How to Write a Compelling Lead Paragraph

(Note: I originally wrote this as a guest post that ran on the ISOOSI blog, which has since come down, so I’m publishing the post here.)

How to write compelling lead paragraphs - Content NewsroomYou’ve mastered the irresistible headline.

You’re driving visits!

But that’s not enough.

You need conversions. You don’t make the sale on brilliant headlines alone.

That’s where the lead paragraph (“lede paragraph” to you journos out there) comes in. You must craft a first paragraph that compels readers to continue.

That’s the only way to get them to take the next step and make a purchase.

How do you write the perfect lead?

Here are examples of leads using techniques that you can tailor to your audience.

Get Right to the Point

Selling a big-ticket item that’s not fun to read about? Get right to a cost-saving benefit statement, like GE does on its washing machine category page:

GE's compelling lead

GE knows that its customers are most concerned with money, so they’re nipping those concerns in the bud before moving on to any other points.

Now cost-concerned customers can read on without worry.

Intrigue Them

James Altucher is a master of intrigue. Here’s the lead of a recent LinkedIn article he wrote:

James Altucher's compelling lead

I dare you not to go read that article! 🙂

Leading with something that piques curiosity almost forces prospects to keep reading. If you pull this tactic, just make sure you make it worth their time and suspense (of course, as an ISOOSI reader, you already know that).

Give ‘Em an Ego Boost

See what I did up there! I made an important point, but didn’t insult your intelligence. You also know that when giving an ego boost, it should be genuine. You really do know not to pull a bait-and-switch with your content. I wouldn’t just say that to make you feel good.

Here’s an example from Roger Dooley’s Neuromarketing blog.

Neuromarketing blog post with compelling lead

John Carvalho acknowledges the knowledge of the readers of this site. If he were writing this post on any other marketing site, he probably wouldn’t lead with that statement because those readers really wouldn’t be familiar with the idea of fluency, and he might offend them. Used here, it’s a nod to the readers’ psychology smarts.

Get in Their Heads


1. Ask a question, then answer it (Oh snap, I just did it!)

One writing technique that Joe Vitale teaches in Hypnotic Writing is to anticipate a question that your readers might have – at the exact moment they’re thinking it. Then answer that question. It’s a hypnotic suggestion that builds trust.

Here’s an example from Jaguar’s British Villains campaign.

Jaguar compelling lead

They start off with an irresistible headline, then ask, “Now, do we have your full attention?”

As you’re thinking, “yes,” you see they reply, “Excellent.”

You’re like, “whoa!” and continue reading.

This works well when writing product copy.

After writing the basic copy, reread it and note where you’d have a question if you were reading this as a customer. Then add that question to the copy. Then address that question.

2. Make a statement

You know your readers. Let them know that you know what they’re going through.

State the very problem that led them to read your copy.

ISOOSI does a great job of this on its homepage.

ISOOSI compelling lead

ISOOSI knows what its customers want. You’re constantly browsing the web and need a faster and easier way to find what you’re looking for. ISOOSI gets it. ISOOSI gets you.

With that understanding established, you’ve bonded with the company and are more likely to read on and use the search engine.

Give a Command

There are hypnotic words. They include, “discover,” “imagine” and “because,” among many others.

If your copy can get someone to take action early, that person is more likely to take further action.

Leading off with a command is powerful.

Here’s an example from a post by Heather Lloyd-Martin on the SEO Copywriting blog. (Bias alert! I used to be the blog editor over there.)

SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting compelling lead

It makes you think of your biggest client, then imagine that client leaving. It makes you wonder what would happen to your business and you start to develop feelings around that thought.

You realize that what she has to say is important and you better keep reading.

Those are my top tips for how to write a lead paragraph that compels your potential customers toward the end goal.

Now, go forth, write leads, create and convert!

What are some other compelling lead-writing tactics? Share ’em in the comments below!

Photo credit: Top, modified image thanks to Kevin Dooley under a Creative Commons license.

Tracy McCarthy is the founder of Content Newsroom, a website dedicated to helping you get more customers through the quality content that your website visitors deserve and Google demands. A journalist turned Internet marketer, Tracy uses her writing and editing skills to help B2B and B2C businesses succeed with content marketing. She has done work for Content Marketing Institute, SuccessWorks SEO Copywriting, Brookstone and more, and has contributed to Kapost, ISOOSI and other industry-leading blogs.

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