It can be difficult to come up with a first paragraph for your sales letter or squeeze page. But if you get it right, the first sentence of your copy is like the first step on a staircase: It sets the tone and establishes expectations for what’s coming next.
So how do you craft an engaging first paragraph? Here are ten things that will help you land readers from the very start:
1. Keep it short
The shorter your first paragraph is, the more likely people will read it in its entirety. That means writing just enough to intrigue them but not so much that they lose interest before finishing.
No one likes scrolling through paragraphs of text! The famous Wall of Text is a conversion killer. Instead, use a first paragraph that’s no more than two or three sentences long.
2. Capture attention instantly
The first sentence of your first paragraph needs to hook readers right off the bat.
Start with a first question or “what if” statement. The first strategy for first sentences is asking a first question or using a first ‘what if’ first statement. This strategy works very well for first paragraphs.
An easy way to start your first paragraph is to simply ask a first question that you can answer in the rest of your first paragraph. A first question or first “what if” kind of statement will naturally draw readers into your copy.
You can also do this by using one of these attention-grabbing techniques:
A puzzle – The first sentence of your first paragraph should pose a question or challenge the reader to do something.
A startling fact – Start your first paragraph off with a piece of conversation-starting information that will pique your reader’s interest
An anecdote – To make people feel like they’re not alone, use an anecdote (a brief story about what happened to you or someone else when they first found your product or service) to show them that others have gone through similar struggles.
A specific example – Instead of just saying, “Our product is great for anyone looking to save money this month” try telling one concrete story of how it worked for a particular person.
3. State your offer first
When you first mention your product, don’t waste time on a lengthy description (that can get skipped over anyway). Instead, simply say what it is and save the details for later.
People will be more likely to read the rest of your copy if they first know what they’re getting into.
4. Tie into emotion
If you people to keep reading or even buy from you, they need to connect with YOU first. One of the best ways do this is through emotion-driven copy that evokes feelings like hope, pride, or inspiration.
People are far more likely to buy from a company they trust and feel connected to than anything else. So hit your target readers in the gut (emotionally).
You need to empathize with your potential customers and figure out how a product or service can solve their problems, make them feel happy, appreciated, respected or accepted. Then start from there.
If readers have a first paragraph that makes them feel hopeful, happy or inspired, for example, they’re more likely to continue reading most of the rest of the copy.
5. Focus on benefits, not features
It’s tempting to use your first paragraph to launch into a long list of all the things your product does and how it will benefit readers. But bear this in mind: No one cares about what you think is important or consider “must-have features”.
What they care about is how it will benefit them. So talk to your readers and figure out what they want first. Then make sure you tell them why your product or service can help them.
So save your first paragraph for explaining what benefits you offer. Instead of trying to impress with every little thing you can think of, direct your focus on how you can help readers achieve their desired goals and/ or solve problems in their lives.
6. Use numbers
Whether you’re introducing multiple pieces of information or just one, numbers are an effective way to keep first paragraphs short and engaging. They add credibility too.
In fact, research shows that first numbers are more likely to grab attention and be remembered than first words.
Make use of this by including one first number in each first paragraph you write.
Using first numbers gives your copy credibility while also keeping it interesting and easy to read.
7. Keep personal pronouns to a minimum
Personal pronouns (I, you, we) don’t always belong in first paragraphs because they can make it feel like you are directing your readers instead of writing for them.
You first paragraph should be focused on your readers, not about you. The first person personal pronoun can also give off the impression that you are selling instead of researching first (and therefore wasting your reader’s time).
If you are going to include first person pronouns in first paragraphs, try using them sparingly . Or simply avoid first person pronouns entirely.
Instead of using first-person pronouns, consider putting the emphasis on your product or service (which is impersonal anyway) instead. For example, rather than “I’ve tried every diet known to man and nothing has ever worked for me” try writing something like: “There are hundreds of diets out there but none of them have ever worked for me… until now”.
8. Don’t over-explain first paragraphs
You first paragraph should do the following: Grab attention (with a first number or statistic, for example) Make a promise/ offer State the benefits Encourage further reading Do not: Explain yourself too much Provide irrelevant details
If first paragraphs follow these rules , they’ll flow naturally into the rest of your copy. And first paragraphs that flow naturally are more likely to get read.
9. Set the stage for the rest of your copy
Having a clear idea of what comes next in your first paragraph can prevent it from sounding like a first-and-only chapter. Make sure first paragraphs are clear and easy to follow for your readers so they don’t have to guess what comes next.
What you include in first paragraphs should also set the tone for the rest of your copy. You can use this first paragraph to establish credibility, explain what comes next, or create an emotional response.
10. Make them want more!
The last thing first paragraphs should do is make readers want more. When first paragraphs are missing a first number, first word, or first benefit they don’t leave their readers enough reasons to keep reading.
In a sales letter for example, first paragraphs that fail to make any promises or offer any of the benefits listed above may as well have ended at first sentences. They’re not going to make readers want to read any more.
Important: Your first paragraph is not your entire first page
Just because you’ve written a good first paragraph doesn’t mean the rest of the page should not have good quality content. Your first paragraph is simply the first thing most readers will read and it should do a good job of engaging them until they decide to continue reading or … click away.
How you write the first paragraphs can make or break your entire copy and ultimately affect whether it gets read or not. So be sure to get it right and catch your reader’s attention!
So what do you think about this list? Are there any first tips , first rules , first things to avoid? Any tips or advice for people struggling? Let us know below.