Paul Cheney

Copywriting: What software startup YNAB knows about creating compelling copy for a new product

January 2nd, 2015

New products make it incredibly difficult to write effective copy. Most of the time the customer coming to the page has no idea what the product is or how it works, but more importantly, they also have no idea why it matters for them.

To really help your customers understand why a product or service is relevant to them, your copy has to build a “problem.” Take this video for YNAB product that helps you budget in a new way:


I don’t know if you caught it or not, but they spend a full 43 seconds of their 1:52 second video building to the problem. Out of all the problems built in copywriting, video or otherwise, this one is one of the best.

So what do they do to build their problem?


1. They have a clear objective.

You can’t begin to build a problem without a map to the overall objective. The objective of this video is to introduce the product and get people poking around on the website.

Without an objective, you might just be building a problem that you’ll never be able to help your customers out of.


2. They know exactly how their customer feels without their solution

Your customers are in a tight spot somehow. Most copywriters call this the main pain point. I like to broaden the possibilities by calling it a “condition.”

Whatever the case, you need to be able to empathize with your customer as if your solution did not exist:

  • What are they feeling?
  • What is keeping them up at night?
  • What is the most annoying part of their life without your product to solve the problem?


3. They start their copy with how their customers are thinking

Watch the first 15 seconds of this video. Notice how it starts with a simple explanation of how most people do their budgets. That’s all it takes to build a connection with your audience and where they are in their thinking.


4. They ratchet up the intensity

Now watch what happens after 15 seconds. Things go horribly wrong. Most people who are budgeting in the way described in the first 15 seconds have run into this problem. This is probably the main reason Americans have so much debt.


5. The pile it on until it seems like there is no way out

Check out second 26. There’s a turn in the argument. Most people know that they need a budget, and most people have tried budgeting, but here is where it gets hairy.

Most people don’t have a budget because they can’t seem to keep it together. It’s an unsolvable problem.


6. Finally, they present the solution

See second 43. You should only present the solution at the exact point when the customer feels hopeless about the problem. Talk about a solution before that, and they’ll try to go somewhere else. Talk about a solution after that point, and they’ll quit watching because it feels so hopeless.


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Paul Cheney

About Paul Cheney

Paul Cheney, Senior Partnership Content Manager, MECLABS Paul helps turn raw research into easy-to-understand content for MarketingExperiments and MarketingSherpa readers. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Covenant College. Before joining the MarketingExperiments and Sherpa team, Paul wrote grant proposals and fundraising letters for a mid-size nonprofit in New Jersey. He has also worked as a freelance Internet marketing consultant and copywriter for small businesses. In his spare time, Paul enjoys reading, writing poems, and dating his wife, Callie.

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