Hey, you. Yeah, I'm talking to you.
I've got your attention, don't I?
It's not the most subtle attention-grabber, but it certainly does the job. After all, it's not usually how blog posts are started, is it?
Without an effective attention-grabber, you'll find that many people don't have the patience or time to give your copy a chance. Either you make a great first impression, or you don't. There's no redo.
You cannot underestimate the lack of patience people have.
When referring to websites, approximately half of all the viewers of that page abandon it if it takes longer than 3 seconds to load. You lose half of your viewers because of 3 seconds.
If people don't want to wait more than 3 seconds on a website, how can you expect them to trudge through a painfully slow/boring intro?
That's why you need that attention-grabber: you need to minimize the effects of your average reader's lack of patience.
To answer your questions, I've compiled a list of the most common types of compelling hooks that you'll see used in copy.
Open loops are incredibly powerful. The ability to "force" people into finishing what they've started can be used to great effect with copy. They're used in many forms of copy, and in many different places such as:
So, how do you use them in a hook?
You ask a question, but don't answer it. Or you dangle the answer just out of reach. It's as simple as that, although there are some nuances you can consider when using them like:
So why does that work? It sounds like it would just be frustrating... Well, it is to an extent. But that's why it's so effective.
Our brains are hardwired to look for closure. So if you ask a question, our brains search intensely for the answer.
We find it incredibly hard to forget about tasks that we haven't finished, so starting with a question in your intro will make people want to answer it, even subconsciously, which can lead to "...I guess I'll keep on reading to see if I can find out."
We get frustrated when we don't receive closure, so our desire to search for those answers can be used against us with open loops.
But what do these types of hooks look like in copy?
Learn how to grab attention with open loops in your copy here.
"Think you know the answer to this question? Find out below!"
This is a very basic example. You ask a question that will probably go unanswered, then promise an answer later on in the copy.
Whether you actually answer it or not is irrelevant (although an unanswered question can frustrate people and result in bad comments...), but your goal is simply to get their foot into the door.
Here's an industry example, rather than a generic one:
This article by Groove: "The Story We Haven't Shared: How Our Startup Almost Died."
...How did their startup almost die? You need to read the article to find out! If you have any interest in Groove, you'll definitely be interested in the answer to that question, but you won't find it without reading the article.
Hence the hook is doing its job: you "force" people to keep on reading.
That being said, it's important that your hook actually resonates with your audience here. The Groove article isn't going to interest people outside of their audience.
If your audience is misaligned or you try to change up your marketing, you might find that your hooks suddenly stop being effective. Make sure you know why your hooks are working when they do, and also why they don't work when they don't.
These statements just work. They lay things out clearly and effectively, getting the job done. It feeds the need for instant gratification.
How simple should these statements be? How short or long? Does it vary?
The only question with a definite answer is the last one: Yes.
The structure of your statements will vary based on context, but in general, occasional use of these simple, direct statements is effective for emphasis.
So why do they work? Well, a simple, direct statement will immediately grab someone's attention. While they don't have to be directed at the reader, they'll often feel like they are regardless.
A powerful statement demands an explanation, especially if that statement is controversial.
Lines like this just stand out.
And because of that, we tend to hyper-focus on them. Even though no question has been asked, this plays on the same psychological mechanics of open loops:
We want to know why the author can write such a confident statement, so we're seeking closure for a question that hasn't technically been asked.
Of course, you have to be careful.
If you overuse short lines, they lose their impact. Your audience begins to expect them, so their unique effects disappear. Take breaks every once and a while and use paragraphs. They sound less like run-on sentences.
They also preserve the "uniqueness" of your power statements.
This entire section could have been written as a paragraph. When you have multiple sentences on the same topic, that's an ideal time to write things in paragraph form.
You should save your single lines for powerful, commanding, direct statements that you want to be particularly emphasized.
Otherwise, you're doing it wrong.
"Do this now or else..."
