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I don’t know about you, but good copywriting has always been this mysterious art that I’ve never been able to master.

I’ve always looked on in admiration at how, when you read an email campaign or webpage from a company like Apple, you come away from it genuinely wanting to buy the product.

Wouldn’t it be great if you could write like that as well? How great would it be if just through the power of words you could compel people to buy your product or service?

I’ve always wanted to be able to write great copy, so recently I started reading a whole lot of copywriting blogs to try to improve my ability to craft an alluring sentence.

One copywriting trick that really appealed to me was the PAS formula, and I wanted to share it with you in the hope that you can use it to increase your email click-through rate.

What is the PAS formula?

You should think of the PAS formula as a framework for structuring your copy. It has 3 distinct parts to it which, when followed correctly, makes it really easy to write great copy that compels your readers to take action:

1. Identify the customer’s problem

You need to start by identifying the customers problem and stating it clearly and succinctly. The goal of this part of the formula is to get them to identify the problem in their own lives.

For example:

Is your email click-through rate lower than you’d like?

2. Agitate that problem

Next, you need to help the reader understand how the problem relates to something they really care about, like sales or revenue. The key to success with this part is really understanding what matters to your readers and clearly showing how the problem relates to it.

For example:

It’s a rhetorical question, of course. Every marketer wants to increase their click-through rates. More clicks means more traffic, and more traffic means more revenue.

3. Provide a solution

Finally, now that you’ve made the reader realize how the problem is affecting something they care about, it’s time to present the solution.

For example

You can apply the PAS formula in your next email campaign to increase conversions and generate more traffic and revenue.

How to Apply the PAS Formula

In order to use the PAS copywriting formula in your emails, you will first need to identify your customer’s problems. Start by brainstorming problems you’ve heard from potential and current customers with your sales and support team. Ones that you can solve with your products or services.

Next, think of some ways to agitate that problem a little. Essentially, you’re trying to paint a clear picture of how the problem affects things your reader really cares about, like sales and revenue (in a B2B context anyway).

Finally, present your product, feature or service in the context of how it can solve the problems you’ve just mentioned and how it can help the reader achieve what they really care about, like increased sales and more revenue.

An Example of PAS in Action in an Email

To give you an example of PAS in action, I used Canvas to create an announcement campaign for a fictitious real estate marketing conference and then re-wrote the copy using the PAS formula.

Before PAS

After using PAS to increase email clickthroughs

After PAS

Before using PAS to increase email clickthroughs

See how much more convincing the PAS formula is? In the revised email where PAS was applied, you can see:

The Problem: Real Estate Agents aren’t winning as many new listings as they’d like to be. This is structured as a question to make readers think about it and realize how it applies in their lives.

The Agitator: This means they’re not getting as many sales, and fewer sales means fewer commissions. This puts the problem into the context of something the reader truly cares about, commissions.

The Solution: Attending this conference will show you how to use digital marketing to win more listings and earn more commissions. This positions the conference as the solution to the problem and a path to achieving what the reader ultimately wants, which is more commissions.

Why does the PAS formula work?

According to behavioral psychologist and advertising legend Adam Ferrier, humans are motivated to take action by two things: pleasure and pain. We either chase pleasure or we avoid pain.

The PAS formula works because it forces you to talk about your product or service in the context of your readers. Rather than just presenting the great features it has or the cool colors it comes in, the formula provides a structure that forces you as the marketer to think about the readers pain and then position your product or service as the solution to that particular pain.

By doing that, and by further agitating the problem and relating it to things the reader cares about, you enhance their desire for your product or service and subsequently compel them to take action.

In conclusion: Problem + Agitation + Solution = Conversions.

The key to success with the PAS formula is truly understanding the pain points your customers have and how your product or service can help alleviate those pains.

Once you know that, it’s so easy to implement that you could easily do it in your next email campaign merely by keeping it in mind as you write your copy.  

In fact, we think it’s so easy simple to implement that we challenge you to give this formula a try and let us know what the results are!

Have you used the PAS technique before? Or any other copywriting techniques for that matter? How did they go? Be sure to share in the comments.

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  • Paul Allen

    Good tip to share. But beware, this can also get formulaic very quickly. And then it’s just annoying.

    If you want great results from your email campaigns, hire a great copywriter who understands how to craft persuasive copy. Ahem…

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hey there, Paul! You’re right, nothing beats years of experience and well, a flair for telling a good story. We might just call on you in the future – but in the interim, I dare say this is a good place for many of us mere mortals to make a start ;)

  • Jonathan

    You want to add “You’ll never believe what happened next” to the title. I’ve heard it works very well ;-)

  • James

    I find it odd and ironic that the writer of this post is not schooled in any writing discipline, which is curious since he’s director of content. It also speaks to low credibility in dispensing advice to others.

    A skill you are “not able to master?” Well, reading blogs and copying ideas won’t change that.

  • Gabriela Brandao

    Great tip! This is very helpful!

  • Sean

    The formula is a great way tool. But the problem is frequency, if it’s used to frequently, the readership will learn and adapt to the copy

    However, I do believe that if the data is showing that the new copy is working, then it would be my control for future emails.

  • Jonathan

    Oh hello James.

    Steady with the young horses there. It’s a perfectly fine *blog post* and I enjoyed reading it and the suggestions it makes.

    Now, must dash, I have to look up what “speaks to low credibility” means.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    James, mind your p’s and q’s, my dear. We’re certainly open to constructive feedback on how we can improve the content in this blog, but don’t so much appreciate calling out individuals on our team.

    If you’re not comfortable with providing suggestions here, you’re more than welcome to contact our team directly :)

  • Emma Siemasko

    Nice insights on a copywriting formula, Aaron, and delightful to see CampaignMonitor in my feed today. Will definitely be putting this into practice at Grasshopper!

  • Paul Allen

    Ha ha, Ros, you’re right of course. It’s a very good place to start. The whole CM blog is a great resource…

  • Rob

    Does anyone have any suggestions for good copy writing blogs / newsletters I can subscribe to, this is all useful and interesting. Well I have seen this post today and used it on a new e-mail I am sending out so we shall see.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hey there Rob, I’ve been a longtime fan of Copyblogger and more recently, NewsCred. The latter has a regular newsletter that provides great tips on copywriting and content marketing. Let us know if you come across any great resources of your own!

  • Russell

    @james – you’re an ass.

    This was a great blog post – thank you @aaron.

  • Cath

    Very useful copywriting formula presented in a way that is easy to understand and implement. Thanks @aaron

  • Aaron Beashel

    @Russell and @Cath

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad to hear you enjoyed the post and got some value out of it!

    We’ll do our best to keep the good stuff coming!

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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