What makes a great first sentence? And more importantly, do you have one?
Showing may be easier than telling, so let’s look at some of our own examples below. Be on the lookout for ways we use brevity, clarity, wit, humor, and value\outcome-specific messaging to achieve a great first sentence.
With each example, we’ll also share a takeaway you can apply to your own first sentence.
All sentences created by Martin Creative.
Example: IT Services
Previous 1st Sentence: Managed IT Services For The Modern Law Firm
What’s wrong with it: It’s written for SEO and doesn’t provide enough information for the reader. Jay’s One Target Customer™, 48yr old Joshua, does not know what “Managed” entails, or what “Services” are included. So while it ranked well, it converted poorly.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Connect your law firm’s systems to work together seamlessly.
Why this works: The sentence speaks to a larger pain Jay’s client experiences: their systems don’t work well together. Further, the new sentence positions the entire organization and its future acquisition efforts.
How you can use this: Don’t stop at just what you deliver, push past that. When you come across a great reason to work with your company ask yourself, “why is this important to my One Target Customer™?”
Example: SaaS Startup
Previous 1st Sentence: Lets guests follow along with your tour on their phone.
What’s wrong with it: It sells the product instead of the outcome. “Let guests follow along” promotes the company’s Digital Guidebook as the value, prompting critique from customers wanting more features, updates, and functionality.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Capture more email addresses.
Why this works: It provides an actionable, measurable outcome of using the software – capturing more email addresses. Now customers don’t need to challenge specific UX/UI decisions in the app, because the value is “emails” instead of a guidebook.
How you can use this: Avoid selling features. Your features help your customer achieve something they desire. Speak directly to that desire and narrow your sales conversation to something they understand.
Example: Beauty Show
Previous 1st Sentence: Celebrate 100 Years of Beauty
What’s wrong with it: The word “celebrate” is vague. It doesn’t help the reader understand “what” is being promoted. If reader can’t first comprehend what it is, it’s incredibly difficult for them to make the leap about “why” they want to attend.
Competitor #1: The nation’s leading network of beauty industry events and world-class educational programming.
Competitor #2: Registration opens in March. Please check back for more information.
Competitor #3: The leading B2B event in the Americas dedicated to all sectors of the beauty industry, including a new edition in Miami in 2024.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Crazy-inspiring beauty show packed with badass hair and original people.
Why this works: It creates a distinct differentiation in tone from each of the company’s primary competitors, capturing a very large, overlooked segment of the marketplace. The new sentence is daunting for a 100 year-old organization, but it is the right one.
How you can use this: Remember that old story of “you don’t need to be faster than the bear, just faster than your friend” — ditto here. Review your competitors messaging for new opportunities to stand out from them and make it easier for your customer to choose you.
Example: SaaS Startup
Previous 1st Sentence: Turn Good Credit into Free Travel.
What’s wrong with it: The words “credit” and “free” set off blaring alarms in people’s minds. And even if the One Target Customer™ is interested in boosting their credit, as the page later goes on to say, they’re still skeptical of anything being “free” in this world.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Glow up your next vacation with travel rewards points.
Why this works: It speaks directly to the intended customer, 20 yr old Gen Z Sara, by removing the scary words and highlighting the outcome: travel reward points.
How you can use this: Speak your customer’s language. Use words that are within their vernacular to concisely communicate your unique value.
Example: Fractional CFOs
Previous 1st Sentence: GET CLARITY ON YOUR COMPANY’S PERFORMANCE.®
Previous supporting copy: MAKE CHANGES TODAY THAT AFFECT PROFITABILITY TOMORROW.®
What’s wrong with it: The business chose statements that meant something to them but didn’t mean anything to the reader. The value offer is also muddy, assuming the reader wants to purchase clarity, and not explaining why someone needs the firm to get it.
NEW! 1st Sentence: The sound financial leadership you need right now.
Supporting Copy: Put your financial decisions in the hands experts who oversee your cashflow, implement your growth strategy, and get your team well-deserved raises.
Why this works: It promotes the very thing 45yr old Michael is looking for, financial leadership. He knows he’s not good at this part of his business, he’s a tech guy.
It also positions the company behind the founder’s best trait — responding in crisis. He doesn’t need days to come up with a plan, he can navigate his company through a crisis on that first call.
This ability to respond urgently is part of their unique value and subtly included in the sentence through the two words, “right now.”