That sounds harsh, but the sentiment is there, isn't it? "Buy now — limited stock goes fast!" Or better yet, "Sign up now, for a limited time." That sense of urgency really packs a punch and encourages action.
Otherwise, something bad happens. A sale gets missed, an item goes out of stock forever, limited edition runs disappear and wind up being sold for hundreds of dollars more on eBay...
Apple does this a lot in their advertisements.
For example, take a look at the original iPhone X advertisement.
It starts with a plain and simple "Meet iPhone X" and nothing more.
Of course you get an immediate answer as to why you should meet the iPhone X, with pictures and feature descriptions, but it all starts with an incredibly confident statement that immediately grabs your attention.
In fact, some of Apple's advertisements go even further and say next to nothing, like this iPhone 8 advertisement.
The only "words" shown throughout the entire ad are some warnings and a big "8" at the end. Nothing more, nothing less. That lack of information, as well as the confidence of the advertising, makes us want to know more.
Last but certainly not least (Well, it's almost the least...) is the iPhone 6S ad that was shown to users on previous versions of the iPhone.
Again, next to nothing is said except for one confident statement: "Ridiculously Powerful". But what makes it so? Well, conveniently, there's a "learn more" button below that can answer that question for you!
I have your solution right here.
Or at least that's what I would say if I did want to get your attention for a solution I was selling.
This one is equally as simple as the last one: you let people know about your solution and ask them to read more about it.
Beyond being a good hook, it also gives you an important piece of information. If people do click your read more link, you know for a fact that the person is likely to be interested.
After all, if your article is about a dog feeder, and someone clicks to find out more, they almost certainly have a dog and are interested in a dog feeder, or at least know someone who might be.
So why does this work so well? Well, beyond the fact that they instantly know if they're interested, people just don't want to deal with extra problems in life.
Life is already stressful enough without extra problems thrown on top of it, so if someone offers a solution, there's no way we won't at least listen.
Our final decision varies based on the pitch of course, but the fact that we start listening in the first place is what counts here. We hate asking for help, so when we're offered it, we at least see if it's worthwhile.
If your copy uses a strategy like this, you can be a bit more aggressive with your sales pitches since they're much lower risk when you know you have an interested prospect.
Learn how to make your copy "benefit-centric" here.
"Introducing the Autodogfeed 9000. Find out more below!"
This is based on the previous example I gave. The product is placed front and center, although its name is obvious enough that you can guess its purpose.
Once you've hooked people who are definitely interested in a product like that, you refer them to your landing page or other piece of copy and move to convert them.
Of course, there is some degree of risk. You need to have an audience for the product in the first place for the hook to attract anyone. You might need to market more aggressively or change up the product itself.
Make sure you actually have people to hook before you commit to this type, even more so than the others on this list.
Amazon has recently adopted free one-day/same-day shipping to replace its free two-day/one-day shipping options, and their landing page is very blatant.
The solution is immediately obvious: same-day delivery. You know what you're getting, and they make it easy to find out more about it by providing the information on the same page.
Anyone who looks into finding out more is obviously interested, so that gives Amazon more potential Prime leads.
"I know a lot about your situation. And because of that, I know exactly what we can do to solve your problem."
There's a reason salesmen use this hook — it works.
Salesmen are seen as the experts: they've been around for a while, they know how to handle problems of various degrees, and your exact situation has come up in the past before, so they know they can be helpful.
The traditional methods are traditional for a reason. With the salesman approach, you're attempting to pull your readers into a "conversation" of sorts. We find it hard to ignore people directly talking to us, so a conversation is perfect for grabbing our attention.
It's even harder to ignore someone that you know knows what they're talking about, especially if they're striking a chord with you and your problems.
But don't overdo it. Some people do not enjoy this style of conversation, and you'll lose them if you push it too far.
"I know how you feel about your back pain. I know because I have back pain myself, but I figured out a solution, and I want you to know about it."
This isn't perfect, obviously, but it's a good generalization of this type of hook. You attempt to act almost like a "friend" to your readers: You talk with them in a friendly manner and try to "help" them out.
