What is Inbound Marketing?

What is Inbound Marketing?

Inbound marketing is the strategy of attracting customers to your business by creating valuable content and experiences tailored to their needs and interests.

Inbound grows your business by building relationships with your customers and empowering them to reach their desired goals at any stage in their journey with your business. 

Marketing Hourglass

How is Inbound Marketing Used?

Inbound marketing uses content to help potential customers find your business even when they are not ready to make a purchase. Developing a relationship early in their search for answers can lead to a preference for your business as they get to know, like and trust you— which can lead to a long-term relationship with you.

As a form of attraction or pull marketing Inbound focuses on visibility and engagement and doesn’t make people feel like they’re being sold to.  It works particularly well for businesses that sell high-value services and typically have a longer buying process than those that sell inexpensive products. Online strategies include blogs, SEO, social media and more.

Inbound marketing is the opposite of push marketing which focuses on taking (or pushing) your products to your customers. Push marketing relies on the more traditional ways of marketing/advertising, such as direct selling via advertising, direct mail and trade shows.

 

Why Inbound?

Because it puts your customers into the driver’s seat, connecting your business with people genuinely interested in what you have to say and offer. It can do wonders for your business via brand awareness, loyalty, engagement and growth. In addition, Inbound is a powerful way to build trust, reputation and authority.

Quote consumer trust

What You Need to Know about Marketing Strategy vs Tactics

What You Need to Know about Marketing Strategy vs Tactics

Marketing Strategy vs Tactics vs Plan

Marketing can be confusing enough. But nothing often confuses new business owners more than the terms marketing strategy, marketing plan and marketing tactics.  Heck, even some marketers get confused. So, it’s no wonder that these terms are often intermingled and thought of as one thing. But there is a difference. The question is, what’s the difference and do you need all three?

What do you think of when you hear the words marketing strategy?

Do images of Facebook Ads, Instagram Reels and Email Newsletters spring to mind?

You may be surprised to know that these are not marketing strategy and that many people confuse marketing strategy, marketing plan and marketing tactics, thinking they’re the same thing. But they’re not. They’re different things.

Marketing-strategy
marketing-plan
marketing-tactics

What is a Marketing Strategy?

A Marketing Strategy is a process that a business takes to identify specific marketing goals. It acts as a blueprint for how the business can reach those goals.

For example, as a new business, your main objective will undoubtedly be to get clients. To achieve that objective, you need to get members of your target audience to know you, like you and trust you enough to become a client and refer you to others.

Therefore, so that your business can position itself in the marketplace and gain a competitive advantage, your strategy may incorporate elements of strategic business planning as well as branding. For example, it may include identifying ideal clients, creating mission, vision and value statements, brand messaging and a website review.

A Marketing Strategy does not list actions to be followed on a day-to-day basis. Instead, it’s in the Marketing Plan that these actions are detailed.

What is a Marketing Plan?

The marketing plan is an extension of the marketing strategy. The plan often includes specific campaigns and outlines the timeframes and methods your business will use to meet the campaign’s objectives. It is these methods that are known as tactics.

Individual marketing campaigns are focused on achieving a specific goal, such as creating brand awareness, building trust, or launching a new product.

 

What are Marketing Tactics?

Marketing tactics are the methods used to achieve the objectives outlined in the marketing plan.

Examples of online tactics may include running ads, using social media platforms, publishing blog posts and case studies, hosting webinars and podcasts, and creating an email or videos series. Offline tactics may consist of running events, participating in tradeshows, networking, PR and sponsorships.

For example, your strategy uncovers a need for your business to build trust. Your marketing plan recommends publishing case studies. The content you create to promote your case studies are social media posts, landing pages and webinars. It’s the case study that’s the tactic.

Do you Need All Three?

Yes.

There’s no point in doing a strategy unless you execute on it. And to do that, you need a tactical plan – they’re symbiotic.

Often marketers refer to all three terms under the umbrella term of Marketing Strategy or Marketing Plan. They do this because it keeps things simple.

(I refer to all three terms as a marketing strategy)

Marketing Strategy, Plan and Tactics explained

How often does a business need to do a marketing strategy?

A marketing strategy has a longer lifespan than a marketing plan because it contains the core elements of a business brand as well as the big picture goals.

