By Karon Thackston – October 31, 2006
It’s one of the best pieces of copywriting advice I’ve ever been given. “As often as possible, start your paragraphs with sentences that hook readers and drive them deeper into the copy.” Why? Because — after the headline — the first sentence in any paragraph is what gets read most often. After that point, customers usually skip to the next section unless they feel compelled to keep reading. That means your job, as the copywriter, is to entice them into each segment so they will consume as much of your copy as possible.
Take your cue from Reader’s Digest. They crank out — issue after issue — exceptional opening lines for their articles that engage then hook readers. What happens next? The reader is pulled into the story full force. Here are some examples.
It was a horrific display of irreverence.
By the way she dressed, you would have never guessed she was only 14.
As he reached into the box, something inside it moved.
See? Those sentences boost your curiosity. They make you wonder what happens next. They cause you to visualize a scene that might be taking place. You can do the same thing from a marketing perspective when you write your copy.
For instance, rather than starting the copy for an email to Australian hotels like this:
“You may be aware of http://www._______.com – we are an Australian-owned and -managed online hotel booking service.”
Really capture their attention with an opening sentence that is specific to them like this:
“Now you have the opportunity to affordably position your hotel in front of approximately 6,000 travelers every day that are looking for accommodations exclusively in Australia.”
For an Australian hotel that depends on the Internet to generate reservations, that sentence gives them many reasons to keep reading.
Here are some other before-and-after examples of opening sentences.
BEFORE: Hello and welcome to our website. If you are looking for [enter product name here], you are at the right site. (In this case, the example is from a wedding photographer’s site.)
AFTER: We don’t take pictures. We capture precious memories that you can enjoy for a lifetime.
BEFORE: Our site has been online since 2000, and this marks our 6th year online providing designer-inspired sunglasses.
AFTER: How do you get the latest designer-inspired looks without paying outrageous prices?
BEFORE: Our cruise website offers unbeatable rates and a diverse array of travel services guaranteed to satisfy even the most discriminating vacationer.
AFTER: Just imagine yourself on the white sand beaches of Honolulu, hiking through the balmy rainforests of Belize or whisking down a powdery, snow-covered mountain in Aspen… all at up to 50% off!
BEFORE: Thank you for shopping for your corporate gifts at _________.com. We hope your shopping experience is delightful.
AFTER: When you truly impress your clients with distinctive corporate gifts, they remember you longer, feel a closer relationship and are more likely to reward you with increased sales.
See the difference? The “before” sentences are dull, average and unflattering. The “after” sentences are intriguing, imaginative and enticing.
Don’t stop after you create inviting headlines. Keep the momentum going by writing intriguing opening sentences, too. When you do, you’ll help convert more site visitors into paying customers.