The 60 Second Sales Hook can ignite a timid prospect into action. Or it can freeze ‘em faster than the Ice Bucket Challenge – if you’re telling the wrong story.

In a sec, I’ll give you a simple rule on how to chose which story to tell.

First, a brief refresher of the Hook by way of The Lord Of the Rings. (Mostly because I want an excuse to geek out about LOTR.)

The Hook starts with an IDENTITY, naming the hero. Meet Frodo Baggins.

Then comes the STRUGGLE. The Ringwraiths invade into the Shire, destroying Frodo’s peace and comfort.

Just when things get darkest, we see the promise of hope and life in the form of a DISCOVERY. If you cast the Ring into the Cracks of Doom, Evil shall vanish.

Finally, once the discovery has been grasped with both hands, life is renewed and we have the RESULT.

The Ring is destroyed and the King has returned, to protect us with strength in his hands and wisdom upon his brow.

This story pattern is imprinted on the neuro-architecture of our brains. That’s why the 60 Second Sales Hook, despite its deceptively simple nature, can be found in everything from “about us” pages to novels to songs.

But, a big concern I’ve heard from people is:

What if I don’t have a story to tell? What if I offer a service that never helped me?

This is a common problem. And ironically, it’s a problem faced often by marketers and copywriters.

For example, let’s say you’re a marketing consultant with the secret sauce for effortless lead generation.

Your goal is to help small businesses – like local salons – ramp up their marketing. But you’re not a salon owner.

So what? You might think. I hold the tools that will help them succeed.

All well and good, but if you frame your offer in terms of your magic power, you’ll likely lose their interest. You end up “talking shop.”

The temptation for many of us is to get all giddy with the discovery that powers our work. For example, I might want to say “I used to struggle writing copy until I discovered Eugene Schwartz’s Levels of Awareness.”

But my clients may not care what makes the copywriting process click.

They’d rather hear about a struggle they can relate to … like someone whose copy couldn’t sell free water to desert-dwellers. But now, thanks to Ace Copywriter, they have more orders than they can handle.

So the solution is simple. Instead of telling your story, you tell the story of a client you helped. Then you take the role of the “Guide.” Instead of Frodo, you’re Gandalf.

This idea – make your customer the hero – is advice you’ve probably encountered. You’ll hear it, for example, from Donald Miller in his excellent StoryBrand workshop product.

But I don’t think this advice is always true. Sometimes you should be the hero of the story. Your story can have immense power – if you’ve walked in your customer’s shoes.

The key is the STRUGGLE. If you struggled with the very same problem as your customers, then you should be the hero. Because then you’re not bragging – you’re simply a stand-in for them. You’re showing them how it’s possible.

But … if you didn’t have that particular struggle, then you won’t win points boasting about your genius.

Far better to tell the tale of one of your happy customers.

So I think it breaks down to a simple rule:

If you’re selling a service or product that transformed your life – and it’s this transformation that the client wants — tell your own story.

Examples would include a diet that melted the fat from your belly … a spiritual awakening that granted meaning to your earthly existence … or a doohickey that lets you get stuff done in the kitchen a bazillion times faster.

But, if you sell a service or product that’s more of a “done for you” – where you create result X for someone else – tell the story of one of your happy customers.

For example, if you deliver investment advice, marketing or business consultation, or even an afternoon of entertainment like a magic show.

Ultimately, of course, we want the customer to picture herself wining the RESULT we promise. To do that, we need her to empathize with someone who’s already done it. That someone can be one of your other clients.

Or it can be you, if you’ve overcome the same struggles faced by your prospect.


Make the “Hero” of your story the person who has the happiest ending.

Want to perfect your sales story? Join Copy Chief and get the full 60-Second Sales Hook training, plus unlimited live coaching for only $79/mo.

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