That conversational tone draws our attention to the headline, as well as what comes after it.
In general, any sort of "I'm the expert, and here's what I can do for you" message will fit this format, but its effectiveness varies with your field.
For example, a medical professional in a proper office is much more convincing than a shady "alternative medicine" expert selling their products out of the back alley, even if their salesman approach is the same.
One field is just inherently more ambiguous so claiming to be an expert is less effective.
You tell your story, describe what you do, and offer solutions in a conversational way.
Sound familiar? That's because it's used by almost every business out there — especially small business owners. And yet, despite its popularity, it still works. It's highly effective due to its clarity of message.
Don't wait: read this section now before it's gone!
Or don't, we aren't actually putting you on a time limit.
But using time limits and other limited-time offers certainly do encourage people to participate, and you can use this in your copy to great effect.
Why does that work? Well, humans absolutely hate missed opportunities. There's a wide variety of feelings associated with them, but all of these opportunities that we see have some kind of value associated with them.
And when we skip an opportunity that turns out to be particularly lucrative, we feel awful about it, even if it wasn't realistic to take that opportunity in the first place. That's where FOMO (fear of missing out) got its name...
We take opportunities not necessarily because we're super interested in them, but because we don't want to miss out on the potential benefits of taking those opportunities and feel terrible because of it.
If you have anything that will go away eventually, make it obvious that it will go away. And if you don't, maybe consider making something limited? If that's not feasible, find other ways to up the scarcity, such as a limited-time discount or bonus while supplies last.
"Don't skip past this article! You'll be missing out on $50,000 or more per year!"
This could be used for anything that aims to help people save money through an investment of some kind, but you can see how this format can be applied in other areas. "Don't click away, you're leaving your free book on the table!"
Or better yet, "Read this, it's the only way you'll find out how to save $100 a week on groceries!"
Notice, the adaptations follow the formula but apply it in other ways. Whatever your rendition is, it needs to lead with value, connecting an action to a reward that your audience genuinely cares about.
Having that threat of missing out on something beneficial heavily encourages us to figure out what we could be missing out on. The goal of a headline like this is to get people started on reading before they skip past the copy entirely.
And when you include a spectacular, specific figure ($50,000) in your hook, you become at least slightly more credible. Numbers seem much more made up when they're predictable (like double or triple) rather than something more specific ($53,544).
Restaurants do this all the time. McDonald's has their McRibs, Wendys has their Spicy Chicken Nuggets, KFC has its Cheeto Chicken, Pizza places have all sorts of weird or otherwise unique pizzas... The list goes on.
All of these restaurants rely on getting people to try their new foods before they're gone forever (or at least for a long time).
And many people do.
Even if they wouldn't ordinarily care about the particular food item they ordered, the limited nature of it makes them want to try it just in case they could be missing out on something they love.
Additionally, limited offers create surges of popularity. McDonald's McRibs are incredibly popular, so by taking it away for a period of time, they paradoxically increase its popularity.
When people see that they're back, they buy them constantly to "get them before they're gone", instead of getting burnt out on them if they were available year-round.
Nothing demonstrates this concept more effectively than the Szechuan sauce that McDonald's brought back for a round two (for only one day) because of Rick & Morty featuring it in one of their crazed episodes.
People lined up preemptively and the sauce was rendered out of stock pretty much as soon as they started being served, and it's all because they wanted a taste of a "rare" (20-year-old) item on the menu.
Some people were following their inner collector instincts too.
The promotion was so successful that the sauce was pretty severely understocked (whether intentionally or not...) and McDonald's promised to bring it back for a much longer period of time in the winter.
But now that the sauce is once again gone, fans are still begging for its return. And you can guarantee that a return would once again bring a lot of traffic to McDonald's that they wouldn't otherwise get — even if the sauce isn't anything special in terms of taste...
Everyone enjoys interesting entities.
And copy is no different.
