Book notes - Finding the Right Message

Instead of thinking about your copy as just words on the page, words that communicate information, start thinking about it as the key to helping your customers achieve their goals.

When you ask the right questions, you get answers that help you develop high-performing copy that practically writes itself.

you have all of ten seconds to clearly articulate your value proposition to keep people engaged longer. There's a high likelihood that people will click away without a compelling reason to stay within those first few seconds.

Posed with multiple websites selling similar products and services, most of us will keep hitting the back button and resuming our search for what we want until a compelling message gives us a reason to stop looking.

people will settle for "good enough" when looking for answers that meet their essential needs. Psychologists call this "satisficing," a combination of the words satisfy and suffice.

This book is split into four parts:

  • Part 1: Understanding Your Customer's Why
  • Part 2: Getting Your Voice of Customer Research
  • Part 3: Analyzing the Research
  • Part 4: Applying What You've Learned to Your Website Copy

Part I Understanding Your Customer’s Why

Reframe how you think about the messages you serve to your customers

Many businesses rely on creative thinking in determining their target audiences without learning how or why their customers make buying decisions.

Your product has a job to do

Jobs To Be Done Theory centers around the idea that products exist to get a job done in a customer's life.

At its core, JTBD is based on the idea that solutions may come and go, but the struggles people seek to overcome stay the same. What people choose to help them make progress at any given time has more to do with the emotional and social factors going on in their lives than merely the functional aspects (or feature sets) of one solution over another.

why customers make the choices they do in their own words.

what triggering events happen to motivate someone to seek your product out or what's getting in the way of purchasing in the first place.

Six Elements of Effective Messaging

  1. Struggle
  2. The Fix - people use market categories as a way to mentally organize products. Chosen poorly, the wrong category can confuse your customers. You’ll be left fighting an uphill battle with marketing that speaks to a set of assumptions about your product you never intended.
  3. Hesitations - Friction means anything that's making it more difficult for your users to get things done on your site. poor job of addressing your visitors' concerns or potential roadblocks to making a purchase. One of the most often provided answers is cost. While this hesitation may seem straightforward, the visitor's concern has less to do with price and more to do with the uncertainty of value.
  4. Awareness Level - Schwartz viewed awareness along a continuum across five stages:
    Complete aware: Your prospect is already sold on your product and just needs the facts.
    Product aware: Your prospect is familiar with your brand, but has not decided if your product is a good fit.
    Solution aware: Your prospect knows what they want to achieve, but not that you can help her.
    Problem aware: Your prospect is pretty sure there's a problem, but has no idea if there's a solution.
    Not aware: Your prospect has no idea about their problem, solution, or anything to do with your brand.
    Spotify has become a household name. They're banking on the fact that the visitors coming to their website not only are highly aware of their brand but ready to sign up. Take the delivered fresh dog food products on the market as an example. As a dog owner, you may be struggling to find a brand of food to help with your dog's allergies. You know there are more "natural" options; but, you have no idea what those options are or which one might be the best for your pooch. Landing on a homepage like Spotify isn't going to help you out in your decision-making process. You need pains addressed, benefits laid out, features explained along with solid reasons why this pile of food is light years better than the kibble sitting in your pantry.
  5. Differentiators - What makes your product stand out in the eyes of your customers?
    "Why is this better than the alternatives?"
    Any given product is competing against both the status quo (what prospects are making do with already) and any other comparable solution available.
  6. Success - What are your customers' desired outcomes? If you're starting to think in terms of the benefits your product
    Ask just about anyone if they'd like to save time or have more money, and you'll probably get a resounding "Yes!" The problem with not looking beyond these factors is that you miss out on the bigger why behind the desire.
    The way I figure out how to get to the heart of what customers want to happen is to keep asking, "Why?" until there are no more whys left.
    let's say you're selling a weight-loss and exercise program designed specifically for young, college-aged women. Why would these women be interested in your program? They want to lose weight. Why do they want to lose weight? Because they want to get rid of the Freshman 15 they put on. Why do they want to get rid of those fifteen pounds? Because they can't fit into their skinny jeans anymore. Why do they want to get back into their skinny jeans? Because they feel more attractive and look healthier when they can wear what they want to wear. Why do they want to feel more attractive and look healthier? Because they will be more confident.
    The real benefit of your program isn't weight loss; it's confidence-boosting.

Part 2: Getting Your Voice of Customer Research

Defining Goals and Objectives

It's important to ask your customers and prospects the right questions. This is why you need to define goals and objectives first.

