle, only wishing to lose weight and “thinking thin” instead of taking action.

Fortunately for you, we have a program that will turn this all around. Maxwell’s Gym is running a three-month weight-loss boot camp, designed specifically for women who are ready to take back control of their health and well-being.

If you respond to this email within the next 24 hours, we’ll give you a 25% discount off the program. That’s over $100 in savings waiting for you. You’ve got nothing to lose except for the weight!

Though the formula is simple, it has endless applications beyond email. Check out some examples where PAS can also be applied:

  • Landing pages
  • Direct Mail
  • Social Media – Facebook, Twitter, and Google+
  • Web Content
  • Blogs
  • Product Descriptions
  • Sales letters

This strategy can work with copy of any length. Whether you are writing 3 sentences or 300, this formula will draw the reader in and evoke a response.

How to apply the PAS framework to your copy.

CopyBlogger utilized the PAS formula for a product called Site Sensor. We’re going to break down the landing page copy in three sections, explaining each step of the process. Be sure and pull up the landing page here and give it a read before we get into the nitty-gritty.

Step 1: Identify a problem.

First things first: hook your reader by identifying a problem they relate to. Understanding the problems your audience has is at the heart of good copywriting. If your business offers a solution to a problem, you probably already know what that problem is. You can go one step further and identify how your audience sees the problem by looking through old support tickets or checking out what people are saying on your blog or social media channels. The better you understand their pain, the better your copy will be; empathy does wonders for the written word. The more empathetic your copy is, the more readers will trust you.

This landing page for Site Sensor is selling website monitoring. Instead of coming right out with a pitch about their service, they open with concerns online publishers can immediately relate to. They zero in on the crippling fear of the reader’s e-commerce site going down and emphasize the severity of this. When I was reading it my palms started sweating just thinking about the bind we would be in if our site crashed.

Step 2: Agitate the problem.

Now that you have uncovered their problem, it’s time to agitate this problem and make it seem even scarier than the reader originally thought. Do this by making the problem more emotional. However, don’t strike with your words too hard. In my example earlier I was talking about pitching a gym membership to women that felt overweight. I hit on the struggles this can cause on a physical and emotional level, but I never went so far as to call them fat. That would just be rude!

Site Sensor did a great job of agitating the problem by making you think of all the side effects that could ripple throughout your business if your site goes down. They pour salt into the wound by touching on the loss of revenue and the hit your search engine rankings would take if this happened. Any time you associate losing revenue with a particular problem, you are going to strike a nerve and get your readers on the edge of their seat.

Step 3: Solve the problem.

This is the best part of the copy! The part where you get to offer a solution to the horrible problem you spent the last couple paragraphs highlighting. Give them the answer to their problem and make sure you convince them this is the BEST solution to their problem. Site Sensor pulls this off above by offering a solution for only $2 a month and harping on just how cheap that really is. This is where Site Sensor proves their value. In the problem and agitate sections above, they convinced you that your site going down will cost you much more than $2/mo. Now Site Sensor is like the knight in shining armor these readers have always been waiting for.

Now that you have seen the PAS formula in motion, let’s strip it down and find out why this persuades consumers to take action.

What makes the PAS formula so effective for email?

According to behavioral psychologist and advertising legend Adam Ferrier, humans are motivated to take action by two things: pleasure and pain. This is at the heart of the PAS formula, uncovering a pain and giving them a way to avoid it. Dan Kennedy summed this up pretty well when he said, “When you understand that people are more likely to act to avoid pain than to get gain, you’ll understand how powerful this formula is… It may be the most reliable sales formula ever invented.”

PAS helps you uncover and dig deep into your reader’s problems, which creates copy that empathizes with their pain. Understanding the problems your audience face is critical to writing copy that evokes a response. You should never underestimate the power of empathy. That is where good copy flows from. When you take the time to understand what motivates your audience, you will no doubt create copy that packs a punch.

PAS works as well because no one LIKES to be sold to. The days of hard and swift sales tactics are over. PAS allows you to speak to the individual and their feelings, not the crowd.

Finally, the PAS formula works wonders because it stands out from the crowd when it comes to other copywriting formulas. Frameworks like AIDA, ACCA, AIDPPC, and AAPPA focus on attention-grabbing techniques. Attention-grabbing is not an ideal tactic for email copy. If someone is reading your email you already have their attention! You could end up annoying them or driving them away. That’s why it’s more effective to hook them through understanding their pain points and offering a solution.

What’s your favorite copywriting formula?

The PAS formula is incredibly powerful and makes copywriting a breeze. However, you do not need to follow this framework religiously. If you only employ this technique it could stifle the flow of your creative copy. There are TONS of amazing copywriting formulas out there that you still need to try. Also, if you use the same formula for all of your copy, chances are your audience is going to catch on and all the pizazz the formula originally held will fall flat. Remember, everything in moderation!

What copywriting formulas do you leverage to produce great copy? Share them in the comments section below!

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