It was the best of times, it was the worst of times… A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away… Call me Ishmael…
Okay, really. How do I start this thing?
I have an idea. I have something to say that I really believe is worth reading, at least for a certain subset of people who’d be interested—but how do I grab your attention?
At this point, I’ve already lost about 55% percent of you. How do I convince the rest to continue? I guess I’ll just…
Get Straight to the Point
Here’s the reality. Your latest content marketing blog post isn’t the next great literary classic. Your opening line won’t be quoted in sophomore english classes for generations to come. So relax! And remember why your readers are here.
Think about it. Why are you here? Why did you click this headline? Did you come for the delicate prose? Or because you have a problem that needs solving? Unless you’re my mom (Hi, Mom!) I’d guess the latter. So there’s no need for two paragraphs’ worth of colorful language… You just want answers.
Identify the Problem
Your title should have already told your readers what problem you’re solving. In this case, the problem is that writing opening paragraphs is hard, and we all need some help to do it just a bit better.
But maybe my title wasn’t abundantly clear. Am I talking about writing the best opening line ever? Or just a solid lead that will get your audience to keep reading?
Hopefully my first few lines answered that question, and off went the literary snobs with their lofty aspirations. (It’s okay. I can say that. Remember, they’re not reading this, anyway!)
By the time we all reach the first subhead, I’ve found my people—the ones who just need to fill in that blank space at the top of your Google Doc so you can get this thing loaded in and move on with your life.
We’ve found each other. We’re on the same page, and we’re ready to get some answers.
Make it Personal
You already know that great content is all about storytelling—and indeed, around here, we sure love telling stories. But whose story are you telling, and why does it matter to your reader?
There really are two ways to do this. For this particular post, I led with my story. I wrote a first person narrative sharing something I was struggling with, that you may be struggling with, too. I’m making it personal by sharing a vulnerability of mine, hoping that you’ll relate and we can tackle this problem together.
Another option I use often is to lead with your story. I paint a picture in my mind of an individual reader with a particular problem, then I speak directly into that reader’s life. On one hand, you may feel like I read your mind, like I totally “get” you. Then again, with this technique I risk being totally wrong—or alienating the segment of my audience who don’t completely relate.
Use Memorable Facts or Figures
Since your story probably won’t connect with every reader, a memorable statistic can be a great way to catch everyone else’s attention. Or, if you just really can’t think of a story to tell, it’s at least a halfway decent cop out.
In this case, the idea that you lose 55% of your website visitors within the first 15 seconds might have jarred you into wanting to improve your leads, or may have left you intrigued at the thought of being the select remaining minority. Solid data bridges the gap between a subjective narrative and a more objective universal truth.
Realize You Can’t Please Everyone
Ultimately, no matter how you go about telling your story, you’re never going to have the right answer for every reader—so stop trying. Hone in on your people, solve their problem well, and have faith that you’ll catch the rest with another blog at another time. Eventually, with enough compelling content, you’ll find ways to connect with your entire audience, 45% at a time.
(Or something like that. Good thing this blog wasn’t about the math!)
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