However, you should revisit your strategy at least once a year to review your goals and marketing activities or to ensure you are still on track.

As the Marketing Plan usually covers short-term objectives, it should be revisited once your objectives have been achieved. Or your goals for the year change.

Top 5 Benefits of a marketing strategy

Marketing is critical to a business because it tells the world who you are and what you can do. It also helps your business define its purpose.

A marketing strategy affects how your business operates by putting the focus on the customer and how your products and services can help them.

A marketing strategy helps a business to

1.  Identify and understand your ideal target markettso you can understand their needs, values and motivations and how your product/service meets these needs. Then you will know how to address their problems in a way that creates value. Which makes your marketing easier.

2.  Save time and money spent on advertising and marketing that isn’t working and helps support your return on investment

3.  Identify competitors. Knowing who your competitors are means that you can keep your eye on them and what they’re offering. It allows you to look for gaps in their offering and things that they do or don’t do well. This can guide you to improve your business offering by improving on or including products or services to gain a competitive advantage.

4.  Differentiate from your competitors so you can develop your Unique Selling Proposition, which positions your business in the marketplace.

5.  Provide clarity and focus while giving your business goals direction and a greater chance of achieving them.

A wise woodsman once said that if he had only five minutes to cut down a tree, he would spend the first three sharpening the axe.

Planning is the Driver of Success

We start a business for various reasons. We want to make a difference, to enjoy the freedom of being our own boss and for our business to succeed and make a profit. But to do that we need customers who like what we do and buy our stuff. And we all know that marketing is the way to achieve that.

Running a business is not easy, and many businesses fail. But planning has proven again and again to be the driver of success. So, no matter what you call it— a marketing strategy or marketing plan, it’s a powerful tool for guiding your marketing, a driver for business success and should be a part of yours.

 

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Forget the Advice Write Like You Talk and Do This Instead

Do you write like you talk?

There are some masterful content writers and it’s common to feel a tad intimidated by how well-written their articles are.

Feeling less than 100% confident in your writing may have led you to search “How to be a better writer” and found the following advice:

‘Write Like you Talk.’

If you’ve taken this advice to heart, be careful because it’s not the best advice.

Although you can get away with it on social media (depending on your business), it’s not good advice when it comes to writing articles. It’s meant for the novice writer— to stop them writing like the mouthpiece of academia. (Unfortunately, even today, many writers still haven’t listened).

Advertising man, David Ogilvy is believed have coined the original phrase, but there’s a word missing from the quote, and that word is naturally.

Write like you talk—naturally.

~ David Olgilvy, Advertising Tycoon

The suggestion to ‘write like you talk’ shouldn’t be taken literally

When someone recommends that you write like you talk what they mean is write in a conversational style. Like a chat with an acquaintance, but with a bit of polish.

When we speak, we don’t usually pay great attention to word choice or sentence formation.  Eavesdrop on any conversation and you’ll hear half-finished sentences, sudden changes of direction, slang, ums and ahs and other filler words. Because as Australian’s this is how we ‘talk’.

Hey, How ya going? Dya wanna have coffee? Nah, sorry, can’t. Gotta go.

Writing online obviously requires more formality than the above example, however too much formality sounds impersonal and stuffy—it requires a balance. After all, you want to sound professional and approachable, but you also want to sound like ‘you’.

So how do you achieve this?

 

Ignore the advice write like you talk and Make Your Writing Conversational

Here’s how

Keep words simple

Don’t use convoluted words when a simple one will do. People will switch off if they don’t know what you’re talking about. Therefore, avoid using jargon, unusual words or sounding like you’ve swallowed a thesaurus.

Use simple sentences

Say what you want to say in the simplest way possible, using simple words, then add a couple of interesting words to spice it up.

Simplicity quote write like you talk

Lose the words you don’t need

Avoid using weasel words (words that suck the life out of the words next to them). These include words and phrases such as just, virtually, a bit, having said that, almost, fairly etc., and are common in a lot of writing. These words are vague, unnecessary and weaken your writing. If in doubt, read the sentence out loud, first with the weasel word, and then without it. If it makes your sentence sharper without changing the meaning, omit the word.

