An opening is the first paragraph that appears right after the headline or sub-headline. It’s sometimes called a hook, because that’s what it does: it hooks readers and motivates them to stay on the page.
Your opening might be
… a startling fact: “The rules of managing money have changed in the last six months.”
… a question: “Are you ready for …”
… the first sentence of a story: “It wasn’t so long ago. I was working as a productivity coach. As part of my coaching, I would ask my clients, ‘What’s your morning ritual?'”
There’s one opening that can be especially tricky.
“If you’re on this page, you’re probably searching for a …”
Or, “You’re probably looking for someone to show you the best way to save for retirement…”
Or we might see a variation without the “probably:”
“You’re looking for someone to dig deeply for the real reason people choose your brand.”
This “we assume” opening needs to be used with care because you’re telling your reader’s story. If you know your audience well, your readers will recognize themselves. They’ll say enthusiastically, “That’s my story!”
But when you impose your own story on your audience, you can get pushback.
One relationship coach sent an email marketing message that began, “I bet you’re looking for a new relationship!” One of her readers posted in social media, “I’ve been happily married to the same person for thirty years. That was a quick unsubscribe.”
It’s like a friend saying, “You’re probably going to be watching the football game on Monday,” when you loathe sports and are more likely to attend the opera.
You can also attract the wrong audience.
Recently I got an invitation to attend a networking event. The organizer wrote, “If you are hesitant about attending, answer this simple question: Aren’t you tired of networking that fails to produce results? At [our event], expect to leave with a new contact that just might turn into a client or business partner for years to come.”
Now as it happens, I really enjoy networking. But I’m not sure I want to go and meet people who are tired of attending networking events! Maybe they’re just not good networkers.
Besides, does the organizer really want to fill a room with people who are worn out with networking? I suspect not.
So what can you do instead?
The simple fix: Replace assumptions with questions, hypotheticals and multiple scenarios.
That’s why many copywriters begin by asking, “Can you relate to these scenarios?”
Hypotheticals read like this:
If you’re an entrepreneur, and you’ve ever felt overwhelmed by all you have to do, you may have been advised to hire an accountability coach.
Or they present exemplar scenarios, as I do on this sales page for my Become A Copywriter course:
Mary, who’s bored to tears with tech writing and wondering if she’s creative enough to write sales copy
Bill, who’s had it up to here with life in the corporate cube, and wants to start copywriting “on the side” as the first step to self-employed freedom
Suzanne, who’s done some copywriting and can’t figure out how to expand into a full-time, lucrative business
Or they identify their target in a straightforward way, “This message is for you if you’re ready to find your soulmate.” That way you politely exclude the readers who found a soulmate, or who feel their cat is all the soulmate they want right now. You honor the reality that not everyone will share this story.
BTW, if you’ve never worked with me before, and you’re looking for some fast answers to your marketing questions, let’s start with a laser consultation. In just 45 minutes we’ll solve your top marketing challenge — whether it’s a copywriting review, a search for your best story or a big-picture strategy question. Click here to learn more.