7 Copy-Starter Tricks Every Marketer Should Know
Openers can be onerous. Which may be why registrations for last week's webinar, "Copy Starters: 48+ Ideas for Letter and Email Openers" were some of the highest ever for Target Marketing. The hour-long session was based on a column I wrote for Target Marketing magazine in March 2012 that still attracts online readers. Couldn't attend? Here's a short recap of some of the most frequently asked questions and high points of the discussion.
Q: It's difficult to get started. What can I do to overcome writer's block? I spend a lot of time staring into space.
A: Experienced writers agree you shouldn't sit and stare at a blank screen or white piece of paper waiting for a flash of brilliance. Instead, just start writing. When you do, you'll most likely find your opening line buried in the second or third paragraph. Try it; it really does work!
Q: If you open with a question, isn't there a risk readers will answer "no" and you'll lose them?
A: Sure ... which is why you want to phrase the question in such a way that no matter how your readers answer, they will be intrigued enough to continue reading. Bill Jayme was a master at creating openers like the ones we looked at during the webinar. You can also create questions with fairly predictable answers based on research or testing. Or do as I do and keep a file of question-openers you like, then analyze them for why they're effective.
Q: Should B-to-B openers be different than those used in B-to-C?
A: Used appropriately, the same general tips and techniques apply for writing both business and consumer copy. Notice I use the word "appropriately." We're human beings whether we're at home or work ... so the same motivators apply.
Q: Aren't email and letter openers similar to email subject lines and outer envelope teaser copy?
A: The answer is yes. However, by the time someone clicks on a subject line or opens an envelope, they've shown some interest. Now, the challenge is to offer an opener that reels 'em in to generate response. If you're interested in learning more about writing effective email subject lines, this free Brunch & Learn webinar hosted by DirectMarketingIQ offers ideas.
Q: How long should opener and body copy be?
A: The opening line of a letter or email should be short enough that it's easily scanned. For a traditional letter, that's about 1 1/2 lines or less. The length of body depends. It needs to be as long as it needs to be to get the reader to take the appropriate action. Traditionally, direct response copy tended to be longer. But today's digital reader has a much shorter attention span and strong inclination to click to delete ... or move on. Test to learn what's right for your audience and message.
Q: Is short copy less sincere and, consequently, less effective?
A: Without looking at a specific example, it's difficult to say. It depends on your business objective, targeted audience, offer, delivery channel, reader expectations, and, of course, what you say and the words you choose to say it. When in doubt, test.
Q: I come from a sales background and know the value of establishing rapport right from the start. How do I do that in a letter or email?
One way to make an instant connection with your reader is to use the word "you" in your first sentence: "Thank you." "We've missed you." "If you're like me ..." "Because you are a _____." The more personally relevant you make your opener, the more likely it is a scanner will continue reading.