Crafting the Perfect Opening Sentence

You have only a few seconds to grab a reader’s attention. That makes your opening sentence very important. A great opening sentence focuses on:

  • What your customers want: Give top priority to the features and benefits your customers want most. Suppose you’ve created a brand new frozen chili. If customers long for better tasting chili, emphasize the features (quick freezing, organic rice, fresh spices) that contribute to better taste. But omit information on the medical properties of chili peppers unless your customers expect and want that information. Address the needs of different customers in different sections of your marketing material. For example, you may want one website page on Great Tasting Recipes and another on Chili Peppers and Your Health.
  • What your product or service delivers best: Give top priority to the benefits and features that you deliver best. If your chili tastes better because you cook it slowly, the words “slow cooked” belong in your opening statement.
  • What your competition does best and worst: If every chili maker in the world slow cooks chili, that feature probably doesn’t belong in your opening sentence. If no one else cooks with fresh spices, that feature deserves a top mention. If your competitors cook with fresh spices, but don’t say so? Claim that feature yourself. Your competition’s weaknesses reveal areas where customers aren’t being served or believe they aren’t being served. That’s where your product or service commands the market.
  • What type of document you’re writing: In a news release (for example), customers expect to learn what you’ve achieved recently. If you start with a long history of chili, customers stop reading before they find out about your accomplishment. In the executive summary of a proposal, customers want to know that you’ve heard and addressed their specific concerns. Your opening sentence must suit the document.

Create a decision box where you list the most important features and benefits of your product or service. Rank them by how closely they meet the criteria above: giving customers what they want; representing something you are good at; filling a real or perceived gap in the marketplace; and matching the goals of the document. The feature/benefit with the highest score should help frame your opening sentence.

TWP Marketing & Technical Communications knows the value of a great opening sentence. Contact us today.

Writing the Perfect Proposal

Recently, I rewrote a proposal for a small company with a unique green product. The original proposal had five problems:

  • It stressed what the company offered and ignored the problem potential customers were trying to solve.
  • It listed features of the product rather than benefits.
  • It neglected to point out where the product differed from others in the marketplace.
  • It overloaded the customer with attachments and links.
  • It assumed the customer would know what to do next.

Ineffective proposals arise for very good reasons: most often the writers are so close to the product (or service) and so enthusiastic that they no longer see it through the customers’ eyes. Moreover, they are so sure the customer will agree with their enthusiasm that they pack the proposal with every bit of information available; and then simply assume the customer will initiate a personal meeting or conversation.

Belief in your product or service and loyalty to your company and customers are excellent traits and should appear in any proposal. However, you yourself wouldn’t make a purchase based solely on a sales person’s enthusiasms; neither will your customers. The perfect proposal:

  • Identifies the problem or mission of the customer.
  • Focuses on benefits to the customer.
  • Differentiates the product or service to ease the customer’s process of choosing.
  • Delivers the message clearly and efficiently, keeping overall length (including attachments and links) to a minimum.
  • Gives clear contact information and a reason for the customer to contact you, preferably in person.

At TWP Marketing & Technical Communication, we have over 25 years of experience writing proposals, from letter proposals to books, that give customers the information they want in words that excite their interest. We can do the same for your proposals. Contact us today.