Make a Big Promise

As I’ve worked with startups over the past couple of years, it’s become clearer and clearer that I’ve been making up my own terms for things. More important than that, they’re sticking.

I recently had an old client come back for more. Repeat business is my favorite kind of business, but something he said made me even happier. He told me that he needed the copy to be “bossy.” I taught him that.

His having internalized the lesson has led me to a realization: I can help more than my clients. I have to share my knowledge, starting today with my cornerstone concept, “The Big Promise.”

The Big Promise is the headline that anchors a landing page. It is equal parts value proposition and instructions, and it has a lot of work to do.

At best, we have a few seconds to capture a visitors attention before they decide to stick around or surf on to the next website. With so little time, the headline is the only part of your website that we can be sure a visitor will read. We have to pack the full value of your product or service into one sentence. More than that, we need to answer the question at the front of every visitor’s mind, “Why should I care?”

We do this by making a promise. A big, bold, bossy promise.

Bossiness boosts conversion. Consider two headline options: “Instructions lead to action” and “Tell them what to do.”

With the former, it takes some thinking to get from “this is true” through “this could be true for me” to “I should take action.” With only a few seconds at our disposal, most visitors move on to another website before bringing the thought to its actionable end.

“Tell them what to do” doesn’t leave room for interpretation or thinking. It leads right to action. Every Big Promise should push visitors toward action.

Now that we know what we’re after, getting there is a matter of style.

Before I put fingers to keys, I start with a deep dive into your brand, product and customers. Only after I’ve mastered your brand’s place in the universe do I open a google doc, create a numbered list and start pumping out one-liners.

As I write, my goal is not to write the big promise line. Instead, I’m practicing writing about the product in general. It’s value. It’s features. Everything. Always short. Eight words or less. Somewhere between the 30th and 200th option, the right language and phrasing makes itself known. For me, quality emerges from quantity.

Other writers may do things differently, but I hope that you find my methods helpful. No matter how you get to your headline:

  • Make it bold.
  • Make it bossy.
  • Make a Big Promise.

Until next time,

Jonathan Rozen