SD #05: Does Your Writing Pass the "So, What" Test?

empathy solopreneur writing tips Jul 26, 2022
Professional woman struggling to write on laptop in home office

 Sharpen Your Communications by Asking This One Question 


Read Time: 6.0 minutes 

Date: July 26, 2022 


Does your writing pass the "so, what" test? 




Having empathy with your audience is critical to connecting with them.  

You know this. 

But what's the next step? How do you make empathy actionable, so that you're actually walking around in your audience's shoes? 

In today's post, we're going to offer you a super simple solution that works every...single...time. 

This solution works because it transforms you from being a communicator, who's trying to get a message across, into a proxy for the audience who will receive that message. 

This solution recasts you from being an advocate for your point of view to being an advocate for your audience. 

That recasting...that empathy applied in a practical, powerful way that will add value for your audience and pay dividends to you.  

The solution we're talking aboutand that we'll focus on in this week's tipis something called the So, What? Test


What’s the Tip? 

Sharpen your communications, so you can better connect with your customers, by getting in the habit of asking yourself this question when you're making a point. The question is…"so, what?" 

As we've already noted in a couple of different ways: asking this question moves you from being an ambassador for your brand to being an ambassador for your customer. 


How Do You Use It? 

Asking "so, what?" gives you permission to dig deeper, to get beyond the surface answer to something that's more substantial and relevant to your audience. 

In a sense, "so, what?" is a more advanced form of editing. But instead of editing for grammar or structure, asking "so, what?" allows you to edit for relevancy. 

Asking "so, what?" also helps you show, instead of tell. How many times have you heard that phrase "show, don't tell?" 

This week's tip helps you do that, too. 

For example, you could say "we ship our products faster."  

Ok. If you're like us, you may be thinking, "wow, that's amazing. We love faster!" 

But what does that mean...faster compared to what? 

Instead of creating more confidence and trust, you may have inadvertently created more questions leading to less confidence and trust. 

Not good. 

But again, this is where asking "so, what?" can help. 

When you ask "so, what," you might get the following.  

Instead of saying "we ship our products faster." Asking “so, what?” could lead you to being more specific as in, "we ship our products in one day." 

Ah…so that’s what faster looks like! 

The first example "tells." The second example "shows." 

But can we make this even sharper? 

Again, asking "so, what" comes to the rescue. 

We ship our products in one day or you get your money back. 

Ok. Let’s dig a little deeper. 

We ship our products in one day or you get your money back AND you get to keep the product free of charge. 


See the difference when you drill down just a little deeper? 

Notice how specificity in this case helps reverse the risk from resting on the shoulders of your customer to resting squarely on your shoulders. 

And look what happens.  

When you assume greater risk and relieve your customer from taking practically any risk, you remove a key barrier to a sale. 

Remember when we said asking "so, what?" can pay you dividends? 

By digging not accepting "faster" as specific doing extra work on behalf of your increase customer confidence, you create greater trust, and you reverse the risk. 

To make this even more attractive…imagine if your competitor is still producing copy that says, “we ship our products faster.” 


What are Some Examples? 

Example 1: Let's start with Amazon, after all we began this post with a quote from Amazon's writing playbook: "does your writing pass the 'so, what' test? 

We’ll start by taking a step back. 

You probably think of Amazon as your one-stop, go-to online retailer for buying things that miraculously appear on your front porch or at your door the next day in a cardboard box. 

All true. 

But, Amazon, the corporate brand, has an even bigger daily agenda…its primary focus every day, is customer service and fulfillment. Its massive retail operation is simply how it puts its customer focus into action. 

A key element of its customer-first culture is its emphasis on clear, compelling communication.  

(Remember how clear, specific communication helps build trust and can be a competitive advantage?) 

One of those elements is the so-called "so, what?" test. There are a number of former "Amazonians" who've written posts and books that take you behind the scenes of Amazon's writing culture. 

One of the documented ways Amazon gets more clarity out of its communications both internally and externally is by asking the "so, what?" question. 

What better way to put your customer first than creating a simple mechanism that positions you as the customer proxy? 


Example 2: Our second example comes from Pixar executive Andrew Stanton who is one of the forces behind the Toy Story franchise. 

Stanton has a TedTalk available on YouTube called The Clues to a Great Story.  

In it, Stanton talks about the single greatest commandment in storytelling, Make Me Care

Stanton puts it this way: 

The children’s television host Mr. Rogers always carried in his wallet a quote from a social worker that said, “Frankly there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you know their story.” And the way I like to interpret that is probably the greatest story commandment, “Make me care.” 

Do you see what Stanton has done here? He's acting on behalf of his audience by articulating what all of us want out of a movie experience (but don't consciously say) which is show me the stakes…show me why all of this matters…in short, make me care. 

For our purposes, asking the question "so, what?" forces an answer and makes a solution more immediate. 


What’s the Benefit to You? 

So, what does all of this mean to you, especially if you're a solopreneur?  

The single, greatest benefit of asking "so, what?" if you're a one-person business is it helps you get out of what we call the "solopreneur bubble or echo chamber," where there's the built-in challenge of getting out of your own head. 

Truthfully, all of us have this challenge, but when you're in business for yourself, this challenge is compounded by the daily stresses of trying to build or sustain a business without having the immediate benefit of someone else's perspective. 

Yes, you can outsource copywriting or marketing...yes, you can email what you've got to a colleague or friend for review...but when you're in the throes of trying to get something written, while dealing with other parts of your business, having a quick but proven solution can be game changer. 

Asking "so, what?" does the job. 





Asking “so, what?” transforms you from being a communicator trying to get a message across to a proxy for the audience who will receive that message. 

Asking "so, what?" allows you to edit for relevancy. 

Asking "so, what?" helps you show, instead of tell.  

Specificity, driven by asking “so, what?” can be the difference between creating trust with your customer or losing it. 

The single, greatest benefit of asking "so, what?" if you're a one-person business is it helps you get out of what we call the "solopreneur bubble or echo chamber," where there's the built-in challenge of getting out of your own head. 

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