pasop formula

How to Sell Your Products & Services Online With Targeted Copy Using the PASOP Formula

Ever wanted to set up a sales email sequence or campaign, but had no idea where to start with the copy?

Well, I have some good news.

Copywriting formulas exist for these exact scenarios.

In other words, you don’t have to start from square one or reinvent the wheel.

Think of copywriting formulas as blueprints. They give you the plans to build an incredibly persuasive argument for customer action. You just need to fill in the blanks and personalize the blueprint so your resulting email campaign or sequence is targeted and personal for your audience.

As you know, when your writing is both of these things (targeted and personal), you’ll be more successful in your endeavors – meaning you’ll get more opens, more clicks, more sign-ups, more conversions, or more sales.

That’s why I’m here today to talk about a really great formula/blueprint that gets serious results, especially for email copywriting and drip campaigns.

This particularly compelling copywriting blueprint is the PASOP formula:

Problem, Agitation, Solution, Outcome, Problem.

Let’s talk more about it, and how to use it in your sales-focused copy. Ready?

what is the pasop formula

What Is the PASOP Formula? A Nitty-Gritty Definition

With any copywriting formula, you use the provided blueprint to structure your argument. (The goal of any type of copywriting is to spur the reader to action, so every sentence you write contributes to your argument in some way.)

With PASOP, the argument is structured like this:

  • Problem
  • Agitation
  • Solution
  • Outcome
  • Problem

pasop formula graphic

Let’s talk about how each element ties together and leads to customer action – whether that means a purchase, a sign-up, or simply clicking a link to a landing page.

1. Problem

With this formula, your argument begins with presenting a problem the reader has.

You can state the problem simply, or you can go into more detail.

2. Agitation

After you state the problem, it’s time to stir the pot. This is the “agitation” part.

How do you do it?

You swim around in the problem. You get into the reader’s head and tell them how they must be feeling about it. You empathize.

Ultimately, you want to make them nod along and think, “Yes, this is how I feel. This is my problem.”

Or, in internet-speak, you make them think, “THIS.”

It just means you emphasize the pain the problem causes. You dig in a little. You make the problem twinge for the reader. You make them wince.

The point of agitation is to suddenly make the reader’s problem much more immediate and urgent. They don’t want the pain, and they don’t just want a solution. They need it.

3. Solution

After agitation, it’s time to give your reader some relief. It’s time to show them there’s a way out, a way to make the pain end.

This is your unique solution to the problem, something only you can provide.

This part should make your reader go, “Ahhhhh. Sweet relief.” (Or something similar if they’re not the dramatic type.)

Note: PAS is a much more common formula than PASOP. The former is the original, the latter is a variation.

Here’s a PAS example on its own, in action, via Copywrite Matters:

4. Outcome

What are the eventual outcomes for the reader if they use your solution? Tell them to sweeten the deal.

Including the “Outcome” part goes a step beyond PAS. In many cases, this is just extra proof that the solution is awesome and works.

For example, a testimonial is a great way to show a positive outcome in action. You can also use data that proves the solution works.

5. Problem

Here’s where things get interesting. After you show your solution and the possible outcomes for the reader, you loop back to another problem.

This problem may or may not be related to the first one you presented at the outset of your argument. It just should be relevant to your reader.

And then, you stop there. You leave that final problem lingering in the reader’s mind – a literal cliffhanger, which sets them up to anticipate your next email/message, where you’ll repeat PASOP and give them a solution.

This is the main reason PASOP works so well for email sequences and drip campaigns. It naturally meshes with the delayed messaging format. It keeps your audience wanting more, because you leave a question dangling that begs an answer.

Your readers should look like this when you get to the second “P” in PASOP and dangle that cliffhanger:

When & Where to Use the PASOP Formula in Your Copywriting

PASOP is persuasive, all right.

But where should you use it in your copy to nab more customer action – more sales, more conversions?

Turns out, there are places where this formula naturally works very, very well.

1. Email Drip Sequences and Campaigns Set Up as Auto-Responders

Above all, PASOP is perfectly suited for email drip campaigns.

Many marketers and writers approach drip campaigns and sequences with shudders, but implementing the PASOP formula for these tasks can make them ridiculously easy to write.

An email drip sequence begins when someone opts into a lead magnet (i.e. by entering their email address/information into a form on a landing page) or performing some other action that warrants a response from you (making a purchase, abandoning a shopping cart, visiting a page more than once, signing up for your newsletter, etc.).

Once they do this, a pre-written sequence is triggered and hits their inbox. One email is sent at a time over a set period of days.

Here’s an example of one of my sequences in ConvertKit.

convertkit sequence

This sequence is triggered to invite people to my masterclass and allow them to get to know me, after they sign up for my free lead magnet on content strategy skillsets.

Each email is written strategically so it pulls the user/customer/reader further into the fold. If your end goal is to get the reader to make a purchase, the sequence of emails sent over a span of days helps warm them up to get them closer to that action.

When you use PASOP in these sequences, you’ll nail that persuasive tone and potentially inspire more action from your readers.

Done right, email drip campaigns can sell products completely hands-off!

