The 'What's in it for me?' factor in copywriting (WIFM)

Getting to know all about you

Getting to know you - from The King and I
Via Tenor

Us writers are always told to write for our target audience. It’s Copywriting 101. Just like Anna in the King and I, we’re getting to know all about you.

The more I know who my target audience is, the better and more efficiently I can whip up convincing copy.

I’m not embarrassed to admit I’m one of the rare creative critters who loves a good persona. Whether it’s writing my own or following one someone else created, personas keep me anchored. I gravitate back to them for a sense check. Will this copy resonate with my target audience?

Via Giphy

Yes, it does. The King is pleased.

Conversion copywriting and the WIFM Factor

I’ve done a lot of conversion copywriting this year.  It’s not my strongest writing skill, but I’m improving. I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with it. Most of these conversion copywriting projects have been for higher education providers. That’s a tough, competitive market.

If you’re not familiar with the term conversion copywriting, it’s copy written with the intention of persuading and compelling someone to take action. Actually, it’s more than copy. It’s the overall design of the content – all the elements on a page coming together into a sales symphony.  

I’ve been working my way through the fabulous Jay Crisp Crow’s copywriting course, which focuses on conversion copywriting.  I’ve been applying Jay’s techniques to this website as I overhaul my home page, about page and services pages. It focuses on writing copy that resonates with your audience. Check it out if you’re keen to learn how to write copy that converts. 

The What's in it for me? Factor in conversion copywriting
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The WIFM Factor

A technique that’s helped improve my conversion copywriting prowess is thinking about the ‘What’s in it for me?’ (WIFM) Factor from the user’s perspective. It’s a useful lens to filter the copy through. Does this copy compel the user to take action? If it doesn’t, it needs to be reworked until it does.

My recent projects have needed a standalone introductory sentence that distils the key benefit of the product while acknowledging the target audience AND explaining what’s in it for them.

For one project, this introductory sentence appears above the fold on the desktop site. On the mobile version, it appears under the heading and by applying the WIFM Factor, it’s hopefully encouraging the target audience to tap for more details and continue reading. And ultimately, result in more sales for my client.

Applying the WIFM factor

I learnt a lot about applying the WIFM Factor from my colleague Antoanela Safca. We worked together on one of the education projects and she would wave her magical marketing wand over banal copy and zjoosh* it up. By seeing first-hand exactly how she zjooshed up the copy and the how much more enticing it was, I could apply the WIFM Factor myself for better results.

In the same way I return to the ‘So what?’ Factor when writing data-driven reports, I return to WIFM to check if the page adequately captures what’s in it for the target user. It’s my conversion copy anchor.

Examples of applying the WIFM factor

Consider the following introduction:

❌ The Diploma of Zombie Management is a nationally accredited zombie management qualification designed specifically for zombie herders, zombie slayers and related professionals.

It’s bland. It doesn’t communicate directly to a specific audience. It doesn’t provide even a whiff of the WIFM Factor.

Here it is, transformed by the WIFM Factor:

✔️ Build your expertise and gain in-demand skills with a nationally accredited zombie management qualification for zombie herders, slayers and related professionals.

The transformed example with the WIFM Factor applied speaks directly to the audience—zombie professionals. It says exactly what a zombie professional will gain from the course. It’s much more compelling.

Here’s another example without the WIFM Factor applied:

❌ Zombie management is a critical skill for zombie herders to master to ensure herding success.

And with the WIFM Factor applied:

✔️Learn how to successfully herd zombies by gaining essential zombie management skills.

Via Giphy

The King’s children are pleased with that one.

Here’s another example without the WIFM Factor applied:

❌ The Professional Zombie Slayer Program helps zombie-slaying graduates develop and enhance their employability skills, which employers demand. Gain insight into the Australian zombie-slaying workforce and employment market in this unique work-readiness program.

And with the WIFM Factor applied:

✔️ Gain the professional skills, experience, and networks you need to build a successful career as a zombie herder in Australia.

The edited version with the WIFM Factor applied reaches out directly to zombie-slaying graduates and states exactly what they’ll get from the program.

And here’s another non-education example. This is the introduction to an industry sector on a page that highlights its investment opportunities.

❌ Victoria is the home of the nation’s zombie industry, building slaying and containment capability.

That’s bland and vague. What’s in it for a potential investor?

✔️ Victoria’s $12 billion zombie industry is flourishing, offering opportunities for investment in slaying and containment services.

Now we’re getting somewhere. This revised introduction with the WIFM Factor applied directly states the size of the market and where the investment opportunities lie, something missing from the original example.

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Applying the WIFM factor makes the copy sing. Shall we dance?

Wider than just conversion copy

I’m keeping the WIFM factor in mind for all my copy, even if it’s not conversion-oriented copy. It’s another lens in my editing arsenal to check if the copy states what my target audience will get out of it.  

Is this something you apply to your writing or would?  


*Zjoosh is the official technical term for improving something ?

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