Plan in advance how your piece will connect with your reader

Using a conversational tone with a touch of empathy and blended with personality, will go along way to developing a connection with your reader. This powerful combination works because it shows them that you understand how they feel and what they’re thinking. And they’ll like you for it because as they’re reading they’re thinking— this person really gets me!

So let your personality shine through in every piece you write. Choose your words to match your tone of voice and create a mood for the piece. Plan it out in advance to suit the content. Will it be serious/passionate/informative/edgy/personal/wry or fun?

Then,

Read your writing out loud

Is your writing music to your ears? Does it have rhythm, does it crescendo and fall? Does it flow? Does it make sense. Does it speak to your reader?

When someone reads, they hear the words in their head. And what they want to hear is you speaking directly to them. Like you’re reaching out of the screen to connect.

Here’s how

Give Your Writing Rhythm

To get the rhythm vary your sentence length

A long sentence shouldn’t have more than 25 words.  A short sentence can have one word.  Honestly. Break up long sentences with a short one to add punch.

Keep your paragraphs short

Writing is visual and short paragraphs catch the eye and look inviting to read because they’re surrounded by white space. Unlike long paragraphs, which look discouraging. And please avoid walls of text.

Also,

Use contractions

Contractions are more casual and we use them in conversation. So also use them in your writing to sound more relatable. For example:

  • You’ve instead of you have.
  • Don’t instead of do not.
  • Could’ve instead of could have.

Use interjections to express feelings or sudden emotion

Words like Phew. Duh!  Yikes and Ouch are fun and convey a sense of humour and are suitable for informal and casual language, but don’t overdo it.

  • Avoid them in formal writing if you want to be taken seriously.

To make your writing personal

Keep your one reader persona in mind and write directly for them.

  • Use the word you instead of I.
    You may’, ‘
    ‘Here are 7 tips for you to’
    and so on.
  • Have a point of view.
  • Tell a story.

 

Finally, Edit Well

You may have heard of this well-known phrase—The magic’s in the editing.

It’s a well known fact that no one ever publishes a first draft. Every piece will go through a series of edits before it’s published.

I edit several times. Often I leave it until the next day then re-read it and edit some more.

If you have someone to read it through and edit the piece for you, even better, a different perspective always helps if you’re too close to the piece.

If it’s just you then have a go at using an AI tool like https://ttsreader.com/  to hear your writing. From personal experience I find it amazing how many things I pickup that I missed before.

But what if you’re comfortable writing like you talk?

You may be someone who always dictate your articles. If this is the case, my advice is to do so for the first draft. Then give it some polish— read it out aloud and edit it until you’re happy to hit publish.

In today’s world, where content drives business, there’s no excuse for lazy writing. The reader will not enjoy the experience and you’ll be wasting your time. So please ignore the advice to write like you talk and write like the professional you are.

How to Research a Target Audience to Have a More Effective Business

How well do you know your target audience?

I mean, really know them.

You may think you know them, but if I asked you to describe them, could you tell me what keeps them up at night, or where they hang out online and what they do in their spare time? Do you know what they aspire to in life or what drives them to buy your products and services?

You should.

Why it’s important to research a target audience

Marketers and business strategists are always banging on about how important it is to research your target audience.

For good reason.

The primary principle of powerful marketing is to get the right message to the right audience. So, regardless of what you sell, you need to understand their world if you’re going to succeed in business.

How does it make you feel when Facebook ads arrive in your newsfeed that you have absolutely no interest in? Or what about when you read that article on SEO that completely loses you? It probably makes you wonder why they bother.

One of the most common mistakes business owners make is trying to appeal to a everyone. They create generic messages that don’t appeal to the people they’re trying to attract, and they use language that their audience doesn’t understand.  They’re hoping that by casting a wide net they’ll attract the big fish— but instead they waste valuable time and money attracting the wrong type of customers.

research-a-Target-audience-everyone-is-not-your-customer

Imagine how much easier it would be if you could target your ideal clients —people you want to work with, who energise and inspire you, who want your service and are happy to pay for it.

It’s possible to achieve this through target marketing and target market research.

What is Target Marketing?

Target Marketing is the process of identifying a group of people your business serves, for example, business owners, women or overweight people.

This group of people are called a Target Market.

However, because a target market is an extensive and unspecified group of people, it’s necessary to break it down into a specific group (within that target market). This group will become your Target Audience.

 

The Benefits of Target Market Research

Whether you’re just starting or growing your business, you need to know who your clients are and how to attract them. Without clients, your business has no chance of surviving. Conducting target market research enables you to find the best clients to work with and has many other benefits. You will

  • Develop better relationships with your audience.
    Knowing what creates tension in their business and their lives means that you can empathise with them. This means that you’ll get higher engagement on your messages because your audience knows that you get them‘. You’ll begin to develop trust.

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

~Maya Angelou, poet

  • Get more engagement on your content. Because you’ll know what  interests and connects with them

You’ll also

 

  • Be more productive. Creating marketing content will be easier (for the same reason as above)
  • Know what motivates your audience to buy, so you’ll know how to persuade them
  • Know where to find them online and off
  • Better understand how your products and services fit the needs of your target audience, so you can tailor them to suit
  • Learn other ways to serve your audience and develop new products and services that you may not have thought of.

How to Define your Target Audience

Now you know who your overall target market is, it’s time to break it down into a specific category of people within that group. The first step is to decide who will benefit the most from your solutions, who you’re most passionate about helping and who are most likely to buy from you.

These people will have commonalities based around a mix of demographics such as age, occupation or marital status, and psychographics such as aspirations, beliefs and, most importantly, a common problem or need that your business can solve. For example:

  • new mums aged 18-35 who struggle with parenting
  • overweight men over 40 who have irritable bowel syndrome
  • MAMILs: Middle-Aged Men in Lycra who ride bicycles

To narrow this list down even further, you may want to include your own criteria for the types of people you want to work with—those who you consider to be your ideal clients. Or you may decide to work with people from one particular industry. This narrow focus is known as a niche.

Once you have compiled this list, the ‘people’ on this list become your Target Audience.

The next step is to research and discover what makes that target audience tick, and you can reach them.

Happy-client-target-audience

How do you find a target audience?

The idea behind the research is to get as much information as you can on your target audience. The more you know and understand them, the easier it will be to sell and market to them. Therefore, knowing your target audience well is one of the most important things you can do for your business.

1.     A great place to start is to research your client base

Look at the characteristics of your best existing or past customers and for commonalities among them. Then, create a spreadsheet to record your findings.

For example:

 

  • Categorize by demographics: age, gender, location, profession, title and industry and then by psychographics: beliefs about your industry, hobbies, and interests. Include any other relevant or interesting information you find.
  • Add any groups they belong to (networking, social, industry etc.) and any conferences or events they attend.
  • Consider who are the easiest to work with. What qualities or behaviours makes them the easiest?
  • Where do you meet your clients? Are there particular types of people or industries you seem drawn to?
  • If they are past clients, look at what they purchased from you. Then, analyze what were they like to work with, adding anything else you know about them.
  • What do you know about your website visitors and people who have downloaded your offer or signed up for your newsletter?

2.   Go online to Research Potential Prospects 

  • Check out any Facebook groups your target audience may belong to—business groups, industry groups, special interest groups etc. Immerse yourself in the community to understand their problems and see the world through their eyes.
  • When you find someone who fits the criteria of your audience, look at the questions they ask – is it something you can help them with? Look at the answers they give to others. Do they say anything revealing? Have they recommended any businesses? Check out what they post, what links they share, any advice they give and what they’re interested in.  To search for a particular topic within the group. Simply click on the search tool and type in your criteria.
  • Look at your 2nd and 3rd level connections on LinkedIn. Do they have commonalities within the criteria of your target audience? Then, dig a little deeper and look at their activity, what type of content they comment on, what comments they make, and what content they share? When a person shares content from a third party, it’s because it resonates with them.
  • Add these to the spreadsheet.

3.  Research your Competition

Keep a close eye on your competition. If their businesses are selling a similar product to yourself and have been doing so for years, they already know your audience very well.

 

  • Look at their social media platforms and for the content that gets the most engagement. Also look at the people who leave comments. Can you learn anything about them? What type of content resonates with them the most? (This will give you an indication of the type of content you could consider posting).
  • Add these to the spreadsheet.

4.  Look for them when you’re out and about 

  • Practice the art of networking— Visit networking groups, conferences, trade shows and anywhere your target clients hang out. Talk to people who match your target audience—practice 80% listening and 20% talking. Use open-ended questions and pay attention to their body language. Sometimes it’s about reading between the lines.
  • Add these to the spreadsheet.

What now?

Organise your target market spreadsheet

Organize your spreadsheet

By now, you’ll have a lengthy spreadsheet with lots of columns.

Go through the list and highlight the common characteristics.

Organize that list into at least one profile (ideal client persona) based on those shared characteristics,

Then,

Evaluate your decision

Once you’ve done the research and decided on who your target audience is, it’s time to consider the following; ask yourself

  • Has the research shown my target audience to be who I thought they were?
  • Are there enough people in my target audience who need my products and services?
  • Will my target audience benefit from my product and services? Will they see a need for it?
  • Do I understand what influences my target market to decide to buy? what influences my target market to make decisions?
  • Can they afford my product or service? What stage of business are they in? Are they a startup?
  • Can I reach them with my messages? Are they easily accessible?

 

What if you have more than one Target Audience?

Your product or service may be of benefit to more than one target audience. This situation can be challenging and is where segmentation comes into play.

If there are more similarities than differences, the best practice is to have one Primary Target Audience (those you give the most focus to) and one or more Secondary Target Audience(s), who you give less focus to. These people generally have fewer demands for your product or service.

Secondary target audiences generally differ from a primary audience by having different buying habits and characteristics. In this instance, it may be the case that your ‘primary’ target marketing will pick up your secondary audience anyway. On the other hand, it might be better to create separate personas if there are marked differences between audiences.

There is much contention around separate personas because they can be challenging to manage, particularly for small businesses. This article from the University of Queensland covers the consequences of targeting multiple audiences in online ads. Although its focus is on a product (an online game), it’s definitely worth the read.

Researching a target audience may appear time-consuming, but it will impact every aspect of your business and save you a lot of time, heartache and sleepless nights in the future because it will take your business from this:

To this,

So go ahead and schedule a couple of hours in the coming weeks to do the reasearch.  It’ll be the best thing you can do for your business.

I hope this blog post helps you with your target marketing. Please feel free to share it with friends and colleagues that may benefit from the information.

I’d love to hear your thoughts.  Just leave a comment below.

How to Write An Engaging Opening Sentence (with Examples)

Learning how to write an opening sentence is part science part art.

So, there’s a lot to be said about it.

An opening sentence has to be simple, really simple. And it has to be short, really short.

But it also needs to be captivating.

Trying to write an opening sentence can make you feel anxious because it carries a lot of weight.

As Stephen King explains:

 

An opening line should invite the reader to begin the story.

It should say:

Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.

~Stephen King, Author

Novelist Stephen King admits to spending months even years writing opening sentences. But we’re business owners, we’re busy, and we don’t have that much time.

So what can we do?

To write an opening sentence that’s compelling, there are techniques you can use. But first, let’s look at what makes an opening sentence compelling, and then I’ll show you a couple of examples.

 

The Power and Passion of the Opening Sentence

The job of the opening sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. Sounds simple enough, right? But there’s more to it than that.

An engaging opening sentence grabs your attention and pulls you into the writer’s world. It introduces the writer’s voice and sets the tone for what’s to follow

 

The First Sentence is a Handshake

~Joe Fassler, the Atlantic

Let me explain.

The purpose of the first sentence is to get the reader to read the second sentence. And the job of the second sentence is to lead the reader on to the third sentence. It’s this vital progression —the first leading to the second, the second leading to the third, and so on— which bind together to form the rhythm of your blog post’s opening paragraph. The idea is to make it so engaging, that they hook the reader in.

Let’s take a look at a couple of examples.

 

The most famous lines ever written were opening sentences

In Copywriting

For Sale. Baby Shoes. Never Worn.

~attributed to Ernest Hemingway

In a Blog Post

You wake up. You roll over. You check your phone. You open your email.

~Nathan Collier,

9 Best Knowledge Base Software Options for Startups and Small Businesses

In Literature

We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert,
when the drugs began to take hold.

