While going through a copywriting newsletter in the afternoon, I came across an interesting word: sonder.
First of all, is sonder even a word? You don’t find it in regular dictionary. But you find it in a book called “Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows”, written by John Koenig.
The author was put in a situation where he couldn’t find the right words to express certain emotions and situations. He started making his own words. Sonder is one of such words.
It is supposed to be a noun. It is a realization that each random person passing by is living a life that is as vivid and complex as your own life. They have their own ambitions. They have their own set of friends, routines, anxieties or have even inherited particular traits of their parents and grandparents.
Basically, it is an epic story (of all the individuals coming your way, collectively) that is going on parallel to your own story. Sonder means, realizing that such a situation exists.
It means realizing that every person has a story.
How does it impact your copywriting?
What do you need for effective copywriting?
You need empathy.
I was recently editing a book for a client (partly autobiographical and partly self-development) and he has a chapter on being the VIP of your life. What does that mean?
You are the VIP of your life. In your life, you are the most important person. You are the most important person for yourself. You are the most important person for your family. You take care of yourself. Your family takes care of you. You worry about your welfare. Your family worries about your welfare.
Even that poor person selling roasted peanuts by the side of the road living in a shanty is an important person for his or her household.
What has it got to do with copywriting?
You need to see the others’ perspective. You need to understand your audience. You need to convey that you share their feelings. You should be able to tell them that you have the solution for their problem.
The good thing about sonder is that you cannot pretend to have sympathy with people, and even if you pretend, as an effective copywriter, your words won’t be able to reflect your assumed feeling.
Empathy, when writing, must come from within.
Listed below are a few steps you can take to use sonder or empathy to be an effective copywriter.
Clearly define the problem for your users
When you define the problem, you tell them that you understand exactly what they are going through.
Suppose, I tell you that you have a pain in your knee. Yes, you have a pain in your knee, but in many cases, the pain may not be the exact problem.
Because of that pain, it is difficult for you to sit down and stand up. It is difficult for you to walk. This makes it difficult for you to do the household chores. You are unable to take proper care of your kids. Your quality of life has suffered. You cannot travel. At night you cannot sleep so throughout the day you’re tired. You are compelled to take painkillers and you know that these painkillers are damaging your kidneys.
Another example: you cannot find a capable SEO copywriter who can help you improve your search engine rankings. Hence, your problem is lower search engine rankings.
But what happens due to lower search engine rankings?
You don’t get customers. You are not able to sell the product that you know is awesome. You go through financial difficulties. To maintain the cash flow, you often have to do odd jobs you hate. You are worried about the financial safety of your family. Due to lack of money, your business is stuck in the middle of nowhere. Your potential is being wasted. You are having to spend hours every day networking and convincing people into buying your product. Your self-worth is suffering.
As a copywriter I should be able to understand not just your problem, but also your situation. Only then I can use the right words to move you into buying the product or the service that I’m promoting.
Tell stories to elevate the sense of empathy
People relate to stories. They relate to the characters, especially the protagonist who fights with the odds and emerges victorious.
Take the above example of someone not being able to improve his search engine rankings. Tell the story of the person who closely works with an SEO copywriter. Tell them how he figures out that he needs to publish targeted content consistently. Narrate how publishing targeted content consistently, ultimately improves search engine rankings for the right keywords and the business eventually picks up.
Most of the customers have the traits of your main character. They are facing problems. They are fearful. They are frustrated. They have obstacles on their paths. They are bearing the consequences of their past actions. They are not able to come out of their predicament.
When they see or when they read about your protagonist using your product or service to improve his lot, they will immediately relate.
How does your story manifest empathy? You cannot create a moving narrative unless your readers can make an emotional connection with your protagonist, and this can only happen if you understand their core problems.
Looking for better sonder? Talk in their language
As a copywriter you can easily go your own way when using words. Remember that you are writing for your audience. You don’t want to impress them. You want to convert them.
It’s a myth that writing in your audience’s language means “dumbing down” your writing. There is no need to write for the sixth standard if your audience is composed of PhD candidates, working parents, or small business owners.
Writing in their language means using words and expressions that they use in their everyday lives.
This will also help you improve your search engine rankings because most of the people use search terms that they use in their day-to-day conversations.
When you talk in their language, when you address their concerns in their language, you show them that you empathize with them.
Let them choose and decide
When you empathize with your audience through your copywriting, you empower them. You achieve this by letting them choose on their own whether they want to do business with you or not.
Provide them the information. Educate them. Give them data. Help them compare. Tell them stories they can relate to. Present case studies and white papers. Engage with them on an ongoing basis. But ultimately, leave it up to them to decide.
Finding the sonder – attributes that help you empathize with your audience – will help you markedly improve the effectiveness of your copywriting.