Over the past few days, I’ve established that pain points are an effective strategy in copy. They wake the audience up, make them aware of a problem that needs to be solved, then move them to action. They also engage emotion and attention. Is there anything pain points CAN’T do?

Let’s reword that question a bit. Is there anything pain points SHOULDN’T do? As with all marketing, there’s a line between compelling, effective copy and sleazy, low-ball copy. What is the line? How do you avoid crossing it?

Don’t worry – I’m going to lay it all out for you today. In my opinion, there are two main areas ethical copy shouldn’t venture into:  guilt/shame and dishonesty. Let’s break them down so you can learn how to recognize and avoid the SHOULDN’T dos of using pain points in copy.

Guilt and Shame

Negative emotions are a part of life. Nothing is sunshine and roses all the time, and ignoring the problems and pain points your audience has would be foolish. There is such a thing as taking it too far, however.

Words are POWERFUL. We’ve all heard the old saying “sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me” and know nothing could be further from the truth. Words can be damaging, and that’s the last thing you want to do to your audience. 

Guilt and shame marketing exists. We’ve all seen it, and it can be effective. But just because you CAN doesn’t mean you SHOULD. 

Don’t use words as a weapon against your audience. Not only does it break down trust, it sets up a power/control relationship where as long as you keep them down, they won’t leave. 

The moment they find something else, however, they will leave. Not only will they leave, they’ll leave with a bad taste in their mouths – and negative words about your offer on their lips. Trust me, you do NOT want that. 

The goal is to build trusting, positive connections with your target audience so they choose to follow and invest in you. There’s no room for guilt and shame in that.

Dishonesty is Never the Best Policy

Nothing makes your audience feel like they’ve been taken for a ride (and not the fun kind) faster than discovering the claims and information they bought into aren’t 100% true. It may be super tempting to fudge a little on results to attract more attention, but don’t do it. 

Two common ways I see pain points used dishonestly is in inflated claims and misleading information. People would much rather get the whole truth, even if it’s not super exciting or impressive, than later find out they were fed a lie. Don’t rely on technicalities. The truth is always best. 

If you can’t present the offer in an attractive way without inflating what it can do or the results it produces, it’s time to go back to work on the offer. 

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