Open Loop: The Pro-Copywriter Secret that Keeps You Reading…
If you’re like me, then you have a few favorite TV shows.
After all, we’re kind of living in the golden age of great TV.
There are a lot of amazing series running, like Stranger Things, Ozark, Dark, Succession…the list goes on and on.
You may find these shows addictive, but have you ever asked yourself why?
What makes them so irresistible that you spend whole weekends on Netflix or HBO catching up?
What is it about them that glues you to the television for hours upon hours?
Part of the reason these shows are so addictive is because of their mastery of the copywriting concept of “the open loop.”
It’s an important part of what separates bad storytelling from binge-worthy tales.
And it can help make your copy for any other marketing material more effective.
In this article, I’m going to…
- Explain exactly what an open loop is and how you can use them to keep your readers on the edge of their seats.
- Show you 5 real-life examples of companies using open loops to hook their audience.
- Dive into the psychological concepts behind open loops and why once your prospects start reading, they won’t ever be able to click off your page.
Ready? Let’s start with the “story” of an open loop. You see, once upon a time….
What Is an Open Loop?
“An open loop is a concept that, in the telling of stories, drives our brains to naturally want to seek out some sort of conclusion. ”
For most people, it’s more well-known as a cliffhanger, a white-knuckler, a nail-biter (you get the point).
As I’ve said, TV writers today are experts in open loop storytelling.
They’ll introduce a character or a set of characters, develop them so the audience becomes connected and emotionally invested, and then launch them into some sort of a conflict.
Here’s a pretty decent diagram from UX Collective that shows what the process looks like.
And if you’ll notice, right when the conflict is at its peak intensity… enter the cliffhanger.
This is where the screen abruptly and agonizingly cuts to black.
Then, “Find out what happens next time on…”
We’ve all experienced that frustration before.
Naturally, you want to keep watching to find out what happens to those characters.
And that frustration at the lack of an immediate resolution is what compels you so forcefully to watch next week’s episodes.
The idea of an open loop, then, is that your brain feels a powerful urge to close the loop—to get resolution, an ending, closure.
How Can You Use Open Loop Marketing to Boost Sales?
Now, how does this all tie into marketing?
Well, we’ve talked at length before about how solid storytelling comes into play with your marketing.
And I’ve also shown you how storytelling can actually increase your audience engagement by 5X or more.
In fact, Visme found that a whopping 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story.
See, your customers don’t just want to hear about your product. They don’t want to be pitched or sold to either.
They want to hear about real people. They want to be involved in a story. They want their interaction with your brand to be memorable, interesting, and worth their time.
Now, I’m not saying that all of your emails, sales pages, and blog posts should be entirely focused on stories. At some point, people do want to hear more about your product and how what you’re offering can solve their problem.
But what an open loop does is it exploits that natural drive of your audience to close that loop and gets them to keep on reading—even if an open loop is started in one sentence and closed in the next.
Open loop marketing, then, is what keeps your prospects interested in what you have to say and what you’re selling.
Quick Anatomy of an Open Loop: 2 Examples from AutoGrow
We use open loops all the time for our clients, especially when it comes to creating high-converting landing pages.
And to better illustrate what an open loop can look like, have a look at this section of a landing page we created for a checklist we made for an AI development company.
Can you spot the open loops—the sections of copy that pique interest but don’t deliver the closure that most people will want?
This one’s pretty easy but just in case you aren’t sure, each of these bullet points…
- What is the reason 17% of IT projects can threaten the existence of your business?
- What are those 9 project management methodologies?
- What is that 1 end-of-project deliverable?
- What are those 10 development KPIs?
If you want to find out the answers to all of these questions, you have to download the checklist.
See how that works? It’s teasing what’s inside rather than coming right out and saying the answers.
And here’s another example of how we’ve used open loops to help build a high-converting lead magnet landing page for a social media referral company.
See those open loops at work again?
It’s why we’ve been able to bring in conversion rates on lead magnet landing pages as high as 86% for our clients.
And the sooner you start incorporating them into your copywriting, the sooner you can start seeing a jump in your conversions too.
