How to Catch Fish with Strawberry Shortcake

Can you catch fish with strawberry shortcake?

Apparently not.

Dale Carnegie was quoted as saying that while he loves to eat strawberry shortcake, when he goes fishing, he does not use it for bait. Instead of using the food that he’s obsessed with for bait, he chooses to bait his hooks with something he’d detest eating – worms. Why?

Because that’s what the fish love to eat.

So how does this bit of whimsy translate to better marketing and more sales for your business? Two ways:

1.     If you want to make more sales to more customers, one of the most effective ways to do this is to use a bait piece.

2.     In order to maximize your results, your bait piece should focus on the kind of bait that “tastes best” to your customers

So let’s dig a bit deeper into how you find the best tasting type of bait and use it to create a bait piece that results in an optimal increase to your sales.

First things first – what exactly is a bait piece?

A bait piece is something you give to prospects or customers in exchange for them giving you some type of information. With prospects, this usually means a free report, white paper or video packed with highly useful information that they feel is valuable enough to willingly trade their contact information for.

With customers, a bait piece is typically used to convince them to take a look at a new product or service. For example, you might offer a free report, white paper or video in exchange for the customer taking a demo of your new software.

What makes the use of a bait piece so effective?

In the first point above, I stated, “If you want to make more sales to more customers, one of the most effective ways to do this is to use a bait piece”. But the logical question is, Why is a bait piece so effective?

The answer is actually quite simple. By offering your prospects or customers compelling information in the form of a free report, white paper or video, you fly beneath the radar and get far more response than you would with a direct offer for your product or service.

As long as the bait piece focuses on information your prospects or customers value, because there is no fear of being pressured to buy something, response will always be far greater than when pitching your product or service. In fact, the response can be as much as ten times higher.

In addition, a strong bait piece allows you to further bond with your prospects and customers and become known as a source of valuable information, not just another vendor asking them to buy, buy, buy. So you increase your credibility and gain additional trust and respect.

How to determine what bait “tastes best” to your prospects and customers

In order to get the greatest response to your bait piece, it should feature the kind of information that your prospects and customers find to be the most valuable.  While that might sound obvious, if you look at many of the white papers businesses are using in an attempt to generate more sales, most are self-serving and focus on topics that are of marginal interest to the majority of their target prospects or customers.

Why does this happen so frequently? Primarily because these bait pieces are little more than thinly disguised promotional pitches. But don’t kid yourself. These days, people have very finely tuned “b.s. radar detectors”. And they can smell a disguised sales pitch a mile away.

If you choose this approach for your bait piece, you’re practically underwriting your own failure. Fortunately, there’s a highly effective alternative and it’s easy to create.  All it takes to create a riveting bait piece – based on those topics that are of the highest value to your prospects and customers – is to ask the following “ultimate bait piece” questions:

1. What is the single greatest problem the majority of my prospects and customers are experiencing right now?

2. What is the single most important goal the majority of my prospects and customers would like to achieve right now?

Pull out a sheet a paper for each question or open a document for each question. Write the question at the top and then list as many answers as possible for each of these “ultimate bait piece” questions.

Next, let them sit for a few hours or overnight and then review all of the answers you’ve listed. Pick the single most compelling answer from either list and you have the ideal topic for creating a powerful, compelling bait piece.

How to avoid strawberry shortcake disguised as real bait

One of the biggest mistakes I see companies making with their bait pieces is holding back. You see, when you use the “ultimate bait piece” questions to identify the most compelling topics, it may be tempting to avoid the best topics for fear of giving away too much valuable information. So instead of going with the best topic possible, you choose a secondary topic – but that secondary topic can’t touch the ideal topic in terms of drawing power.

By holding back this way, you severely depress the response to your bait piece. And this takes a toll on increasing your sales.

The truth is, by focusing on the ideal topic and giving away far more than your prospects or customers would have expected, you don’t kill your chances of doing further business at all. You actually increase it.

While this may seem counter intuitive to give so much away freely, what actually ends up happening is that your prospects and customers read or view your information, benefit from it substantially, and either consciously or unconsciously come to the conclusion, “Wow, if Joe is giving away this much for free, I can only imagine how great his stuff is that I’d have to pay for.”

That type of conclusion can only lead to a greater number of sales!

What length should your bait piece be?

There really is no set length for a great bait piece. The guideline to use instead is, “How long must my bait piece be to deliver the value I’ve promised?”

Many years ago, when I was a freelance copywriter one of the most effective bait pieces I used was a 4-page report called, “The ‘Heart Attack’ Secret for Writing Great Headlines.” Four pages was all it took to cover this topic in complete detail. And the report was so compelling that it was passed along many times by just about everyone who saw it, creating a strong viral buzz and blowing up the response.

On the other hand, the most successful bait piece I’m currently using is an ebook called “10-Minute Business Success”, which features interviews with leading experts sharing short but powerful business building insights. That ebook currently clocks in at over 150 pages and because I regularly add more interviews with additional experts, the size will continue to grow.

So bottom line, the length of your bait piece is always determined by the space required to deliver the value you’ve promised your prospects and customers.

How your bait piece translates to actual sales

Generating actual sales with your bait piece couldn’t be easier. At the end of your report, white paper or video, include a short “About Your Company” blurb. Give a bit of information about your company and the products or services you offer.

Follow that with a way for the prospect or customer to get more information on a specific product or service, such as, “To find out how to take five strokes off your golf game, be sure to check out our “Putting Skills” DVD by Jim Fenstermeister, three time putting champion. You can get all the details at”

However, it’s critical to keep this very low key. If you make a hard pitch, your prospect or customer is likely to feel tricked. And that’s never good for business.

The moral of the story

You may not be able to catch fish by using strawberry shortcake as bait. But you can catch a lot of prospects and customers – and substantially increase your sales – by using the right bait piece.

[Ed. Note: This article is part one of Bob Serling’s 15-part series of Brain Fuel Bulletins. You can get the entire series for free – along with a free ebook of business building advice featuring interviews with, Open Table, Dr. Robert Cialdini and dozens of other experts. Just go to to receive all of these materials at no charge when you use the pass code “3110”.]