When writing sales copy, please don’t try to hook me. I’m not a fish.

not a fish on hookThere is a popular style of writing sales copy that starts with casting a hook.

The reader, like a fish, is meant to swallow the hook, and is then slowly reeled in by the copywriter.

I’m not a big fan of catching readers on hooks and reeling them in.

I would rather empathize with my readers, acknowledge the fact that everyone is an individual, and then offer a solution that might help them.

Here is an example of the difference between casting a hook and being empathetic.

Let’s say you are writing a sales pitch for a bank which is offering a debt consolidation service.

Writer “A” might start like this:

“If you are anything like me, you probably spent way too much on your credit cards over the holiday season.”

Nice hook. For a fish.

But as a human my first response to that line is, “Nice try, but I very much doubt I’m anything like you.”

My second response is, “Dude, I have heard a thousand pitches like this before. I know exactly where you are going, and exactly what you want me to do after I have finished reading.”

That opening, “If you are anything like me” is a horror. It implies empathy, but it is false. What is actually happening is that the writer is trying to place every reader on a single track that inexorably takes them down the sales page to the final Buy button.

Writer “B” takes a slightly different approach.

“If the amount of money you spent on your credit cards over the holidays worries you, consider one of the following three ways to clear that debt.”

Writer “B” opens with the word “If”. He is not assuming the reader is worried. Not saying that if the reader is like him, he “must” be worried.

Then he offers the readers three ways forward instead of just one.

In doing so he is recognizing the humanity of the reader. There is no one size that fits all. There may be one size that fits the bank, but not that fits every reader.

By offering three ways forward instead of one, the writer is offering help. He is recognizing that people’s needs and lifestyles are different.

He is treating his readers like people, not like fish.

Writer “B” will doubtless then show how the bank can help with all three options. And he will hopefully convert many of his readers into buyers.

But by recognizing people as individuals, and offering them choices, he has established a completely different kind of relationship between the bank and the reader.

Writer “A” used a hook to snag and then reel in every reader down a single line.

Write “B” established empathy and not only gave his readers choices, but also helped and educated them along the way.

What kind of customers do you want to attract?

Gasping fish or grateful people?

About the author: Nick Usborne is an online writer, copywriter, author and coach.


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