If you can make your copy sound cool, people are much more likely to read it in the first place.
But why? Wouldn't that wordplay just get annoying eventually? Well, it certainly can, but for the most part, it introduces some fun to an otherwise boring activity. If you use a pun or something that needs "figured out", people feel good from "solving" it.
On the other hand, with wordplay that focuses more on sounds than the words themselves, we find the patterns those sounds create incredibly satisfying.
It's a well-known fact that our brains are hardwired to find patterns wherever we can, even if they don't actually exist (like seeing shapes in the clouds). These patterns of sound thus scratch the itch and help us keep what we just read in our minds.
If you can craft an intro that gets stuck in someone's mind because it has a ring to it, they won't forget about your copy. They'll probably more interested in reading it.
You still want to convey information, of course, but your primary focus is simply making the hook sound good.
There are several ways to do this, but typically they all have at least one of alliteration, repetition, rhyming, or some kind of pun or joke. Basically, anything that we would consider wordplay.
Learn the art of high-converting copywriting here.
"Don't cry, stay dry! Tour our towel triangle and get three free freebies!"
Yes, I know this one is ridiculously cheesy and just generally awful, but it gets the point across. A strangely satisfying headline like that is bound to at least grab someone's attention, even if they're left feeling that it's terrible too.
You've probably bought Bounty paper towels before just because, you know, you needed some paper towels, and not because you care about Bounty specifically. But Bounty's motto that they use in all of their ads is a great example of this:
"The Quicker Picker Upper"
It's simple, and it's not really a hook per se, but if you can make something similar in your introductions, it'll have the same effect.
Repetition and similar-sounding, funny punny sentences and words are really fun to read, and if you can get someone started, because of open loops, they'll be more likely to finish.
"Imagine there's no heaven... It's easy if you try... Imagine all the people..."
A song lyric isn't relevant to copy, but the general theme of "Imagine" fits here. If you can paint the perfect future that comes from investing in your company, people will think "Huh, I want that future too." They'll be more willing to read into how that future becomes reality.
This is similar to presenting a solution upfront, except you're presenting what that solution does to change someone's life rather than the solution itself.
It's been shown that simply visualizing an outcome can incite action from us, so you can imagine how that might be effective when you're trying to get someone to invest in a product.
If you can get your potential customers to think deeply about how you can help them, they might see that thought as the actual future and take action to ensure that it happens.
"Imagine never having to clean your house again. With the power of a Roomba, this dream can become a reality!"
Yes, I know that Roombas aren't the be-all-end-all for cleaning, but they're good for this example. When you present the future (not having to clean), you immediately grab the attention of people that want that future for themselves.
Everyone's seen this Old Spice ad before, right? It's an old one, but a good one, back when they first rebranded from the "soap your dad uses," to "the soap boyfriends or husbands use."
And it's a fantastic example of getting people to imagine a certain kind of future. In this case, one where women love the scent, and men buy it because they know women like it. One where Old Spice is sexy again...
Early on, he says "Sadly, he (your husband) isn't me, but if he stopped using lady scented body wash and switched to Old Spice he could smell like he's me." This is pretty much a perfect example of the "paint the future" concept.
"Do you want X? Then do X!"
"Do you want your man to smell like me? Then have him switch to Old Spice!"
The future and the path to get to that future are clear. If that future interests you, the hook has successfully done its job.
By the way, so as not to end on an open-loop here, the verdict is out: Old Spice really is sexy again!
This isn't an exhaustive list by any means, but if you follow the format of at least one of these types, you'll end up with a hook that'll definitely catch fish.
Of course, sometimes you just can't come up with something that works well. Maybe the writing itself seems off, or maybe you can't incorporate it into the bigger picture.
Digital marketing consultants exist for a reason, so if you aren't sure of what to do, hiring one will probably save you more time and money than you would've spent otherwise.
Either way, if you just keep writing, you'll keep improving, so take our advice and run with it! You have all the time in the world to improve, so don't be afraid of failure.
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