Your interview goal might be "to assess how customers perceive the value of XYZ product relative to the costs to write more persuasive copy on the sales page." Every question should serve the same purpose: to move you closer to reaching your goal.

Your objectives consist of the learnings you want to gain from doing your research. You may want to discover answers to the following questions: What are customers' biggest hesitations to buying? How does the product make customers' lives better? What motivated customers to seek out the product? What alternatives did our customers use to get the job done before seeking us out?


  • Focus on open-ended questions
  • No leading questions.
  • well-crafted questions should be easy to understand. If they are vague or overly complicated, chances are you won't get the answers you're looking for

Examples of questions to ask

"What was happening in your life/business that made you realize you needed a product/service like ours?"
"What problem does our product/service lessen or fix for you?"
"What alternatives did you use before buying from/working with us?"
"What concerns or hesitations did you have before you decided to buy from/work with us?"
"After you finish your course/working with us/using our product, what personal/professional goal are you hoping to achieve?"
"How aware were you of (the type of products/solutions) before you purchased/signed up for our product/free-trial?"

Here are a few tips to improve your survey success with a better email.

  • Be direct, clear, and don't ask for anything else in the email
  • Phrase your email subject as a sincere but small request. Try structuring your email subject line as a question, such as,
"Can you do me a favor and answer 3 quick questions?"
  • Send your email from a real person

Here's a template you can customize and use. I've included two subject lines for those of you who enjoy doing

Subject line #1: Can you do me a favor? Subject line #2: Do you have 2 minutes to help me out? Hello [insert name], I'm working on [insert whatever types of products you design, services you want to sell, or even content you'd like to write] and would appreciate your feedback. My goal is to create/design/develop the kind of items/services/content that you can't wait to get your hands on. The best way for me to make sure I'm doing that? You answer a few short and sweet questions. I know you're busy, so this won't take you more than a couple of minutes. Click this link: [insert link] to go straight to the survey. Thanks in advance! [Your name] [Your title]

Web and exit surveys

They appear based on preset triggers, such as time on site, traffic source, or activity. one-question survey to pop up before leaving, visitors can tell you why they're not interested.

Website users complain about pop-ups for several reasons: They get triggered before visitors have had a chance to read anything on the site. They show up again and again, no matter how many times visitors close them. They are notoriously difficult, if not impossible, to close on a mobile phone.

When you're interested in identifying who is coming to your site and why, consider asking one of the following questions:

What's the purpose of your visit today?

Were you able to find what you were looking for today? (If the answer is no, ask them to tell you what they were hoping to find.)

When you need to know what sources of friction people are encountering on your site, ask one of the following questions

Is there anything holding you back from purchasing today? (If the answer is yes, then ask for an explanation.)

Please tell us why you're leaving today.

Can we answer any questions before you go? (If the answer is yes, then ask your visitors to list them.)

Keep the survey simple You'll want to go down one of two routes:

  • either ask one open-ended question or
  • ask one yes/no question that will lead to an open-ended question asking for an explanation.

Consider placing a question on a thank-you page your visitors are directed to after they have purchased something from you or even signed up to your email list. You'll be getting them at the peak of engagement, which makes them primed to answer a question. Here are a few questions to test on your leads and customers: What almost stopped you from buying today? What convinced you to purchase from us? What persuaded you to buy/signup/join? What are you most looking forward to learning in this course/newsletter/future emails?

Phone or online interviews

Pull out the top ten or twenty people who are the most engaged with your emails as candidates to reach out to.

Ask for no more than thirty minutes of their time.

Think of your interviews as less of a Q&A and more of a conversation. Your goal is to find out as much as you can about the why behind their actions. You need to ask those open-ended questions, listen, then follow up to see if you can get the person to elaborate further. After asking a few basic questions about the person's background or business, you'll want to ask questions that focus on the behaviors driving their decision-making process along with the circumstances around those behaviors.

Below you’ll find some questions you can use as jumping-off points for your interviews to make getting to that "why" a little easier:

How has using my product/hiring me improved your business/life?

What have you been able to achieve or accomplish?

What kind of experience have you had using the product/working with me?
What were the problems you were facing in your business/life that led you to my product/solution?

What made you realize the old way of operating wasn't working?

How did you solve these problems in the past?

What sorts of solutions were you using before my product or hiring me?

What alternatives did you consider using/hiring before deciding on my product/service?

Why did you choose my product/solution over the other options?

Was there anything that almost held you back from purchasing from me/hiring me?

Listen to their responses and, whenever possible, move the conversation forward by asking them to elaborate not only on the circumstances around their actions but how those actions made them feel.

