Man on knee proposing

Copywriting tip 5: Why – the proposition

Man proposing on one knee

I don’t know about you. But when I sit down to write, I’m full of my problems.

I’m tired. My back’s sore. I’m hungry.

The kids are going stir-crazy. I hope the client likes the copy. When can I invoice it – I’ve got bills to pay?

When will that webinar be confirmed?

The list goes on.

And that impacts your copy.

But: instead of thinking about how this piece of copy is going to fix your problems (money, deadline, sales, the boss), think about how it’s going to fix the reader’s problems.

It’s an interesting switch.

From yourself. To the audience.

Red shoes walking up steps

Thinking about the ‘Why’ is the third step in your homework.

Step 1, you’ve thought long and hard about your audience. Asked yourself the question: ‘What keeps them awake at night?’

Step 2, you’ve interrogated the product/service/topic you’re writing about. Dug down till you’ve found the gold.

So, by the time you’re thinking about the proposition, the ‘Why’, you should be able to answer the question: ‘What problem do I solve for the audience?’

For example.

I used to present face-to-face workshops using a cordless mouse to move the slides along. (I now use my mobile to control my laptop. But that’s another story.)

Without the mouse, my problem was I’d have to sit/stand next to the laptop all day. Or keep popping back to click to the next slide.

Not very engaging.

With the cordless mouse, I was able to walk around the room. Engage with the audience. Keep eye contact. And change the slides from up to 30 metres away.

Much better.

Problem solved.

Now, let’s ramp it up a level. Give ourselves a more engaging proposition, by asking the question ‘Which means that?‘.

Wooden dominos, first one toppling

Here’s how that works.

Thanks to the cordless mouse, I can engage better with the audience.

Which means that? I do a better job.

Which means that? A better learning experience for attendees.

Which means that? Better reviews.

Which means that? Word of mouth.

Which means that? More bookings.

Which means that? More income.

Which means that? More money in my pocket.

Which means that? A better life.

Which means that …

OK, you get the idea.

By thinking about the problem solved, and engaging the ‘Which means that?’ process, I’ve turned a bit of plastic and metal (a cordless mouse) into a better quality of life.

Think about your audience, and the problem your product, service or insights solve.

Then ask ‘Which means that?’ to take you somewhere really interesting.

A proposition that’s real, and meaningful – not just a marketing one.

Give it a go. See where it takes you – and your audience.

The next tip is step 4 of the homework, the ‘Where‘.


This tip is based on my 30 Tips in 40 Minutes webinar.

Feel free to download a version of the slides and watch a video of the one-hour webinar.

Image source: Pixabay


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Jon Maxim

Jon is a multi-award winning copywriter. For over 30 years, he’s helped clients – large and small – develop engaging concepts, content and copy. For 25 of those years, he’s been teaching people how to do it themselves. His courses on copywriting, ideation and presentation skills are highly sought-after and highly effective. Jon lives in Sydney, Australia: but is often found on a plane, heading to where he’s most needed.