Should Your Copy Skew ‘Negative’ or ‘Positive’?

Nobody likes a Debbie Downer, amirite?

So why, asks subscriber Ant, did I often use a negative angle in my copy?

Quoth he:

When you created the ‘5 Learning Mistakes' email course, did you think about making it positive rather than negative and if so, what was the reason you went with negative?

i.e. 5 Tips to Help Developers Learn Better

Both “moving away from pain” and “moving toward pleasure” can be powerful motivators.

You should keep both of these tools in your “utility belt.”

And the decision to go either positive or negative is one of the most important decisions that you make early in the process of putting together a marketing campaign.

In this specific case, I opted to “accentuate the negative,” for a few reasons:

– My market (programmers) *tend* to be a bit cynical and Type A (slight understatement there). Because of this, I rolled with my gut instinct that they'd be more likely to buy into the idea that they're making costly mistakes than they would that a few tips would make a dramatic difference in their lives.

– Using the “mistakes” template gives me as the copywriter a chance to agitate the pain points my market is already feeling, as I described in the Six Figure Email Courses seminar, while also “teaching without over-teaching.” I was able to provide value by pointing out the mistakes, without loading them down with a bunch of tips and action items that would suffocate my sales in their sleep.

– Another thing I like about pointing out mistakes is: It telegraphs to the reader that they can help alleviate the pain they're feeling by AVOIDING something, rather than by adding still more work to their overloaded to-do list. And several of the lessons in this email course deliver just that—an 80/20 “less is more” approach to learning.

There's no hard and fast rule here, only guidelines.

You have to take your market's temperature and see what they WANT and what they're ready to BELIEVE.

In another market, runners, testing uncovered that weekend road warriors respond better to a promise of faster run times they did to claims about preventing injuries.

(That's because no one *thinks* they're going to get injured until it happens. If they were already in pain, that would be another story.)

If you do decide to go positive, you have to have a really COMPELLING outcome that you can promise—and your audience has ready to BELIEVE that you can give them that outcome.

For more on this “5 Mistakes” template, head over yonder and check out my Six Figure Email Courses product: