Lead the Way with Great Leads
The lead is the opening few sentences or paragraphs in a magazine article or news story. Its purpose is to hold the reader's attention so that he or she keeps on reading right to the end.
Leads in promotional pieces — such as an ad or a sales letter — play the same role. Despite how effectively the headline gains attention, if the lead does not hold that initial reader interest, the body copy won't get scanned or read. And if that doesn't happen, the key message will not have any impact because the prospect will not have read it.
In direct-mail marketing, a lead test is when one version of a letter is tested against another that has a different lead. All the other text in the direct-mail piece is exactly the same. The purpose of a lead test is to discover which version generates the most orders. A new lead can dramatically lift response rates.
Here's an example of a sales letter lead.
In ancient Greece, business owners would attempt to collect on overdue accounts by throwing stones at the customers. This forced the debtor to either pay up or face a daily bruising.
Today, things are more civilized. But debt collection is no less frustrating. Collection agencies tend to be overly aggressive, destroying relationships. Lawyers can be outrageously expensive, and many won't touch accounts worth less than $10,000.
So what's the solution?
Does this lead motivate you to read on, at least until you find out what the solution is? If you are an entrepreneur who has had difficulties in collecting on overdue accounts, then, yes, you would probably be eager to read on.
There are many ways you can open your promotional piece with a great lead. You can:
Tell a compelling story
State an interesting fact
Ask a provocative question
Highlight the great offer
Quote a satisfied customer
Feature the key benefit
Make a big promise
Focus on the main problem
Leads are challenging yet fun to write. Like a headline, you should develop two or three lead ideas (you don't have to write them out fully) and then pick one you judge will be the most effective given the target audience and the theme of the promotion.