Ask anyone. The worst way to start on a writing project is a blank page.
That’s why top copywriters always suggest starting with a “swipe file” to generate ideas, and get something on paper to start the process…
Now, take a quick search online of “headline swipe files” and you’ll find a boatload of headlines to borrow form.
But what about opening lines? The first paragraph of your ad or letter…the sentence immediately following your headline/sub-headline/Dear Friend combination?
Remember your opening sentence (alternatively called the “lead”) is the second most important of all the other sentences you write. In fact…
Only your headline is more important!
Your opening line’s job is to help convert attention to interest. Most importantly, it needs to get the reader to read the NEXT sentence.
Lose the reader in your opening line, and you’ve lost them for good. They’ll toss your letter in the wastebasket, or click away to another website.
And if you lose the reader then, my friend…
You’ve just lost your sale! (Da-oh!)
Yup, your opening sentence is that important.
So check this out: Here are two powerful openings to swipe for your next sales copy project.
Read on to get ’em.
The “I Don’t Know How You Feel About” Opening
Here’s one I recently got from direct mail writer Mike McCormick. It goes something like this:
“I don’t know how you feel about [picture of benefits], but to me, …”
Here’s an example written by Mike for a letter promoting the Tourism Ontario board…
“I don’t know how you feel about walking on a chilly dawn beside a stream with scrappy trout you can see, but to me, that’s a pretty good definition of perfect.”
Why does this one work? I’m guessing it works because it’s honest and empathetic. It goes along with the rule of…
Writing to one reader at a time!
Remember, exactly one reader will read your copy at a time. This is true even if thousands read it. They’ll all read it individually.
And it’s impossible to know how your reader is feeling at any given moment. So you’re being honest! You don’t know how they feel about the benefits you’re describing. But you can tell them how YOU feel with sincerity.
Right away you are communicating to the reader you’re a trustworthy and caring person, who doesn’t TELL them how they SHOULD feel. This already sets you apart from 90% of your competition, who will rattle on to the prospect on how they’re supposed to feel about something.
But here’s the twist: You’re also painting a vivid picture of the payoff they’ll get from reading. (In the above example, it’s this part: “…walking on a chilly dawn beside a stream with scrappy trout…”)
And, you’re also making a promise to the reader. (In Mike’s letter, the promise is here: “…to me, that’s a pretty good definition of perfect.” The implicit promise is: You can expect to feel the same — that this is a perfect dawn to experience — after you read the rest of the letter.)
Let’s give it a spin for a different market…
“I don’t know how you feel about having a ‘crystal ball’ to accurately time the financial markets better than any analyst on CNBC, but to me, it’s been my secret to nearly 20 years of consistent trading profits.”
Oh boy. Here’s another I just pulled out of a hat:
“I don’t know how you feel about getting to choose whichever job you want in any industry and economy, but to me, it’s resulted in life of deep fulfillment and financial security.”
See how easy it is?
OK. Moving on to another killer opener…
The Famous “If-Then” Opening
The next opening line is famously advocated by John Carlton. It’s widely used by many other top copywriters too, including Scott Haines and Ben Settle.
Why do the big names use it? Simple. Because it WORKS…!
The basic template for this opening is as follows:
“If you’d like [specific benefit] then I believe this will be one of the most important messages you’ll ever read. Here’s why…”
The reason why it works? It makes a BIG promise. It promises the reader will gain insight into how to get specific benefits, just by reading the message.
Here’s Ben Settle using it for one of his recent sales letters…
“If you’d like to beef up your sales by as much as 100%, 200%, even 300% (or more)… using simple little emails you can type out in 15-20 minutes (or less), then this letter will show you how. Here’s the story:”
And check out this one from Scott Haines…
“If you’d like to have the ability to write ultra-profitable advertising copy… and… you’d like to have it in the fastest amount of time humanly possible… then I believe this will be one of the most important messages you’ll ever read! Here’s why…”
And lastly, one I wrote:
“If you are interested in ‘fast tracking’ your way to becoming a top person in your profession by eliminating your fears of public speaking forever, then you’ll want to read every single word in this message. Here’s why…”
But don’t forget, your copy must then fulfill upon these promises…otherwise the reader will feel “ripped off” — not a good idea when you’re trying to sell something!
And that’s why you need to immediately follow this sentence with a “here’s why” or “here’s the story”…and then start making good on your promise.
Remember: You’ve just made a fantastic promise. The reader is skeptical. He’ll read on maybe a few seconds more…if just to see if you’re full of it. Meanwhile, he’s holding his breath, in desperate hope to see if you can really give them what you’ve promised…
So don’t disappoint them. Don’t diddle-daddle. Get right into your pitch!
(See how Ben Settle does it in this letter here).
The bottom line is: Try the “If-Then” opening the next time you write sales copy. It’s done the job for the best, and I know it will work for you too!
Do you have any favorite openings to share? Let me know in the comments below.
P.S. If you’d like to learn even more about how to write copy that sells, I recommend you join the private Copywriting Code membership site. It’s packed with valuable copywriting lessons, and more are being added all the time. Click here to check it out.