The best way to keep track of what's being said in an interview is to record it. Taking notes can work, but remember that the goal here is to get the words verbatim that your prospects or customers are saying.

Review Mining - when you don't have customers

Review mining is the process of pulling out the most compelling snippets of copy you can find from reviews of products or services similar to yours.

Here are several places to search for it:

  • Marketplaces: In the review sections of Amazon, Etsy for similar products
  • Community forums: Try searching for the problem your product or service solves, and include the word forum in your search.
  • Reddit: This site contains forums called "subreddits" on just about every subject imaginable.
  • Quora: Go here to find answers to just about any question. Search for a product or topic, and you'll find people writing about it.
  • Competitor blog posts and testimonials: Look at the comment section of blog posts and the testimonials on competitor sites. These can give you clues about what questions and praise people have for your competitors.
  • G2 and Capterra: These sites provide aggregated reviews for software companies. Capterra has a pros and cons section in each review, perfect for learning what users love and revile in a piece of software. G2 asks the questions, "What do you like best?" and "What do you dislike?" While less than probing questions, they provide a jumping-off point for reviewers to discuss the software's most-used features and difficulties.

Part III Analyzing your research

Go through your survey responses and all those reviews and comments you bookmarked online. You're looking for phrases that correspond to one of those six elements of effective messaging covered in Chapter 2.

Create a table with a column on the left labeled, Message Bucket, and a column on the right labeled, Prioritized Messages (Most Referenced to Least.) Place the six elements in the left column with their corresponding top messages in the right.


What are they struggling with? What is their pain point? Keep asking why until they are unable to answer.

"...trying to find a pair of jeans that look flattering and feel comfortable shouldn't be so hard."

The Fix

What's the solution they are looking for? What "job" are they hiring us for?

"After spending hours searching online for caterers, florists, and photographers for my wedding, I felt overwhelmed with all the choices. I needed someone to give me the pros and cons and just spell out my options."
"I used to hunt for a healthy snack on my lunch break that filled me up, and I could take on the run."


The respondents' hesitations or concerns about purchasing

"I'm not sure if I have to give my credit card information to sign up for the free trial." Example: "I don't understand which plan is the best fit for my needs."

Awareness Level

Understand respondents' awareness level  - Complete aware/Product aware/Solution aware/Problem aware/Not aware

"I've been researching a tool that makes automating my scheduling online easier, so I can stop wasting time with all the back and forth emails."


What makes your solution special/different compared to others in the respondents' eyes

"... nowhere else have I found an at-home hair coloring product that makes my hair look like I just came from the salon."


Tell you what success looks like to respondents

"I'm interested in becoming more competitive in my niche with the skills from this course."
"Your custom logo designs have made my brand look so professional I finally feel like people will take me seriously when they come to my site."

List frequently used words

Keep a running tally of individual words that repeat. Open a new document, and start copying and pasting in it the words you notice multiple people using to describe your product or solution, how it makes them feel, or what prompted them to seek you out in the first place. Add a tick mark each time the same word appears in a response. Once done, rearrange the list from most used to least used.

Part 4: Applying What You've Learned to Your Website Copy

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How does your business solve your customers’ problems? (Struggle + Fix)

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Think of your website as one of your employees. What job is it supposed to be doing for you?

What makes up a value proposition? For most website pages, the value proposition consists of the main headline and sub-headline, along with benefit-driven bullet points at the top of the page.

The headline lets you know what the solution does and what makes it different

Their sub-headline tells you who should be using their solution

To write your value proposition,

analysis to answer the following questions: What is my target audience’s most significant pain point? How does my business, product, or solution solve that pain point? Why are the people in my target audience motivated to solve this problem? Or, what are they hoping to achieve?

Along with the main headline and sub-headline, adding benefit-driven bullet points helps better qualify the value proposition.

telling your customers about the features of your product or service within the context of how they’ll benefit from them.

What are “features?” Features are the items that make up your product or service.

What are "benefits?" Benefits are the why behind your features. They give your customers an emotional, intangible reason to buy into your product or service. In a nutshell, benefits help answer that critical question people ask when they move through your site: Why should I care?

Figuring out the deep down, why behind your customers' motivation for seeking out what you're selling is a similar process to discovering the key benefits of your product or service.

your key benefits should be the answer to what's keeping your customers up at night.

a list of the features that make up your product, service, or solution. Once you've laid them out on the page, look at each closely, and determine if there's a compelling benefit you can attach to them.

Go back through your priority messages list and pay particular attention to The Fix (aka job to be done) and Success buckets. These are the places where you'll find what kinds of features and benefits your customers care about most.