Do Your First Few Paragraphs Heat Up Your Prospect’s Interest? Or Cool It Down?

Will Newman

Thank you for returning today as we wrap up our look at three mistakes we copywriters make that kill all types of copy. (Click here and here if you missed the other articles.)

Today we’re going to look at a copy killer I see frequently in web copy – maybe even more than in print copy.

Mark Ford has found if you get people to read the first 250 words of your copy, 70% of them will read all of it.

Let’s put it another way. If you can’t get your prospect to read your first 250 words, you’ve lost him. Forever.

A weak lead loses your prospect before he gets to read how great your product is.

Revving up

If you’re like me and most copywriters, your mind is like an old car engine. Our minds need to be warmed up before we surge down the road to a compelling lead.

We need something to get us moving in the right direction. This happens to me all the time.

I write warm-up copy.

Important for our brains.

Deadly for the copy.

An example from my own history

Quite a few years ago, I wrote a promo for a nutritional supplement. The supplement boosted the user’s nutrition, filling gaps left by overly processed foods.

I started the copy by outlining how nutritionally depleted processed food is. I had tons of research to back it up. Then I launched into a description of why this has happened.

After building this rock solid case for why the prospect needed to supplement his diet, I told him the best possible way to do it was with XYZ supplements.

The client loved my approach. The promo bombed.

No matter how compellingly I’d written about the product once I got there, my prospects never got past the first 250 words.

I’d made the mistake of warming up my copy. Which cooled off my prospect’s interest.

Do you write warm-up copy?

Most copywriters do. That warm up to the creative process is crucial. I firmly believe if you try to avoid it, your writing will be stiff, dull, and unconvincing. But you can’t let it stay in your copy. It buries your true, compelling lead.

Mark Ford’s cure for warm-up copy

Here’s Mark Ford’s strategy for finding your true lead.

After you’ve written your lead, go back. Read the first paragraph with the eyes of your prospect. Does the paragraph grab your prospect and make him want to learn more?

If not, cut it out (using Control-X or Command-X) and save it to another file. You might be able to use it later.

Then read the next paragraph. Does this one grab your prospect’s ineptest? If not, cut it out.

Keep going until you find that paragraph you can feel in your gut will grab your prospect’s attention. This is the first paragraph for your lead. You’ve hacked out warm-up copy.

Eliminating warm-up copy takes discipline and courage. Go ahead and write it. Then have the discipline to go back and look for it carefully. And the courage to hack it out!

I’d love to hear your thoughts on anything we’ve talked about this week. Comment below to share those thoughts.

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Published: April 1, 2016

12 Responses to “Do Your First Few Paragraphs Heat Up Your Prospect’s Interest? Or Cool It Down?”

  1. Hey Will,

    Love this article. This is the best advice for any copywriter or any writer for that matter. I find myself "hacking out" many first, second and more paragraphs to get an article or letter hitting from the git-go. This can't be stressed enough. Great article!


    Guest (Andrew)

  2. Dear Will,

    Great article and extremely important advice for all writers. In a way, I find I have too many lead paragraphs and worry that the details and description get lost among them. And I have a hard time choosing the best lead-in. Any suggestions for that? Thanks

    Guest (JR)

  3. "In the beginning was The Word" -- for JOHN -- is the greatest-ever opening insofar as even the big bang can't possibly cool down warm-up copy. Hence the greater testimony to all things coming into being; i.e., the light of all people.

    Guest (Chris Morris)

  4. This must have been a warm-up. It was full of gross grammar errors and spelling mistakes. You should hire me to be your proofreader! What you said though was dead on! When I do any writing I keep my one idea focused but just write without censoring myself and all the good ideas will flow out. Then I just go over and "clean-up" the copy, add and remove stuff and fix all the typos and spelling errors. I do have one question for you Will: How do you know if your prospects are not getting past the first 250 words?

    Guest (Mike Woron)

  5. Hi Will Newman, Thank you for your email letter message on writing warm -up that you gave me. I appreciate it a lot and the other emails lessons on benefits of group association that you previously talked about. I am learning so much each day as I read these email letters from you and other mentors. I personally never thought of writing warm- up the way you described it, so it is a great insight for me personally. Thank you again and I look forward to reading your next week lessons you plan to give me. Enjoy your weekend and have a great week end.

    Esther O Asiedu

  6. Thank you for this, Will. It's getting printed out at my house. I have to warm up just to meet the world on a daily basis. This reminder to warm up for me, then remove the warm up for the sake of the reader's attention, is priceless. Thanks again.


  7. This is so common-sensical it's simpleminded. Every 4th grade writer knows if his writing isn't interesting no one's going to read it. Why don't you write about something useful, like finding prospects who are going to give you a chance in the first place.LIF

    Guest (David Silverman)

  8. Hi Will, I hate the idea of erasing my copy. A noted author (I don't remember which one) referred to this as "killing one's darlings". Instead, I think I'd rather just use this warm-up information for the supporting information sometime later in the promotion after having written a better lead. It may be appropriate for a sidebar, for example, as "expert" testimony. Any thoughts about this? Anything to keep me from erasing my "darlings". :)

    Nora King

  9. Wow,this is good I thank you so much MR Newman.blessings.

    Guest (Bella )

  10. Hi Will, always enjoy and look foward to your letters. I might be missing something here but as Mark Ford, you and all seasoned copywriters know and tell us newbies, people buy benefits and reading your example it seems that your lead stresses features more than benefits. Your big idea headline and lead didn't appear to be in synch to me in this example. Tony


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