Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article reflect the views of the participant and not of BusinessTown LLC.

Hi, I’m Andrew with HooktoWin.com. I am the coauthor of Hook: Why Websites Fail to Make Money.

The backstory is we ran an agency for about 10 years. We had clients who had the same questions:

  • How do we make money with our website?
  • How do we make things work for us?
  • Why is our website not working?
  • Why are people leaving right at the checkout, right when they have their money out and ready to buy?
  • What can we do to make it better?

What we did was we campaigned for them. We campaigned really well, turned things over to them, and then everything fell apart. We got tired of seeing that. So we started teaching them about these concepts, and then that got a little bit tedious because we kept repeating ourselves over and over. Then we decided to write a book and that’s what we have right now with Hook. It goes through all nine steps you need to be able to follow, not just with your website but really with marketing. How to make your business successful, how to perform at the level the elite players do, and the secrets they use to get the results they’re looking for.

We developed the principles around the way people normally buy. When you buy something, you want to see that it connects to you, that it relates to you, that the person selling it to you understands your problems and understands your language, your lingo, and how things work. It’s really not about a magical series of steps in marketing. It’s about human nature.

Knowing Your Audience

The first step is knowing your audience and this is the most important step as far as getting started. It starts with understanding your audience, which is Marketing 101. It’s really about who has the ability to pay and who has the willingness to pay. You need both.

There are a whole lot of details: demographics inside these two elements(their age, their income level, their gender), their psychographics (things like their interests, what sites they read, the thought leaders they follow, the things are interested in, what they do, what particular class they’re in, how they do things, what they expect, what scares them).

An understanding of all of these elements together gives you a pretty clear picture of whom you’re selling to and what they want. It also does things like tell you which sites to advertise on, how to speak to customers so they understand what you’re looking for.

Learn the Lingo

There’s a particular lingo with every group because every group has its own way of speaking about things. If you’re speaking to moms, they’re going to have a particular set of words they use describe certain things. In the mom community, for example, people use on forms things like “dear husband” and they write it as “D.H.” If you’re aware of that community, you know there’s a particular way to speak to them to match what they’re already doing.

Triggers

After that, once you actually know whom you’re targeting and really what they want, what they’re looking for, how they speak—all of that—you’re going to look for triggers.

Triggers are things that are just a basic part of human nature. Again, it’s how we are fascinated by things, what we’re attracted to, what we’re drawn to. It’s really the secret to getting attention. Prestige would be one element. Power is another. Mystique is another. Alarm is another. Rebellion. Trust. There are seven of them, and if you use them properly, it creates attention automatically.

You can’t help it. Take our recent election, for example. Donald Trump relies extremely heavily on the rebellion trigger. The insane things he talks about, the things he says, the off-the-wall comments he makes… it’s all a calculated move to be rebellious because that works for him. He does that over and over and it creates all this fascination and frenzy around him because people want to know, “How is this guy saying this, and why isn’t anything sticking to him?” It’s because he knows how to use rebellion well.

Bit Torrent put out a billboard, just a white billboard, with just a simple sentence. The sentence said, “Your information should belong to the NSA.” That was it. They didn’t tell you who they were, what they were about, what they stood for, anything.

People saw these billboards all over the country and they were honestly pretty freaked out. They were scared, they didn’t know why this was happening, who was behind this. It created this huge frenzy. People were trying to figure out who put this billboard up, why did they put it up and what was going on. It created a whole lot of automatic fascination just by leaving out the details of who, what, where, when, why, and how.

That would be mystique. If you know how to use these triggers and you know how to structure your stories or your marketing in the right way, then getting attention is easy. It’s just a matter of making sure you don’t abuse these.

Problems and Solutions

Once you actually have their attention you’re going to have to give them something substantial to be able to talk about. That’s where problems come in and solutions come after that. With problems, you are essentially giving people what they want. Most people when they do marketing think, “Okay, I’ve got to be positive, I’ve just got to present the solution, people won’t actually get it.”

Really the solution is supposed to do a different job. Problems create stress and anxiety. The solution is designed to relieve the stress and anxiety that the problem creates, which is why the solution should always follow the problem.

Social Proof-Are You Trustworthy?

Once you have the problem and solution, your target audience and your triggers laid out properly, then they’re going to say, “Okay, well I need to now evaluate your messages. I need to now figure out if you’re a trustworthy. Are you going to take my money and run? Are you a fly-by-night salesman or a snake oil salesman? What are you going to do with my money? Can I depend on you? Can I count on you?”

You have things like testimonials and that could be in the form of an actual customer posting a testimonial or review on the website about your product or service and say “Hey, these guys are really good. I use them and they came through for me in a big way.”

Another way would be through a social proof, where you have the “As Seen On” badges (we’ve been featured on this site or that site to on this TV commercial or that TV commercial). That is really helpful because then you get other people who are trustworthy to vouch for you because you’re unknown. Nobody knows who you are yet.

From there people have objections. They’ll say, “Okay, well, I’m interested, I’m mostly sold. I’m not all the way there yet.” The objections are really about figuring out what you’re going to do when potential disaster comes out. The objections usually come from a few different places. If you understand what the objections are and how to deal with them, then you know exactly what to do to relieve the stress and anxiety that comes with each objection.

The best thing about testimonials and your objections is that they’re designed to work together. If you can actually get a customer to leave objections in the testimonials themselves, then you’re killing two birds with one stone. Instead of them hearing it from you, which at first nobody cares about—every company says they’re the best or they care about you or whatever—but really what a customer wants to see is someone else who has spent the money, taken the risk and the time with you, and they want to see you’re going to take care of them, you’re going to look out for them, you’re going to give them what they need.

