Let’s start with the obvious:

The skill – and ability – of “Great Leads” that breaks through all the noise…

…Will increase your results dramatically.

80% of the success of an ad or a sales letter comes from the lead, the first 500-800 words of a funnel message.

Your process for creating great leads and headlines starts before you even put pen to paper – it begins in the planning stage.

“Great Leads” will teach you:

  • How to produce more compelling, stronger copy
  • Create results your employer or clients will notice
  • Increase demand for your skills
  • Earn more money for your copywriting
  • Learn how to start off your sales copy
  • Become a more effective copywriter.

Pareto’s Law

Pareto’s Law, loosely defined on page 10, refers to the statistic that 80% of the value of a business or endeavor comes from only 20% of its matter.

In terms of marketing and sales, that equates to 80% of the impact of advertising copy coming from the first 20% of its copy.

Why does that matter?

It means that when it comes to writing copy that breaks through the noise, the lead is the most important part.

Masterson and Forde tell us that you have to first move the prospect emotionally – and then persuade them intellectually.

You have to write copy that speaks to the prospect’s heart – capture their attention, then reel them in with your persuasive copy.

You can’t sell to someone if they aren’t reading your copy in the first place.

One Big Idea

As you’re well aware, people have a short attention span.

They want to hear about one idea – and they want deep, insightful information on it.

Pick one, big idea – one core idea – and focus on it. Plan out what your One Big Idea is, and then write your copy.

Necessary elements for sales copy to be engaging that Great Leads introduces are:

  • One good idea
  • One core emotion
  • One captivating story
  • One desirable benefit
  • One response

Start Off Your Copy With a Simple Premise

In Great Leads, Masterson and Forde suggest starting off your promotional copy with a simple question – but don’t forget to answer it.

The question is: “What does your customer already know?”

Do they know who you are? Do they know about your product, the stats that back it up, the problem it gives the solution to – or any other solution?

Why should you do this?

Because if your customer is aware of your product, you start with your product in the headline.

If they have the desire, but not awareness, your headline starts with desire.

If they have no background, then you start with the problem your product solves – and why they need it.

Gene Schwartz broke the system out into his “Five Levels of Awareness.”

Direct or Indirect Sales Approach

When it comes time to decide on a direct or indirect sales approach, there are a number of ways you could approach your copy.

Great Leads details how TurboTax used a direct lead, focusing on the pain and cost of preparing taxes.

They knew their target audience, knew a relationship had already been developed, and already had a need for which TurboTax was the solution.

Therefore, the copy just had to persuade the lead to close with an offer.

However, a purely direct lead can come on too strong, warns Masterson and Forde.

An indirect lead can help overcome some simple obstacles, like if your potential client doesn’t know who you are, or how your product can solve their problems.

An indirect approach can be especially helpful if you have a less aware or skeptical customer.

Below, a promotion that uses a successful indirect approach:

The lead and headline entertain and inform the viewer – before it even tries to sell them something. It provides that quick emotional connection and then involves the viewer in making the connection to the product.

Types of direct and indirect leads include:

  • Offer lead
  • Promise lead
  • Problem-solution lead
  • Big Secret lead
  • Proclamation lead
  • Story lead

Write Better Sales Leads

With an Offer Lead, you’re starting off your sales copy from the get-go with your offer.

Copywriting guru Gene Schwartz says that offer leads are the easiest to write because if you have a good deal and a have a receptive audience, it’s almost impossible to screw it up.

When creating an offer lead, chapter three details following this formula:

  1. Immediately get to your emotionally-compelling offer
  2. Underscore the value or benefit of the deal
  3. Expand on the deal-benefit in the lead that follows
  4. At some point, include your “reason why” that is compelling, and explains why you’re offering the deal

The idea, the book explains, is to create excitement about the topic in general, and then give an offer too good to miss out on – which is your closer.

In this example, the prospect is being pitched all 56 commemorative quarters. His savings are clear (67%) and the gift is the offer.

More aware customers should be given a direct lead, while a less aware customer should be given an indirect lead, says the authors. The offer lead is for more aware customers, as they already know about you and are potentially prepared to buy.

Double Your Sales with This Lead

In 1904, a Canadian policeman named John E. Kennedy who had studied ads and Albert Lasker, a young Chicago ad exec, began to change the game with Reason-Why advertising.