How you can use this: Find the right adjectives. In this case “sound” sets an expectation around the experienced, dedicated leadership our client provides.
How marketing can use this: The client’s marketing team has conversation guardrails. They know what to talk about and what not to talk about. They know what blogs to write, what to talk about on social media, and a better understanding of profitable SEM investments.
Example: Digital Product
Previous 1st Sentence: Find out what your money was spent on. Discover if there is financial fraud in your marriage.
What’s wrong with it: It assumed the reader was looking to discover financial fraud and promoted this as its primary benefit. But One Target Customer – 38 year old Jackie – isn’t seeking the product to discover if there is fraud – she’s already aware her husband is cheating on her.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Uncover your husband’s hidden accounts and prepare financially for your new life.
Why this works: One of the longest first sentences we’ve created, it’s intentional length needed to promote the end value while also being encouraging. It’s niching into “your husband’s hidden accounts” helps Divorce Money Guide further define their One Target Customer™ without needing to specifically state it.
How you can use this: Examine the customer journey of your customer. Write down each step they go through. From when they first find out about you, to giving you money, and onto telling 5 colleagues about you. This will help you understand what that person already knows when they arrive at your site for the first time.
Example: SaaS Software
Previous 1st Sentence: The Predictive Hiring Experience Platform
Previous Supporting Copy: Harmoniously Fusing High Tech + Human Touch
What’s wrong with it: It uses a lot of fancy words that…that I just…I don’t really understand.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Artificial Intelligence to Power Your Hiring.
Supporting Copy: Bring structure to your interviews with our collaborative hiring platform. Smart software that gives you confidence in your long-term hires, every time.
Why this works: Pulling from Oren Klaff-style tactics here — the sentence is familiar to them (hiring) plus one better (Ai). Hiring + Ai.
How you can use this: Utilize specific keywords and terminology that your audience can understand and use the vernacular they are accustomed to.
Example: Another IT Services Company
Previous 1st Sentence: Your Partner In Backup For Information Technology
Previous Supporting Copy: Highly Tailored IT Design, Management & Support Services.
What’s wrong with it: Starting with “your partner” positions the sales conversations around what’s happening in the business now.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Never worry about your IT again.
Supporting Copy: Secure your company’s data. Eliminate network outages. Access the files you need safely from anywhere. Complete IT management for lawyers who don’t have time to sweat their tech.
Why this works: In sales context, we’re using dream arguments to communicate the end result.
How you can use this: Instead of talking about where the customer is now, talk about where they will be. Communicate how their life will be better having worked with you.
Example: Incentive Travel
Previous 1st Sentence: Experience Matters
What’s wrong with it: It’s not unique. During our work with this client, we came across an advertisement for a local spa that used the same first sentence.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Destination meeting and incentive travel experts.
Why this works: Their target customer is pressed for time. Now she has to coordinate a meeting for 100 people after getting this project dumped on her. With the new first sentence, the company positions itself as the solution to her problem while also communicating what they do.
How you can use this: The right customer situation may require more clarity than cleverness. You should be careful not to compromise the customer’s needs for the sake of being “catchy.”
Example: Pitch Decks
Previous 1st Sentence: Create Your Investor Deck in 20 Days
What’s wrong with it: It positions the company as a fast, cheap solution to the problem — which was the opposite of their in-depth approach.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Market research and deck creation to get you more investor meetings.
Why this works: “Market Research” highlighted the most valuable part of their service, while “more investor meetings” helped to highlight the specific outcome they deliver.
How you can use this: Look to see if your first sentence is promoting a service or a solution. Update your sentence to talk about the reader’s ideal outcome.
Learn more about Pitch Genius in the Business Insider article How I Scaled My Pitch Deck Business to Bring in $50,000 a Month.
Example: Marketing Company
Previous 1st Sentence: Sales & Marketing Experts to Help You Grow Your Tour
What’s wrong with it: It’s too general. Additionally, operators aren’t overly excited to talk about “sales & marketing,” most already had a company they were working with, and it was similar to competitors who promised the same result.
NEW! 1st Sentence: Book More Corporate Groups
Why this works: In just four words we’ve created an entirely different conversation. The tools to help clients book more corporate groups are sales & marketing tools, but they’ve been combined in a desired end result.
How you can use this: Compare the first sentence on your website and ask, “is my opening sentence a conversation my target customer wants to have?”