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The Missing Money Component of the “Problem, Agitate, Solve” Formula

by Pete Godfrey · 15 comments

The Missing Money Component of the “Problem, Agitate, Solve” Formula

FOREWORD: “Show me more copywriting stuff,” wrote my new (unasked for) Pen-pal from Ireland. “Forget about the mindset stuff… show me the copy!” Well thanks for the feedback Timothy; I appreciate your uncanny and articulate mastery of the English language, no doubt about it, you’re a freakin wordsmith. And while I’m not in the habit of taking orders from complete strangers in far-off lands, I’m in a kinda weird and generous mood, so stop getting your Irish underpants in a knot and relax… your wish has been granted by the copywriting Wizard.

The old Problem, Agitate, Solve is a proven formula for writing compelling copy. You simply identify and mention a problem of your market, agitate the problem, then solve the problem with your product or service. Easy right?

Well yes and no.

You see, there is one critical part missing in this formula that few know, even fewer use. It’s this missing part of the equation that gives your sales argument relevance… and … gives absolute, emotionally-charged proof of why your product is better than the others.

So listen up. Turn off your email. Put your phone on silent. Stop the chatter for a minute and really take this lesson on board.

Okay, the critical missing part is to:

Invalidate all other solutions except yours

So the REAL formula looks like this…

  • Mention the problem

  • Agitate the problem

  • Invalidate all solutions but yours

  • Offer your solution

I’ll go through this formula a step at a time so you really get it. For this example, let’s say we are selling a new weight loss program.

Mention the problem

Here I’d be bonding with my prospect by sharing a common bond; that is, being overweight.

Agitate the problem

Here I’d mention all the negative feelings people have about being overweight; how tired they feel all the time, how lethargic, how they can’t keep up with the kids, maybe even painful ankles, knees and how just getting around can be a problem. I want them to feel their weight. I may even use FEAR by mentioning the life threatening diseases you get by being overweight.

Sure I’d mention all these things in the copy, but I wouldn’t lead with them because they are side issues. The main emotion here is embarrassment for being overweight. I’d talk about not being able to enjoy the beach at summer, how overweight folks cover themselves up, not wanting to expose their bodies on the beach and all the fun they miss out on because of this.

Basically, I want their emotions on high alert. I want to get in there and stir up the emotions that are already inherently a part of their makeup.

I don’t push this too far; that’s a rooky mistake I see a lot. But I do get emotional; I do get them feeling… and sometimes, I get them real pissed-off with their current situation.

Invalidate all solutions except mine

This is where I reveal how hard it is to lose weight and how hard it is to get the right information. I’ll list other weight loss methods such as diet shakes etc. I’ll list them all and invalidate all of them and why they are not the ones to choose.

NOTE: A proven copy click to use with the weight loss market is the “It’s not your fault” click. For example:

“But listen closely; it’s NOT your fault. Greedy promoters have been pushing their outlandish diets for years. One day they tell you carbohydrates are good; the next day they tell you they’re bad. Every year you hear conflicting advice. No wonder you’re having trouble losing weight. I mean, who do you listen to? Who do you trust?”

PLUS, and this is a biggie and one key point that is often left out:

I also invalidate the option of waiting, of doing nothing.

This is urgency copy and I make them feel the pain of doing nothing.

Then, I hint at a solution to the problem.

Example: But here’s the good news… it doesn’t have to be this way. There is now a safe, easy and fun way to lose all of the weight you want, without dieting, without strenuous exercise, and without starving yourself to death either. (Notice the use of the “without” click?)

Offer my solution

This is emotionally-charged copy that offers my product as the saviour to all their worries and a solution to their problem.

So there you have it.

A proven copywriting formula. Apply it to your next promotion and see for yourself the bump in response.

This is gold… and finally, you now have access to the FULL formula… use it!

Love to hear your comments on this one.

