Bob Sommers asked:
What’s a hook and why does it matter? Here’s the short answer. The title of your book, article, speech or sales ad is a hook and it’s designed to grab the attention of your reader. The longer and more appropriate answer is that a hook is the single most important piece of text you write to get people to read your book, article, speech or sales ad. Your hook is everything. If your hook does not immediately grab the attention of your reader, nothing else matters. Let me explain.
Joe Sugarman, the author of “Triggers,” is recognized as one of the nation’s top copywriters. According to Joe, the purpose of your hook is to get the reader to read the next line of text. Period. If your hook causes your reader to open your book or read your article or listen to your speech, it’s a good hook. If it doesn’t, you’re wasting your money.
Up until recently I spent very little time thinking about the title of my articles or the headlines of my Google ads. But all of that changed when my son and I started researching how to use social bookmarking sites to generate traffic to our website. What caused thousands of people to read an article entitled, “Headless Man Seen Running Through Southeast Asia” when only a handful of people took the time to read, “Writing A Hook?” Here’s what we discovered.
As human beings, we have a sense of wonder that causes us to act in a certain way. We’re told not to open Pandora’s box and we open it. We have an opportunity to prove the status quo wrong and we take it. We’re told about something that is contrary to our belief system and we challenge it. For example, did you know that it’s impossible to fold a piece of paper more than eight times and it doesn’t matter how big or thin the piece of paper is? It’s simply impossible.
As a marketing person, I don’t need to tell you to try it. You’re sense of wonder will take over and you’ll grab a sheet of paper and fold it seven times. Then you’ll grab a tissue and fold it seven times. And, if by some freak of nature you do fold it eight times, you’re going to make sure I know about your success. People who write great hooks understand how to take advantage of a person’s sense of wonder.
Here are five quick ways to grab the attention of your reader using their sense of wonder.
Start A Story.
This one gets me every time. What happened to Hansel and Gretel? Did the Big Bad Wolf catch Little Red Riding Hood? Who was the headless man seen running through Southeast Asia? I just have to know, and so do millions of other people.
Find a way to tell the first part of your story using no more than seven words and your readership will go up by a factor of ten.
How Is That Possible?
In the marketing world this is know as an unbelievable claim. How can a laser beam brighten your smile in less than five minutes? How is it possible that doctors can grow hair on a bald man using chicken feathers? Don’t you want to know? Of course you do. Your sense of wonder won’t let you stop until you find the answer.
Is there something amazing about your product or service that seems impossible? Use it to write a hook that engages your readers.
Mosquito repellants don’t actually repel mosquitoes? In every episode of Seinfeld there’s a Superman somewhere? Forty percent of all people who come to a party in your home will snoop in your medicine cabinet. I didn’t know that and I’d bet you didn’t either.
Disclosing information is a sure way to stir the sense of wonder. Better yet, it will cause people to read your article, book or sales ad.
The Biggest And The Best
Way back in 1996, John Travolta starred in the movie, “Michael.” The movie was about Michael the Archangel who was sent to Earth to mend some wounded hearts. Once his job was completed Michael was expected to go back to heaven. But before he left he took his entire cast of characters across the country to see the world’s largest everything. That included the world’s largest frying pan and the world’s largest ball of sting in Cawker City, KS.
It’s not just archangels who are interested in seeing and reading about the biggest and the best. Every human being wants to know what’s the world’s oldest or tallest or fastest.
Do you want the attention of Red Sox or Yankee fans? If so, here’s a hook that will grab them both. “Ten Reasons why the Red Sox are Better than the Yankees.” Or maybe you could entitle your article, “Ten Reasons why the Yankees are Better than the Red Sox.” Either way you’re going to get the attention of both. One person wants to read your article because they agree with the headline and the other wants to read your article because they disagree with it. Controversy sells.
So what does a headless man seen running through Southeast Asia have to do with writing a hook? You read the article didn’t you?