How To Write Effective Ad Copy Using The Problem-Solution Lead


What is the problem-solution lead?


David Ogilvy once said, “When you advertise with fire extinguishers, open with fire.”


Basically, start with the problem.


The problem-solution lead uses the classic “hot button” approach where any talk about your product is delayed until later.


Instead, you open with your prospect’s biggest, most pressing issue. Then you offer them a solution, which is the product you’re selling.



The best customers to use this lead on are those who are solution aware and problem aware. That’s because compared to the previous leads we talked about, this one takes a more indirect approach.


There’s a gap between what these customers know about themselves and about your product. You need to close this gap first before making a sale. That means you have to spend some time building trust with them before introducing your product. Otherwise, you run the risk of scaring them away.


These customers want to feel understood. They want to know that you get it. To do this, summon your empathetic side. Your copy needs to scream, “Trust me, I feel you. I feel your pain.”


Think about it. In personal conversations, how do we show the other person we’re listening? Simple. By empathizing with their situation.


What you need to write an effective problem-solution lead

First, list down all the worries that keep your prospect up at night.


I’m not talking about the practical, superficial problems most people share. You need to go deeper. Go behind the curtain and shine a light on those deep underlying subconscious feelings that even your prospect finds hard to vocalize.


These are called the “core emotions”.


And the only way to identify these core emotions is by speaking directly to your ideal prospects for whatever it is you’re selling.


Speak directly to them, whether online or in person. Read their emails to customer support. Listen to their calls to customer support. Find them online and read their social media posts and comments on online forums.


People with niggling problems won’t shut up about it. Any chance they get, they’ll complain about it.


So take advantage of this and keep an eye out. Watch out for patterns, especially those things that they don’t realize they keep repeating. Those deeper problems are the ones you set out to solve.


Then when writing your lead, capitalize on those emotions you’ve gathered. Stir them up to prove to your customer that indeed, you do feel their pain.


But don’t linger on the pain too long before showing there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. You must offer hope of a relevant solution at some point in your pitch.


Approaches to the problem-solution lead


The problem-solution lead takes many different approaches that you can use. We’ll look at 5 of those:


1. “If this then that”


This approach follows this template:


If [you have this problem] then [this product will fix it]


An example headline would be:


“If you’re feeling down, then Gatorade will pick you up”


Another variation of this approach could be:


For relief of [problem/worry], try [solution/product]


For example:


“For relief of migraines, try Excedrin”


Obviously, these are just really basic examples to give you an idea of what I’m talking about.


2. Inversions


This is where you flip the problem-solution formula around to become the solution-problem. It promises a solution before highlighting the problem.


For example:


“Get all the benefits of summer sunshine without the blisters or burns”


3. Identification


This approach makes the reader feel identified by their troubles or even directly responsible for them. It targets the person who has a problem and feels really strongly about it


For example:


“For those who want to write but can’t get started.”

4. The question


Many successful problem-solution leads are phrased as challenging questions. This approach is great because it starts a mental conversation between you and the prospect. If they answer yes to the question, it will be tougher for them to quit reading.




“Are you scared of losing your job?”


5. Instruction


If the problem is a bit more complex to address, invent a name for it that characterizes it quickly. Even though the name is an invention, it instantly makes sense of the negative situation. Like this example from a Geritol ad:


“If you feel run down because of tired blood, take fast acting Geritol.”


The term “tired blood” is made up. But someone with a cold or flu who feels worn down would probably describe it that way.


That’s it for the problem-solution lead. If you would like my help in implementing this and other strategies to sell your high ticket products and services, get in touch with me by clicking the button below to apply for a complimentary consultation.

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