Spewing Hype vs Inspiring Action

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A reader asked…

Q: How do I write effective sales copy without losing my genuine voice or coming across too hypey?

Good question. “Hype” can be a subjective term, so…

A: Let’s start by defining hype.

Hype is short for hyperbole, which in sales copy can be identified as…

– desperate calls for attention
– over-the-top promises
– shouting without substance
– making bloated claims
– pushing the boundaries of truth
– aggressive and condescending tones
– flat out lying
– bullying and manipulating

It’s easy to agree that these and other elements of “hype” copy are unappealing. However, instructing your readers and prospects to take an action is not hype, it’s a mandatory piece of the communication.

For instance, at the end of a blog post, you could simply say “hope you enjoyed this…” and allow your reader to stumble away and find something else to think about.

Or you could do what masters of engagement like Marie Forleo do at the end of a post… “challenge” readers to tell about their experience with an issue relating to the post they just read.

A small shift that spurs radical results. Marie’s comments reach beyond the hundreds on just about every post.


Engagement increases loyalty and growth

Yet, asking for “action is a common hangup people have about selling and communicating. They mistake using proven copywriting tactics like…

– bold headlines
– big promises
– confident claims
– praise from customers or colleagues
– emotional storytelling
– identifying a common enemy
– genuine scarcity
– creating a strong desire to act

… as “hype”, when, if done with sincerity, these are fair and necessary tactics of solid direct response copywriting.

These are important distinctions because a lot of people confuse “sincere” with “boring”.

And, believe me, as much as you and everyone you know insist they hate “hype”, you would instinctively choose it over boring any day of the week.

So, my suggestion for avoiding hype is to first identify hype.

Some things you think of now as hype, may just be tools you need a little practice handling.

It is possible that your voice and persona needs to grow more confident before you can lead your best prospects to the action that is best for them?

Remember what my man John Carlton says If you’ve created something that you KNOW will help your prospect solve a problem and improve their lives, then shame on your for not doing everything in your power to make sure they hear your message..

That should help you get past this worry about coming on too strong.

In a nutshell, my advice for developing your voice is this:

Be yourself, but be the boldest version of yourself possible.

Now I want to hear from you (wink) … tell me which emails or websites you interact with always seem to get you taking action, and why.

To better action!



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Kevin Rogers
Kevin Rogers
Kevin Rogers is a stand up comic turned copywriter and now a copy chief. Kevin is also a best-selling author of The 60-Second Sales Hook. He created Copy Chief to bridge the gap between biz owners eager to improve their sales conversions and copywriters eager to show off their hard-won copy chops.
Showing 11 comments
  • Reply

    Great stuff!! I struggle with the balance of not always communicating the bolder side —

    • Reply

      Hard to believe that’s an issue after being around JDC, Adrienne 🙂

      Glad you enjoyed the article though.


  • Anthony Merizzi

    Like your ‘hype’ definition list, Kevin. Reminds me of a former client of mine who often pushed for rewrites from the mindset that “overblown, hypey copywriting is absolutely the best thing EVER!!”

    Fortunately, a valuable product usually sells WAY better with a strong line-up of substantiated benefits… AND a few direct calls to action scattered throughout the copy, of course. Seems to me that’s a better use of your power to make sure they hear your message. Well put, thanks!

    • Reply

      Hey Anthony… ya, it’s always a struggle for balance. Hype may win more instant results, but quickly wear down your customer’s trust. It’s like in stand-up comedy… you want to open with a bang, but you’ve got to be able to “follow yourself”. So how you spread your fire power throughout the message is key.

      Thanks for writing.


  • Bruce Wesley Chenoweth

    That is a good hype list to work from. That said, my experience is that the definition of hype differs for every person.

    Some people are so fearful that they might “get the wool pulled over their eyes” that they won’t believe that it is morning until they get out of bed and go check the position of the sun. Others will immediately and faithfully believe the same person who lied to them 98% of the times before.

    Both ends of the distribution (bell) curve take way too much time and energy for me. I aspire to target the mean plus or minus 10%. These are the 20% that buy 80% of anything. A respected friend referred to this group as “participating skeptics.” They require reasonable evidence, but when they get it they are ready to buy. They expect a sales presentation to do some “puffing.” Without a bit of it they sense a lack of confidence in the seller. They expect to get slightly less than they were promised. If we consistently deliver more than they expected, they are “our people” from then on.

    Like you, Kevin. you always deliver more than expected.

    • Reply

      Thanks, Bruce. You’re kind. And you’re correct… there’s a pretty short spectrum of skepticism and your prospects live all up and down it. What I’ve always found interesting – back in the phone sales days – was the people who put up the most resistance up front, were actually the best buyers. It’s just about getting past that initial barrier of protection and earning trust so the conversation can continue.

      These days we do this with emails and video, but the rule is the same… quality and consistency is the key.

      Thanks for your note.

  • Brian McCarthy

    Those short, Dean Jackson-esque 9-word emails get me. The ones from people I already know/like/trust that are just like “Hey Brian, tell me your thoughts on X” Especially when they throw in a P.S of “by the way I read every reply”. I guess the brevity just makes it personal… so I feel like a jerk if I don’t reply. :p

    • Reply

      Yeah, Brian… that’s the psych insight to these. For many people NOT answering creates an open loop. I’ve had so many responses saying (with a wink) “Damn you, Rogers! Now I have to answer…”

  • Reply

    Yesterday a door-to-door window salesman knocked on the door. (He makes number 2 or 3 this year).

    His offer? Free estimates for new windows, to be conducted the next day. I tried to explain I wasn’t in the market right now …

    …. but he barreled over me, just kept talking, pushing why the free estimate was no obligation … and I should really take it.

    And although I consider he and I to be part of the same sales brotherhood, the pushing got to me, and I had to cut him short. (I even had to break out the “let me finish, please” since he kept interrupting me! He was a young guy, may have been a little nervous, so I tried to do it with a smile.)

    I consider this kind of broadcasting-without-permission bad form.

    In fact, even though I’m not in the market for new windows, I would have welcomed a little buzz about the special energy efficient windows that only they can provide. The money I could save. Tax credits.

    Maybe even if he had brought a little “grabber” to leave with me — a small wedge of his ultra-efficient glass that I could hold in my hand (ahhh, the good old days of “sampling” Claude Hopkins style.)

    A little taste of the benefits to whet my appetite for that free estimate offer. Then I might have said, what the heck? Why not get the free estimate?

    Less whiskers, more cheese.

    And make it tasty cheese.

    • Reply

      So true, Scott. Door-to-door feels more like a threat than a gift these days. The art has been dying a slow death along with general standards of mutual (and self) respect.

      You might get a kick out of this video I shot with my friend Lou who was selling storm windows at the time…


      • Reply

        That was a hoot! (Loved when Lou channeled De Niro at the 4:35 mark: “You realize how sad my kids are going to be” — (De Niro open-mouth pause) ” “if I don’t bring home the sale tonight?”

        Lot of great tips, too. Thanks for the share — great reminder for me to remember that nervous tension we feel when someone is asking usto buy. Now I need to actually spend money? But what if … (fear of making mistake, etc ensues.)

        I’ve got to remember that state of mind next time I write the close of a sales letter — especially since it’s easy to get fatigued at that last point and phone it in. (“I’ll just throw in a crossroads close and I’ll be done.”)

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