How Far Would You Go To Engage a Reader?

If you’re going to cause people to take action…

If you’re going to make sales…

If you want to earn money by solving problems for people…

You have to – absolutely must – be able to have those people relate to you and your message.

For that, you need to know who they are.

You need to know exactly what their pain-points are, before you can explain astutely what solution you are offering them.

Yesterday, this became clear to me in a new way.

I was writing a sales page for an ebook, helping people to deal with severe acne.

In the page, I wrote:

But real beauty is on the inside, right? Others have it worse. We all have a cross to bear…

Fucking bullshit.

If you have severe acne, none of that feel-good talk makes you feel any better. And it certainly doesn’t make your acne go away.

My client loved the page, and he accepted the profanity.

He understood that this is exactly how many people with acne feel.

To be safe, he decided he will run a split test: one version with profanity, and one without.

My guess is that the profane version will outperform the civil.

What do you think?


  1. I totally get it! And think we need more of that style of communication. The nicey-nice, feel good language has its place, but in my experience there’s nothing like bold (and sometimes blunt) to make a difference.

    (also like the idea of a split test!)

  2. Thanks Sandi.

    Yes, we do need to be more direct – and swearing isn’t even necessary for that. Though in this case, I’m pretty sure it will ring true with the right kind of people. Meaning, those who are unfortunate enough to suffer from chronic acne.

    The point is that nothing works as well as virtually becoming the ideal customer before writing copy.

  3. I do believe you need to know your audience as best as you can to offer something that is valuable to them. Otherwise you are just speaking to the air hoping for the best.

    There is no need to disregard profanity, it can be an awesome way to get ht message across, particularly when there is a common enemy like the acne one.

    Thanks for this article Martin.

  4. You’re welcome, Alejandro – and thank you for stopping by.

    Whenever I can, I try to avoid profanity – but sometimes…
    ‘Speak their language’ is the key.

  5. I’m both impressed and enlightened, Martin. A reminder of the value of writing from the heart. To me, it’s about that moment when, after the words haven’t been coming so easily, you just say “hell, what am I really afraid of?!” That’s the problem with a lot of writing out there – it tries to pander to everyone, the result being that it reaches nobody.
    The funny thing is that the consequences are never what you fear they’ll be. They’re a whole lot better. Awesome post.
    PS I’d be interested in the results of that split testing!
    PPS And to think, just earlier I was umming and ahhing over ‘crummy’ (I decided to use it – and I’m glad I did)

  6. Thank you very much for the kind words, confrère.

    You’ve said it perfectly: Pander to all, reach none. Write for that one person who needs their problem solved, and your work is 90% done.

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