Here’s how PASOP usually breaks down in an email sequence:

Email 1

  • P – Present a problem (problem #1) relevant to your readers.
  • A – Agitate the reader so they feel some emotion about the problem. Make the problem sting a little.
  • S – Present the solution to problem #1 (which is not necessarily what you’re selling).
  • O – Show a positive outcome from using the solution. Provide data or testimony that proves its worth.
  • P – Bring up another problem (we’ll call it “problem #2”), one you leave open-ended. This is the cliffhanger dangling at the end of email 1 that builds anticipation for email 2, where you’ll provide the solution to problem #2.

Email 2

  • P – Begin by presenting problem #2 from the end of the last email.
  • A – Agitate the problem and stir the pot.
  • S – Present the solution to problem #2.
  • O – What are positive outcomes of that solution?
  • P – Bring up another problem at the end of email 2 – we’ll call it problem #3. Leave it unanswered, and maybe hint that the solution is coming in email 3.

Email 3

  • P – Present problem #3 to the reader.
  • A – Agitate the problem. Make the reader feel emotions about it.
  • S – Present your solution, which is what you have been building up to this whole time. This is where you link to a sales page or landing page and really sell it.

As you can see, each consecutive cliffhanger builds up anticipation for email 3, which provides the final solution. This not only helps you sell more, it helps you get more opens for your next emails in the sequence.

Joanna Wiebe of Copy Hackers is a noted promoter of this method, especially for emails. In fact, in this Inc. interview, she described it as her favorite copywriting formula:

2. Blogs and Landing Pages

While it’s perfect for email sequences, PASOP could also be employed as a blog or landing page outline with equally great results… especially if your content needs to have a strong call-to-action.

If you do use it in this fashion, divide your blog or landing page topic into three “acts” or related problems. Use PASOP to lead the reader through the story, one problem at a time.

The formula will keep them reading through your entire post. Then, when they reach that final solution at the very end, they will be fully warmed-up to respond to your CTA.

3. Promotional Tweets

How about tweeting with PASOP in mind if you’re doing a little promoting?

The great thing about using the formula here is it ensures you’re providing value right off the bat. You’re not making the reader jump through hoops – you’re stating the problem and giving them a solution and outcomes immediately.

This helps hook readers and keeps them interested in what you’re saying as you lead them through an entire sequence of tweets. Ultimately, these could culminate with a call-to-action and a link to whatever you’re promoting (your final “solution”).

4. Webinars and Presentations

Want to keep people hanging on your every word during your next presentation or webinar?

Yep – Just say “PASOP.”

Present a problem with major relevance for your audience, evoke emotions by stirring the pot, entice them to stay in their seats by providing immediate value + a solution, then rinse and repeat.

Just remember to keep your ending problems in each PASOP sequence open-ended for a short amount of time to build suspense, then close that open loop.

PASOP Examples in Action: Awesome, Persuasive Emails, Conversion-Friendly Landing Pages, and More

This formula can get a bit confusing if you only talk about it. Let’s look at it in action to see how it works.

1. CoSchedule – One-and-Done Riff on PASOP

Here’s a riff on the PASOP formula in an email from CoSchedule. They send this one after you sign up for their free Headline Analyzer:

As you can see, it doesn’t quite follow the formula to a tee, but it uses the basic structure to great effect – and in very few words!

If you find CoSchedule through their popular Headline Analyzer tool, they use this email to introduce you to their blog. Smart stuff.

2. Copy School – A Landing Page Take on the Formula

Here’s another example of PASOP in action on the landing page for Copy School by Copy Hackers.

It starts out by identifying a problem you, the reader, probably have. Then they push on that problem and make it hurt just a little (that “voice in your head” telling you you’ll fail):

Next, they present the solution and outcomes: signing up for Copy School plus what you’ll get out of it.

No more “guesswork,” better performance, and a “clear understanding of what makes a message succeed or fail” – those are the outcomes, as well as “functional mastery over email and web copywriting”:

There’s no additional problem presented, here, because PASO is convincing enough on its own.

This example is an excellent demonstration of how to use the formula in a way that suits your needs – meaning, you don’t have to follow it to the letter. You can make it your own, leave out parts, and play with it.

Of course, if you don’t feel comfortable enough with your copywriting yet to do that, you can absolutely follow PASOP as a rigid outline and still get great results. That’s the beauty of using a formula!

3. The Sales Funnel Architect – Nailing the Cliffhanger

Here’s an example of the final “Problem” portion of PASOP (that last “P” in the acronym) from The Sales Funnel Architect:

The email ends with a problem (not fully understanding the sales funnel can lead to gigantic mistakes in your marketing campaigns), and it doesn’t provide additional information. The problem is just laid out there…

And that’s it. You have to wait for the next email to get the solution (in this case, the additional information you need to fully understand sales funnels).

Compelling, right?

That’s the point.

Be More Persuasive and Sell More with PASOP

You don’t need to come up with inventive, ground-breaking copy every time you want to sell something.

If all writers tried to do that, our brains would be mush. No one has that much creativity.

Instead, rely on what already works, on what’s tried-and-tested. A copywriting formula provides a structure to follow, giving you legs to stand on.

All you have to do is fill in the blanks.

Then – boom. Persuasive copy. More clicks. More conversions. More sales.

Sound good?

Of course it does. However, you might not be totally confident in your copywriting skills. (Or maybe you’re not a copywriter at all!)

If that’s you, Express Writers can step in. Let us write compelling email sequences for you, ones that work. Check out our email copy packages, and let’s do this.

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