How to Hook Your Audience after the Headline:
Creating that Perfect Lead so Your Readers Keep Reading Your Copy

After you have your headline, the next part of your copy or sales letter is called either the "hook" or the "lead."

The second most important part of your sales letter is the hook or lead. It "hooks" your reader into reading more. It "leads" your reader into reading more.

That part right after your headline builds on your headline. It shows the reader, delivers on your big promise. How? Well, you have to create word pictures. You show the reader with these word pictures that you can deliver on your headline.

Or you have to find something about the true story behind the product or thing that is screaming out to be told to others - and that others want to hear because it's just freaky amazing and/or promises to lead the reader into a story that's bigger than life.

What's the Main Idea?

The hook or lead also starts in on the big idea behind the headline. That big idea also helps support your headline. So you paint word pictures with your big idea, you paint word pictures of the possible future after using your product or service. You use word pictures to build with.

You tell the reader with word pictures that your product or service will give them the result that they're looking for.

"Imagine walking the white sands of Panama City Beach, without a shirt, soaking in the rays and being proud of your body. Your stomach is trim and cut. Your hips help form that perfect hourglass figure that men adore. Your thighs are sleek, muscular and make other women stare in jealousy. And make men's mouths drop and their mouths water...

"This is what's happened to Gloria Smith from Someplace, Alabama just 4 months after starting the Hey-Hoss Diet developed by Dr. Futhermucker in New Wales, Poland."

(Really though, you have to check out John Carlton for the greatest hooks ever.)

You let the reader know, even more, what's in it for me? Why should she continue reading your letter after you've gotten her attention with the headline? You have to develop that interest.

The AIDA Formula

Oh, I don't think that I've mentioned the basic formula for advertising. Well, here you go: AIDA. It stands for Attention, Interest, Desire, Action.

First you have to get your prospect's Attention.

Then you have to develop an Interest in your product's benefits or results.

Then you have to create a strong Desire for those benefits or results.

Then you have to get the prospect to take some specific Action.

Don't think that that's all there is to it, because there's techniques to building the whole process that have been honed over time to practically force the reader to take the action that you want. There's different "formulas" (so to speak) to enhance that want, and turn it into a strong NEED that will very definitely aid their survival and progress toward their goals.

The AIDA formula is the basis behind every single "formula" today and tomorrow and all the tomorrows that follow.

The Hook or Lead is the I of AIDA

You've already gotten the reader's attention with the headline. The hook or lead builds on the I, the reader's Interest.

There are several types of Hooks or Leads that have proven effective over time.

You can state the offer (again if the offer was the basis of your headline). You do this with word pictures. Not just, "You can be trimmer in 4 months for just $4.95 a month." But like the above example, just add the offer. Paint a picture in words.

"For the price of one lunch at a fast food joint each month, you can..." or
"The first 4 months for less than the cost of one night out to the movies!"

So use word pictures and talk in the future.

You can make a prediction about the future. One that paints a picture of the reader or something that will affect the reader in the near future. Something that could either threaten or enhance his or her survival.

"The Total CRASH of the Stock Markets in 2005 will create widespread unemployment, poverty on an unheard of level in the U.S., and create an inflation like that of the 1970s. You can protect yourself starting today...."

You can challenge a common myth that people typically have. Again, paint a word picture and prove that myth wrong.

"You thought spinach was the vegetable with Iron, but you have to eat 12 cans a day to get your daily recommended allowance of Iron...." and you proceed to prove it.

You can start telling a story for your lead or hook. Personal stories usually are the best type, but you can tell another's story if you want and test it. Paint word pictures with your story, too.

"In 1996 the FBI practically blew up the front door of my neighbor's home. They tore through the house, scattering papers, furniture, breaking dishes and other valuables. One of them even stole family jewelry - and there was nothing my neighbors could do about it!

"There was no recourse possible. They couldn't sue the FBI (They consulted with 29 different attorneys who all said the same thing.) They couldn't do a thing. Total helplessness.

"All because of faulty investigation on their part. All because of a hacker stealing their phone line late at night doing illegal bank transactions.

"I couldn't help but wonder, What if that hacker had chosen MY phone line?"

"Now, I can understand wanting to catch the hacker, but what I couldn't understand was why there was no recourse my neighbors could take against the FBI.

"Now I do understand. And I know that all 29 attorneys were wrong in saying that there was no recourse possible. THERE IS. After 4 years of digging and researching..."

Okay, so that was fairly dramatic, but I hope you get the idea. Tell a story to the reader that directly influences their thoughts, that directly threatens their future survival (possibly), that shows strongly enhanced survival. And create mental pictures using words.

You can impart news or information that's not commonly known and that's like a whirlwind. Paint word pictures with the news or information or data or statistics.

Tell the person what the statistics mean to them, how it will affect their lives.

In the future.

"How will your prospects find your web site online? Consider these facts:

  • There's over 3.1 million new pages added every single day to the Internet! Even the fastest and best search engines, like Alta Vista, can only add or check on 2.4 million every day - and they have the very best equipment that money can buy. The very best!
  • The most conservative estimates on e-commerce growth put that growth at over 600% per year at least until 2005! Hmm. That's fast. How much of that growth do you want?
  • The number of businesses going online is growing at over 1300% per year. What that means for you is that even though what's being bought online is growing in dollar amounts, the number of businesses that are truly succeeding online might not be growing.
  • Only 1 in 200 corporate web sites is an actual profit center for the corporation. Even with all that high tech, huge promotional and marketing budgets, access to the very top people in the industry, 199 of 200 are losing money with their web sites!
  • The number of individuals earning a living online is even worse. Only 1 in 5200. So your individual success is even less than the already paltry results of big business.

"So how does the big picture of all this look in the future? Well, for every dollar that is being bought online today, there's going to be over $1100 being spent. BUT for every business online making that money today, there will be 16,103 businesses trying to get that extra $1105 by the year 2005! So your marketing and promotion then will have to be at least 14 times more powerful then than today. You'll have to spend 14 times more money to get the same results.

"At least using common methods of promotion..."

There are a couple of other types that aren't usually as effective and take a lot more work, but you have above the main proven types of hooks and leads.

Practice each one a couple of times with your own business. Introduce the big idea and develop on the promise in each of the hooks or leads that you write up. They don't really have to be long. Check out what others have done in other sales letters. (Like the sales letters in the Tools & Resources section below.)

Make sure that you use word pictures to stimulate the motivations that you chose from the motivations tutorial. Make sure that all of the other basics are IN.

See how each one seems to go with the various headlines that you wrote up.

You'll quickly see what seems to go best in your particular business.

Links for This Section:
| The Copywriting Tutorials Index |
| What is Copywriting? | The Basics | The Emotions |
| The Headline | Lead or Hook | The Body |
| Building Benefits | Subheads | Why You? |
| Building Credibility | The Withdraw | The Close |
| Creating Urgency | The Guarantee | The P.S. |
| The Order Form |

© 2002 by Russell Burnham. All Rights Reserved.
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