~ Hunter S. Thompson,
Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas

In Film

I had the craziest dream last night; I was dancing the white swan.

~ Mark Heyman, John McLaughlin &
Andres Heinz, Black Swan

Can you see what these opening sentences have in common?

They’re interesting. They’re unique. They’re short, and they make you want to keep reading. Legendary copywriter, Joe Sugarman explains: 

Your first sentence should be very compelling by virtue of its short length and ease of reading. No long multisyllabic words. Keep it short, sweet and almost incomplete so that the reader has to read the next sentence.

8 Ways to Write an Opening Sentence that Hooks your Reader in

Let me take this opportunity to introduce you to William Zinsser.

William Zinsser is a writer, teacher and editor. The New York times credited his classic guide to non-fiction writing as a “bible for a generation of writers looking for clues to clean, compelling prose.”

In this book, On Writing Well, Zinsser discusses the opening sentence and the sentences that follow:

Your lead must capture your reader immediately and force him to keep reading. It must cajole him with freshness, or novelty or paradox, or humour or surprise, or with an unusual idea or interesting fact or a question. Anything will do, as long as it nudges his curiosity and tugs at his sleeves.

In the above quote, Zinsser mentions eight ways to write an opening sentence. They are:

  1. Cajole with freshness
  2. Novelty
  3. Paradox
  4. Humour
  5. Surprise
  6. Unusual Idea
  7. Interesting Fact
  8. Question

Let’s explore them, shall we?

 

1.  Cajole with freshness

(Cajole is an uncommonly used word. I had to look it up and here’s the definition: To flatter someone in an attempt to persuade them.)

So what better place to find fresh, cajoling inspiration than a blog post from a dating app?

“What’s Your Idea of a Perfect First Date?”

This works as an opening sentence for a variety of reasons:

  • It’s a question.
  • Questions encourage the reader to pause and think about and answer.
  • It’s personal and it’s fresh. It’s probably something you’re not often asked to think about (even though you probably have!).
  • Anyone of dating age can relate to it. Therefore, it taps into a broad target audience.
  • It makes the reader curious and eager to keep on reading because it has the potential of being a fun read.

 

2.  Novelty

Where there’s novelty, there’s originality and where there’s originality, there’s personality.

Novelty can be quirky or funny, even outrageous. It leads you in. Sometimes it shocks you, then it makes you wonder, and before you realise it you’re hooked.

Here’s a perfect example:

You know me as James Chartrand of Men with Pens, a regular Copyblogger contributor for just shy of two years.

And yet, I am a woman.

This is not a joke or an angle or an analogy — I’m literally a woman.

This is my story. 

3.  Paradox

A startling statement, fact or statistic, that may or may not be accurate, is an enthralling way to start a blog article. The more outrageous the statement, the more it drives the reader to keep reading because they’re dying to find out if it’s true. They’re also a great way to start a conversation.

There’s the paradox:

All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.

~ George Orwell
Animal Farm

Whatever you do in life will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

~ Ghandi

There’s the (may or may not be true) statement:

My mother didn’t try to stab my father until I was six.

~ Alan Alda
Never Have Your Dog Stuffed

There’s an opera house on the U.S.–Canada border where the stage is in one country and half the audience is in the other.

~ Buzz Feed, Blog Post: 42 Incredibly Weird Facts

And there’s the statistic:

In a 2011 study by Logitech, the computer accessory and remote controls manufacturer, revealed that there’s a 50 percent chance that your lost remote control is stuck between your sofa cushions. Meanwhile, 4 percent of lost remotes are found in the fridge or freezer, and 2 percent turn up somewhere outdoors or in the car.

Blog Post: Live Science:  8 Weird Statistics about Life

If you’re surprised by a statistic, chances are your reader will be too. Therefore, if you have one that’s related to your topic, be sure to put it in your opening paragraph.

4.  Humour

Telling a funny story is a wonderful way to open a blog post, particularly if the reader can relate to it. People love to be entertained, and what better way to do it than by telling an entertaining or hilarious story?

 

That time infamous singer-songwriter Kris Kristofferson landed a stolen helicopter on Johnny Cash’s lawn to sell him a song.