P.S. For more copywriting formulas and tips, see my newsletter. This month, I reveal an advanced convert persuasion technique few know and even fewer use. You’ll see how by telling your prospects how they should feel, before revealing your revelation, causes an involuntary acceptance of your revelation. Please STOP and read that sentence again. This is gold. If you want the full scoop on this then don’t miss this month’s newsletter.


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About The Author

Copywriter, Sales Strategist - Pete GodfreyPete Godfrey, The Wizard of Words, from rebel without a clue to one of the most in demand and highest paid Copywriters and Sales Strategists in Australasia… all with the power of his emotionally charged words that sell… Discover the “Secret Weapon” to increasing your Sales and Profits by downloading the valuable report "The Ultimate Copywriting and Marketing Secret" While you're at it, follow Pete on Facebook

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

David Oliver May 3, 2011 at 9:27 am

Hey Pete,

That’s a beauty. I have added it to my list of clicks, so in future I make sure I consciously include it every time. (instead of sometimes just unconsciously using it)

Or to use a good old Aussie saying… “It’s going straight to the Pool Room!!”


Pete Godfrey May 3, 2011 at 9:39 am

Hey Dave, yeah it’s a keeper mate…


Bonnie May 3, 2011 at 9:50 am

That’s a hilarious intro about Timothy, Thanks for giving me my first giggle of the day!
And thanks so much for the high quality content, you are indeed a master at copyrighting.


Pete Godfrey May 3, 2011 at 9:56 am

Why thanks Bonnie…and yeah, I think we all need to take a chill pill sometimes and lighten up a bit…


Alison Halupka May 3, 2011 at 10:35 am

Hi Pete,
Thanks for the info … and for the intrigue yesterday.

A question … If you use this process (Problem > Agitate > Invalidate All Solutions except mine > Offer my Solution) in your original sales letter, do you use it again in other correspondence in your follow up campaign?



Pete Godfrey May 3, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Of course Alison, keep telling the full story…


Alison Halupka May 3, 2011 at 3:55 pm



Kurt Johansen May 3, 2011 at 11:08 am

Pete, another masterly piece of advice which hopefully everyone gets. It is truly the essence of the sales letter. Hopefully people have copied the link or copy and pasted the article. I know I have. Cheers Kurt


Pete Godfrey May 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Cheers Kurt… it’s a great formula and it’s easy to forget to invalidate other options… even easier to forget to invalidate doing nothing which is why the old Status Quo/ Salvation click works well here.


Dean Kennedy May 3, 2011 at 11:20 am

Another insightful nugget from the Wizard! Thanks Pete! Shows how you’re really inside their head and leaving nothing to chance.

The formula is spot on. I’d also make sure my offer had the right mix of value, urgency and “risk reversal” to back up the emotional persuasion with logical persuasion … your copywriting recipe should be printed out and pinned on every copywriter’s wall!


Pete Godfrey May 3, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Yeah Deano, gotta be urgent mate…all through the letter


Michael Yardney May 3, 2011 at 11:41 am

That’s a great strategy – it answers some of the thoughts in the readers mind (about what else they could do) and makes you the expert.


Pete Godfrey May 3, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Cheers Michael and yes, I’ve always said, the greatest weapon I have as a copywriter is empathy and the ability to get inside the prospect’s mind.


Monika Mundell May 3, 2011 at 11:16 pm

Thanks for the giggle Pete. Great introduction to attract attention, followed by a true “for keeps” recipe. It’s already “parked” in my swipe file of must-use tools to check my copy.


Christina May 6, 2011 at 1:47 am

I once heard a great story from a young kid, who said “If you want a cat or a dog, ask your parents for a pony”

This kid was a master copywriter, without even knowing it!

1- problem- “Hey Mum and Dad, I want a pony”

2-agitate- I know ponys are expensive and messy but I don’t care, I really want one

3- invalidate other solutions: I know other kids have cats, dogs and rabbits but I find them boring, I really want a pony

4- offer your solution- so when are you going to buy me a pony?

Result- the kid got a dog, which is what he really wanted in the first place.

Brilliant! 🙂


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