The second most important element in copywriting
Summary: The second most important element is the first sentence. You must write the first sentence so tempting that you invite the reader to read the second sentence. Every following sentence has the same job: Invite the reader to read the next sentence.
This simple element makes good copywriters legendary.
With it, your sales are rising. Without, you lost already.
It is tiny, small and inconspicuous.
But still. It is powerful.
Before we start, I need to clarify something.
What is the most important element?
The most important element in copywriting is your headline. With your headline everything stands or falls. The headline is your reader’s first and maybe last impression.
Advertising guru David Ogilvy says:
On average, 8 out of 10 people read your headline. But only 2 read the rest.
Another grandfather of copywriting, John Caples, says:
The success of an entire ad campaign depends on what is said in the headline.
These two statements clarify once again that your headline is the most important element.
But no worries. In a future lesson you’ll learn more about headlines.
What is the ultimate goal of good copywriting?
Whether it’s your blog, an email or sales copy. What is your ultimate goal?
That your written text is being read, right?
Yep. Makes sense.
So what is the primary intent of your headlines, your graphics, your font, and any other element? (Note: You’ve already done it.)
The simple and flabbergasting answer is…
That the first sentence was read
Exactly. The first sentence shall be read. Maybe that sounds too easy for you now. Maybe even a bit confusing?
But think about it.
What are you reading after reading all the elements? The first sentence. Don’t you?
Over the years doing copywriting, I learned about the economy of words and the importance of each word written and left out. Copywriter and direct marketer Joe Sugarmann revealed his secret of becoming a great copywriter:
Each element of a sales text has only one task - to read the first sentence.
In his seminars, Sugarman asked his participants: „What is the purpose of the headline?“
Every time a „smart“ participant said something complicated or spoke jargon, he interrupted him.
Sugarman said, „The intent of all elements is to read the first sentence. And the intent of the first sentence is to read the second sentence. And so on. And so on.“
Imagine the reader was on a well-oiled slide… and he cannot stop anymore. He „slips“ ever further down… to the offer and the sale.
Sugarman also recommends that the first sentence ought to be short and crisp. So short that it is easier to read it than not to read it.
His first sentences often sound like this:
- Losing weight is not easy.
- You against the computer.
- That’s easy.
- That had to happen.
- Hats off for IBM.
Take a look at the current article. The first sentence is always short, crisp and (mostly ^^) in a nutshell.
You’ve just learned how to structure each text. Especially if it should lead to an action or a sale.
Often we forget that the key to making a convincing point is how we got there. Which is step by step. 
But… how do we finally get there?
With this simple framework in mind, you can now immerse yourself a little deeper. We’re in a better position now and better understand the different elements of good copywriting.
For example, we now see:
- Why a strong, tempting headline is important.
- Why you should focus immediately on the benefits for the reader.
- Why you have to make a promise that you will fulfill later.
- Why you have to prove everything with specific „evidence“.
The key for someone to read your text is… one sentence at a time. Sentence by sentence. The first sentence must be so tempting that it invites to read the second one. The second sentence must be so tempting that it invites you to the third one. And so on. And so on.
For example, you can …
- tell a captivating story.
- give hints to what will come later.
- ask a question and answer it.
- clarify the benefits immediately.
- address the problems and wishes.
Get to the point immediately. What does your reader want? What does he get out of it? Just give him a reason to read on.
This was the first article introducing a small education series on copywriting for business owners. Here, we’ll explore the key principles and elements that guide readers from the first sentence to the sale, newsletter sign-up or any other action.
From now on, you’ll be paying more attention to your first sentence, right? ;)
- ^ It’s how communication works in general. You can’t be fast with people. Dealing with people, you have to be slow and effective. Slow is fast. Only when it’s about things and processes can you be fast and efficient.
Note: The article above is a remix and a manual translation of „Das zweitwichtigste Element im Werbetexten“, a German article written by Vladislav Melnik. According to my research, Vladislav’s post is based on Robert Bruce’s piece „The 2nd Most Important Element in Copywriting“. So, my article is at least the 3rd version. However, I only used Vladislav’s text and disregarded what Bruce wrote. I adapted the words to my way of copywriting and I added my flavor where applicable.
You can also read my German translation of this article. No, it’s not a copy of what Vladislav wrote. I did the double work because I translated my English translation back to German. This makes sure it’s a unique text with my own words and a lesson to learn from while I was doing the research.
Important and educating content should be spread by many people. That’s why I wrote this and the following educational articles. I find publishing evergreen articles is a great way to start my copywriting blog. I hope it’s been helpful for you.