Cole Schafer, www.honeycopy.com

I don’t know how other men feel about their wives walking out on them, but I helped mine pack.

~Bill Manville, author, Breaking Up

5.  Surprise

Grab your reader with something unexpected and you harness his attention to the story you’re telling. At least for that moment.

 

Once upon a time, there was a woman who discovered she had turned into the wrong person.

~ Anne Tyler, Back When We Were Grownups

His children are falling from the sky.

~ Hilary Mantel, Bring Up the Bodies

6.  Unsual Idea

Unusual ideas are generally founded on personal opinions. So opening your blog post by stating a strong opinion on a popular topic can be an effective way to engage your reader.

An unusual idea creates intrigue for what’s to follow and questions whether your reader might agree or disagree —which is a fabulous way to start a robust conversation. But, be mindful that if you choose this opening, don’t sit on the fence. Thought leadership needs to go deep.

 

Personally, I’ve never liked the term “thought leadership”.

~ Brian Clarke, Copyblogger

I’ve often wondered what goes into a hot dog.

~ William Zinsser

The moment one learns English, complications set in.

~Felipe Alfau, Chromos

I love this last sentence. It’s short, it’s simple, and it’s wry. It also has a substantial degree of subtext. Yes, learning English is complicated, but you get the sense that there will be another layer to this.

 

7.  Interesting Fact or Statement

It takes seven years for your body to digest a piece of gum.

Cracking your knuckles will give you arthritis.

On average, you swallow eight spiders a year in your sleep.

People love facts because they back up what they already believe to be true. Facts stimulate conversation, are often shared, and can be controversial – we only have to look at the current discussions around Covid vaccinations to see how polarising people’s beliefs are.

Because facts drive conversation, they’re an excellent way to start a blog post. But not all facts are true. So, starting with an often believed but totally untrue fact—particularly if it relates to your industry— allows you to set the record straight by backing it up with evidence.

 

8.  Question

Questions can be a powerful way of starting a blog post, particularly if it’s a question that your reader may already be thinking, and one that resonates with how they feel. They’re also a good way of beginning a story.

Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes right?

Does your moody teenager rule the house?

How do you respond when a stranger calls you a bitch?

Are your readers doing what you want them to do?

Did you know that 9 out of 10 of your blog readers don’t get past the first line of your posts?

So now you get the idea, let’s sum it up.

5 Tips on How to Write an Opening Sentence to Grab Attention

1.  Make it punchy

Boom! Get in there. Mix up your style by trying different openings. See where it leads you.

2.  Keep it short

Readers are lazy and busy. You have less than 5 seconds to grab their attention, so try to keep your first sentence under 10 words.

The shorter your first (and first few after that) sentence is, the punchier it will be, and the more likely your readers are to keep reading.

 

You’ve been here before.

~ Stephen King, Needful Things

3.  Give it its own line

Put it on its own line —a one-sentence paragraph. This creates a visual impact that ensures it’s simple enough to seed its way into the reader’s brain.

 

4.  Show Empathy

Connect with your reader by showing them you understand their thoughts and feelings. What can you say that will make them break out into a grin or leap up and punch the air? If you’ve felt it in your business journey, chances are they’re feeling it too. Spell it out.

 

5.  Show Personality

Think about your favourite books, blog posts and writers. What is it that makes you keep going back to them? I guarantee that their personality is a significant factor.

Personality is not something that can be forced. You’re either hilariously funny and quick with a joke or not. But there is something about you that people love and relate to. What is it? Are you empathetic, do you like to shock, or do you tell it like it is? Whatever it is, try and inject some of that into the first sentence—while remaining true to who you are, of course.

 

There is no magic to writing an opening sentence

An opening sentence might come to you straight away. On the other hand, it may be the thing you write last— after your post has been written. Then again, it may be “a little like catching moonbeams in a jar” (Stephen King). The most important thing is to not to overthink it. Despite what Mr King says, it’s not magic. Try to get something down in the first draft, then work on it in the editing.

Spending a little time on the opening line can pay off. But if it makes you break out into a cold sweat, try this tactic: Think about your reader. What keeps them up at night? Imagine having a conversation with her. What would you say first?  Often, the best approach is a simple question.