Objections and testimonials work together where they can see (a) how did this customer deal with these problems? and (b) what did this company do to solve those problems?

Risk Reversals

After that, it’s risk reversals. Risk reversals are things that are obvious and hidden, and they’re things that usually derail the sale. Right before people are going to buy something, they get cold feet. The risk reversals basically help them relieve more of the stress and anxiety have about making a mistake. They don’t want to look stupid. They don’t want to lose their jobs. They don’t want to lose an opportunity. They don’t want to lose their money. It’s all about avoiding loss.

Risk reversals will tell customers things like, “If this doesn’t work out for you, we’ll give you all your money back or double your money back or we’ll make it right.” There’s something that tells people, “If things don’t go well, I’m going to make this right somehow. I’m going to make sure that you’re restored to good standing.” It’s a justification and fixing things.

Uniqueness

After that you have your uniqueness. If you do everything else we’ve talked about so far, but you skip uniqueness, you’re really preparing your customers to go to the competition. You’re creating a better-trained customer who is more informed, more aware.

What they do is they will take that information that you’ve given them, all the training given them, and they’ll go to your competitors and say, “Okay, I’ve learned this and this and this. I’ve learned XYZ. I want that from you now.” Uniqueness is important because it gives you a tether to attach yourself to the customer. There’s one thing that the customer really wants and that not going to get anywhere else. They won’t get it from anyone else. It can be anything.

Domino’s Pizza is a great example of this. When they first came out, they had their slogan “Thirty minutes or it’s free.” At the time, their food tasted like cardboard. Everyone said Domino’s Pizza was terrible. But for hungry college students who didn’t have a lot of money and were hungry, Domino’s was great, and it would come within 30 minutes.

They promised that it would be 30 minutes or it was free. They actually combined the risk reversal with the uniqueness and that’s how they were able to quickly grow as fast as they did. The uniqueness ties people to you in a way that ensures that all you’ve done to prepare the customer is not lost. Once you have that, then you have a pretty compelling case as to why people can—or should—work with you.

Usually if your uniqueness is done well, then it often doubles as a moat. Warren Buffett talk about economic moats where this gives you a unique ability to fight off competitors. It doesn’t matter if people are coming in; they’re not going to be able to get rid of you.

Google has their unique search algorithm—it’s a huge, huge secret and everybody is always trying to figure how to game the system and Google keeps changing it, but it’s still a closely guarded secret. Nobody knows what it is. That is their uniqueness, the fact that they are able to give you within seconds very accurate, precise search results. Microsoft can’t do it. Yahoo can’t do it. It’s not the same as Google. This is why they’re obviously on top.

So that would be a uniqueness, a unique part of their business, what makes them special and valuable. It’s also something that doubles as a trade secret or a moat that helps them fight off competitors. Most people will say “We’re unique because we guarantee your satisfaction.” Really? Because everybody else says that. That’s not unique. It’s really about “What can I say as an entrepreneur that no one else can say legally?” Meaning if they say the same thing you do, and you’re truly unique, you can sue them or challenge them on this because that’s your thing—that’s not their thing. That’s what you’re looking for.

Presentation

The last of the nine steps we talk about is presentation. Presentation is huge because without good presentation, you won’t even get a chance to speak. You won’t get the chance to make your case, your problems or solutions. Nobody cares about your testimonials or objections or any of that. Presentation is huge because it sends immediate signals—a huge, broad, wide variety of areas. It tells people about your competence.

The colors you choose for your website deliver a subtle message about your competence with regards to design. It tells people about whether your all about quality or if you’re just good enough. (“Just buy it from us; it’s good enough.”) It’s also about other factors, like for example, classism. It’s the last uncomfortable but accepted prejudice in Western culture. With classism, there’s all kinds of social signals that people will give and send. It is really about in- groups and out-groups.

Are you like me or are you like them? And if you’re like them, I don’t want to work with you, so get out of here. Everything you do, from the way you speak to the way you move to the way you act, the things you’re interested in, your hobbies… all of this communicates very clear messages. Presentation actually works incredibly closely with your target audience research. If you do that properly, you will be able to present yourself properly.

Every group has its own values, its own norms and rules you’re expected to follow. If you’re part of the group, you’re expected to know. There’s no primer. There’s no tutorial. It’s just that if you grow up as part of this group, you will know the rules. If you are not part of the group, you simply won’t know the rules.

If you look at a car ad for a luxury car manufacturer, they never really say anything. They don’t tell you much about what the car can do, what it’s going to give you, whether it’s good quality. They don’t really say anything. They just put their idea out there and then you’re just supposed to figure out if you’re part of the group. You know what they’re saying automatically.

Whereas, if you are not part of the group, it’s going to look stupid—like, “This guy just wasted a ton of money and what for?” But if you’re not part of the group, you’re not going to get it. Whereas if you’re in the middle class and you see a car ad for the working class option or deal or incentive, it’s going to be something about pricing and value in ownership and control because that’s what they want. You have to know how to operate within all these environments.

It seems intimidating, but really it’s just a step-by-step thing. It’s more like one block builds on top of the other and you kind of go from there. Then as you continue to do that, then it’s easier to speak their language and to come off as someone who actually knows what you’re talking about.

So those are the nine things that we usually cover. Some people have this intuitive sense that they’ve kind of figured this stuff out on their own. You want to have a clear plan you can follow so you can say, “Okay, I know how this works and know why it’s important. Now how I make this work for me?”