They tested their ads with a washer company, chapter 5 details, and within four months of successful sales, they increased their $15,000 a year budget with the ad agency to $30,000 – a month.

Huge companies like Quaker, Palmolive, Pepsodent, and Oldsmobile have utilized promise-driven (or Reason-Why) advertising.

The premise is simple: you have to give your reader a reason why they should listen to your message. And that reason should be bound up in a promise they can’t resist.

Great Leads says that this type of advertising works best if you promise something people want – not just shock them.

Find the unique selling proposition – or USP – and detail how it’s different from anything or everything your prospect has heard before.

Find Your Hook

The problem-solution lead is a classic in terms of sales copy. But they’re useless if you don’t know what’s keeping your customer up at night.

In many prospect types, there’s a gap between what they know about themselves – and what they know about your product. That’s the gap your problem-solution lead and your hook need to cross.

In the above example, your company is addressing that your customer has concerns – and you hear them, you feel them, and you have a solution.

The idea, then, in effective sales copy is to create a lead that’s a hook – what differentiates your product from everything else in the marketplace.

The Velvet Pouch

Masterson details the velvet pouch approach in a simple way – the longer you can get your prospect mesmerized by a product that’s hidden, the greater your chance it will close.

You begin the Velvet Pouch approach by teasing your prospect with a secret – and then once you finally show it, they’re so deeply, emotionally connected, the close is easy.

The secret lead is universal and useful. It can compel the casual reader to read dozens of pages before the secret is revealed.

In this example from Great Leads, the company is using dowsing as their secret. The secret is danced around until at the very end, it’s finally revealed.

To use the secret lead in your own writing, make sure your secret is:

  • Intriguing and beneficial
  • Introduced in the headline
  • Not disclosed in the lead
  • And gives clues as your letter progresses

The Proclamation Lead

When thinking of proclamations, most people think of editorial writing and literature. They’re usually what’s used in rhetorical speech. But they deserve special attention when crafting great leads.

Proclamations leads are emotionally compelling. They’re declarations, pronouncements. They’re assertions that your product will be beneficial to the customer, in a startling, intriguing, and tempting manner.

Chapter 8 of Great Leads details a proclamation lead as an emotionally-compelling beginning, usually as a headline, and then in the copy, you demonstrate the validity of the promise you made.

The proclamation lead distracts the reader from the fact that you’re selling them something and suspends their disbelief. It speaks to a reader emotionally, encouraging them to read on.

In your own writing, you would use a proclamation lead to excite and tempt the reader from the beginning. Then, following up in your body copy, detail how your product will solve their issue.

Rules for proclamation leads:

  1. Make the proclamation bold
  2. Make a promise
  3. Make the subject relevant
  4. Return to the proclamation at the end

The Best Sales Letters

The following sales letter has made over two billion dollars in revenue. It’s held a place of honor for over 30 years.

The letter is a story lead. It contains a promise, is an indirect form of a lead, and holds power because it’s well-told.

A story lead also leans heavily on the One Big Idea. It’s strong, desirable, drives an emotion, and gives one inevitable solution.

To write a story lead of your own, create a strong headline that tells a story.

Convey your information in a way that’s easy to remember for your reader. Give information of quantity and quality, in a form that other versions of advertisements cannot communicate.

Think of the Dos Equis ads with “The Most Interesting Man in the World.” They tell the story of the man – and only at the end, when you’re hooked, do you realize it’s a commercial about beer.

In Great Leads, the writers tell us that the headline and the photo grab the prospect’s attention. Then, you have to sell the product – and carry that initial sentiment into the final emotion that you close the sale with.

How to Make It Work For You

Test your leads with your audience. Every audience is different, and if you try to shove one thing at them, it may not be successful.

But another type may be.

Effectiveness is maintained as long as the copywriter uses different tools to stick to one core message, Great Leads ends with.

Single out your sales message, focus on it, and then slowly branch out once you’ve found what works for your company.

Rules for more effective copywriting:

  1. Write in the second person – always
  2. No headlines over 7 words
  3. Try to stick to black headlines
  4. Provide a premium and a money-back guarantee
  5. Use power words like “free” and “now”
  6. Use data (like 15% of people don’t know about how they can save money)

About Samuel J. Woods

I'm a Conversion Copywriter and Growth Consultant. My clients work with me to build and optimize their growth systems for customer acquisition and monetization.