How to Create an Open Loop
One way you can create an open loop is by introducing a bit of information at the beginning of your landing page, but not giving it all away. You’re being purposely coy.
So, for example, after a prospective customer subscribes to your email newsletter, you’re going to send your initial welcome email that’ll set the foundation that you’re delivering info that they want to read.
In that email, you may share, for example, an important case study in which you tripled revenue for a client or even saved a client from bankruptcy.
To hook in prospects, you’ll want to start by introducing the clients as real people. You might then allude to the problem, unveiling the story somewhat as the email progresses.
This creates the open loop because readers will become invested, both in the client and in what the solution to their problem was in the end.
To really get prospects on the edges of their seats, don’t give everything away in one email. Create cliffhangers like your favorite TV show does.
Why was your on-the-verge-of-bankruptcy client suddenly making 3X as much revenue?
How did your unique service or product turn everything around for them?
“Find out in next week’s email…”
By using open loop storytelling successfully, the prospect will actually be looking forward to your next email to see how the story resolves.
By doing this, you’re building emotional tension. And this activates several specific areas and effects within the brain that create more interest, attachment, and immersion in your story.
Your prospects become invested in the people in the story (your past real clients) and they are now eager to know what ends up happening to them.
One way that I’ve found helpful for structuring this type of open loop storytelling in email is following this format:
1. The first email introduces the story (including the real people or clients involved) as well as the problem they’re facing.
2. The second email elaborates on the issue even more, hitting on specific pain points (e.g., not bringing in enough clients), further difficulties those pain points have caused (e.g., missing revenue goals and are in danger of going under), and the lack of a clear, helpful solution (e.g., marketing agencies are too expensive, digital marketing is too confusing, and I don’t have the budget to hire my own team).
3. And finally, the third email presents the solution—your service or product (e.g., AutoGrow is the premier platform for delegating all of your digital marketing tasks without the high costs of hiring).
See how that works?
And when you structure each email on the progression of a story, your readers will not only learn more about your services. They’ll also be entertained, immersed, and actually look forward to your next email.
Now, let’s dive in-depth into 3 more examples of how companies are using open loops to boost their audience engagement and increase their sales.
3 Real-Life Examples of Open Loop Marketing You Can Learn From
Example #1: Andre Chaperon at Tiny Little Businesses & His Open Loop Email Strategy Course
My first example of an open loop in action is Andre Chaperon at Tiny Little Businesses. Chaperon is the creator of the Lucrative Email Strategy or LEM.
Chaperon does an excellent job and is extremely subtle in the way he creates open loops. Not only that, but he includes a direct sales proposition at the end of his loops, as displayed in this example.
I asked a fellow marketing expert his opinion on Chaperon’s AutoResponder Madness course, which is all about how to write effective email follow-up sequences.
He said the number one thing he took from the course was the power of the concept of open loops.
Chaperon’s LEM course is a free version of AutoResponder Madness. His goal is to get you to buy the AutoResponder Madness course.
Once you sign up for the LEM course, in his first email, Chaperon is not shy about putting it all upfront. He opens the loop on his product almost immediately.
In his email, he’s not pitching you right off the bat.
After a few testimonials, Chaperon kind of cuts it off there. The loop is still open, though.
Even if you’re not familiar with AutoResponder Madness, you’re still intrigued and excited by this point. You see these big names saying how this is an amazing course and that it’s worth a lot more than what you’re being charged.
You’re still not sure how much the course costs, but you’re excited nonetheless. You want to keep reading, but you can’t until the next email.
The loop is open in your mind. You’re asking questions like, how much does the course cost? Is this course right for me? What can I learn from it?
Chaperon’s conversational style helps to keep you reading as well. He keeps his sentences short and writes in a casual, conversational style (much like we do here at AutoGrow).
Beyond that though, Chaperon also uses a powerful teaser at the end of the email.
Did you catch it?
In a few days, Chaperon will be sharing his “evil experiment” with readers that let him sell “over 600 copies of a $67 product in ONE DAY.”
Evil? Experiment? More than $40K in revenue in a single day?
These are all designed to hook readers in so they practically have to open the next email.
And admit it… you’re curious, aren’t you?
Well, to find out what this experiment is, you’ll have to sign up for his course yourself.
