Writing ad copy that actually performs seems to be a complicated mystery that only a few know how to solve. But many small businesses cannot afford to hire a copywriter to work with them on a full-time basis.

If you’re interested in learning how to do it yourself (and save thousands of dollars while at it), these are the three steps that all good ad copy needs.

First, identify the actual problem

If you ask them, most people will tell you the problem they are dealing with. But it usually never is the actual issue that they want to be solved. You have to dig deeper and fully empathize with their situation to find the real pain point.

Let’s say you are a coach in the fitness and nutrition industry. People come to you so that you help them lose weight. But that’s not what they are really asking you, is it? What do they really want? They want to feel better, have more energy, look better in the mirror, and even impress their husband or wife. That’s the actual problem, not losing weight.

Now that you know what they are looking for, writing your ad copy is a downhill battle. Instead of focusing on losing weight (the features), you need to address what they’ll get out of it in the end (the benefits).

But we are not done. Once we have identified the core issue at hand, we need to make it personal and elevate its importance, and that’s what step number two is for.

Second, agitate the problem until it hurts

Getting the problem right is a crucial start, but we need to agitate it. What does that mean? Step one is all about knowing where someone is actually hurting from. Now it’s time to pour salt onto the wound.

Back to our fitness coach example. How does someone trying to lose weight feel? Probably tired from trying dozens of Internet programs that promised them heaven but delivered no results. And exhausted from knowing they have the potential to change, but never really getting around to do it. And scared because they know their physical health is shaving years off their life.

Make sure you are not drowning them in despair either. They still to believe they can find a way out and, luckily, step three is where you show them they’re right.

And third, present your solution

Now that you have identified the real issue and made it hurt on a personal level, it’s time to offer them the solution to their problem. Whatever you are selling needs to address the pain point that your copy has been focused on throughout the ad.

For our coach, this is where he would explain how his program can finally help them feel better and have more energy. To make your solution even more powerful, always offer social proof through testimonials and case studies.

The Takeaway

Writing ad copy is a skill that requires a lot of practice to perfect. However, the formula PAS (Problem, Agitation, Solution) will help you identify the actual issue, make it feel unbearable, and offer a way out.

What is the #1 problem you are having with writing copy? Do you do it yourself, or do you hire freelancers? Let us know in the comments!

Marti writes about digital marketing and entrepreneurship. Find him with coffee and a laptop while traveling back and forth between Barcelona and Charlotte. Connect with him on LinkedIn.