You had me at hello. Remember that line from the movie, Jerry Maguire?
Why did that line work? Jerry Maguire put himself out there. He gave his girl what she needed and she responded. Though he made a compelling case after hello, the fact that he showed up smoothed healing ointment atop her emotional wound.
Everything! At some point we must introduce ourselves to our customers but if we barge past the hello and forget to answer the why are you here? questions, we’ll lose our readers before we begin. There will be time for introductions later. If readers like what you have to say, if you compel them to read further, they’ll ask you for your name and number.
4 ways to say hello
1. Answer your readers’ most pressing need.
You may sell widgets, but why do your customers need them? How is their life worse without them? What is their biggest objection in getting widgets from your competition? Or what will your clients appreciate more than anything else? Lead with answers that address their needs.
In developing DF Painting‘s web copy, we could have lead with “Hey, DF Painting is the best painter in Redding, CA.” While this may be true and important, we discovered that commercial clients expect quality but get really perturbed when commercial painting outfits skip out or don’t deliver or show up disheveled and without teeth.
We used bold-faced subheads such as: Quality Counts, Promises Matter, Looks Kill and Communication Works. We had to show clients we understood their concerns before we asked for their hand.
2. Cite facts your reader can identify with.
It’s hard to argue against facts. For a fair trade, pesticide-free apparel business, we opened the home page with statistics, such as Cotton covers 2.5% of the world’s cultivated land yet uses 16% of the world’s insecticides to lure clients who might be on a quest for a lifestyle change. We knew this company’s potential clients would have the same reactions the founder did when faced when cold, hard facts.
We then offered links to her company’s products, which at that point almost became the byproduct of her company’s values.
3. Ask questions.
This technique is not my favorite because it’s tricky to get right. Often it sounds amateurish and infomercialish, but it can also be effective if you can answer it directly or appeal to a real emotion. With my pesticide-free cotton client, we used this lede technique with the statistics (#2) such as: Did you know…Cotton is considered the world’s “dirtiest” crop due to its heavy use of insecticides?
Just be careful of fragmented half questions like: Tired of messy tortillas? (picture a fajita obliterating in a diner’s hand.) Try to rephrase your question ledes and use them only if you can’t find another method that works.
4. Know to whom you are speaking.
While this isn’t technically a lede technique, it will affect your tone in all of the above. Define your reader. I don’t mean kinda define as in…my customer is anyone who needs a widget. I mean, who specifically makes buying decisions for your products and services? Is it a 32 year old homemaker or a middle management suit who desperately needs to look like a hero to his superiors? Why does he/she need what you have to offer? What might stand in her way of getting it?
Of course not every customer will fit your profile, but if you can look into your reader’s eyes as you create your ledes, you’ll have a better chance of offering up something of value, rather than a generic all-purpose informational blip.
What lede technique has worked well for you?