Example #2: Neil Patel’s Image-Shattering Open Loop Subject Line
One of the best places to introduce an open loop in your emails is, of course, the subject line.
Just like headlines in ads or landing pages, the subject line is where most of the magic happens with email marketing.
And if you haven’t figured out how to create subject lines your subscribers can’t resist, it’s time to go back to the marketing drawing board.
Now, what does a subject line open loop look like?
Let’s take a look at an email from marketing guru Neil Patel as an example.
To set the stage a bit, Neil Patel is perhaps one of the biggest names in digital marketing.
He’s trusted by millions of readers, thousands of clients, and was even recognized by President Barack Obama as one of the top 100 entrepreneurs under 30 years old.
But when Neil sent out one email advertising a blog post he had just created, all that high esteem came crashing down (if only for a minute or two).
Here it is:
It turns out that Neil had been tangled up for a solid year in a class action lawsuit. Crazy, right?
The sheer shock of seeing that subject line in your inbox (from Neil Patel no less) was enough to get most people clicking “open” no matter what they were doing.
“What had this big-name marketer done to get wrapped up in a lawsuit?” they wondered—that’s the open loop.
Now, after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal defenses and 12 long months of stressing, Neil and his company, Kissmetrics, were eventually cleared of all charges.
And in addition to still being able to grow his company at the same time, Neil was also able to write a great article about the entire ordeal which would later appear on his website.
But the strategy behind this open loop (and the article in general) is ingenious…
Throw your readers off guard by shattering their expectations about you (e.g., I was in a giant lawsuit) and get them hooked enough to keep reading and click on your call-to-action (e.g., check out the new blog post).
So give it a try in your own emails.
And then sit back and watch your open rate grow.
Example #3: Frank Kern
Marketer Frank Kern has a way with words, but he’s much more of a fan of video.
Frank created the Behavioral Dynamic Response sales method—a marketing method designed to customize your messaging based on your prospect’s behavior.
He’s also made a video template for info-marketers who want to target specific niches.
When it came to promoting the video template series, Frank sent out an email that grabbed attention immediately.
The headline, which is “$13 Million per *hour*” immediately gets you curious.
You want to know, did Frank actually earn that much money? How? And most importantly, can you do the same if you follow his template?
Frank links you to the video in the email as well as embeds it at the top of the email. Much like the examples we’ve already discussed, Frank keeps some of the mystery in his first video.
Sure, it’s informative. But it doesn’t explain everything you need to know about his product (that’s the ol’ open loop for ya).
He mentions in his initial email that he’ll send out several more videos to those who watch the first. By staggering out his information, he’s able to grow interest more for each video.
And no surprise here, you can’t fully understand Frank’s product without watching all 3 videos.
Think of Frank’s product like a puzzle and the videos the puzzle pieces. If you only watched the first video or only the second, you wouldn’t have enough pieces to assemble the entire puzzle.
It’s only once you watch all three videos can you put the full picture together.
The open loop, then, is that if you want to cash in on these $13 million per hour industries, you’ve got to open all of his emails, watch all of his videos, and eventually, buy his product.
It’s a fantastic tactic that you can mirror to get your audience clicking open each time they see your name pop up in their inbox.
An open loop is like a type of path.
With solid, engaging writing and storytelling, you’re taking your prospect’s hand and leading them towards the destination—calling you for a consultation, opting in, buying your product, or some other similar goal.
If those goals are the destination, your open loop is how you get there and (importantly) how you keep your prospect walking along with you.
- Remember to space out the content in your emails. Don’t give everything away in the first message. An open loop should drive engagement and attention. That means slowly wrapping up your story over several emails.
- Include benefits and social proof like testimonials in your emails. These get prospects interested and invested in the “characters.” And as a result, your prospects will want to know what happens to them along the way.
- While longer messages are a great way to build up the emotional tension, don’t get too long-winded. Keep your sentences short and crisp. Write casually.
So, how have you used open loops in your marketing? Has this article helped you come up with any ideas for open loops of your own? What kinds of open loop strategies have you seen from other companies in the past?
Let me know in the comments below!
Keep convertin’, stay focused.