It’s easy to get so wrapped up in our startups that’s impossible to see them as a stranger does.

A stranger visiting your site knows literally next to nothing about you. They probably got there via Google when they were searching for a solution to a particular problem, be it invoicing for freelance work, teaching their children Italian or dealing with contaminated medical waste.

Your startup is just another link to them, another tab out of the 20+ tabs they opened from Google. After looking at your competitors’ sites, they get around to looking at your site.

What’s the very first thing you’ve got to tell them? A compelling reason to spend one more second on your site. If you don’t connect with them, demonstrate you at least understand them and have something that is going to help them the way they want to be helped, they’re gone.

Connecting with them, giving them a sense they are in a place where they can get their problem solved, this should be the job of the very first thing that draws their eye on the page.

It’s almost always going to be the largest headline on the page. Not a YouTube video. Not a graphic. Sometimes a testimonial if that testimonial is genuinely awesome. It’s going to be the text they first read.

There are rules for headlines, but for this headline on your startup’s main page,

  • You want to demonstrate they’re in the right place, usually by showing they are not in the wrong place. If I’m a freelance developer, and you’re trying to sell me on your invoicing service, a headline that reads in part, “invoicing for freelance developers” is going to be far more effective than a headline that says “accounting for self-employed people” let alone “accounting for small businesses.” The more your headline narrows down to the problem I have, the better I like it and the more time I’ll spend with you, not to mention the more likely I am to buy.
  • Don’t tell me you’re the best, awesome, fantastic, revolutionary. How the hell can you possibly say that when we just met and you know nothing about me? Hyperbole is waving a big red flag in my face saying don’t trust this site.
  • Differentiate. Guess what? No matter what you’re selling there are decent, good (and maybe, better) alternatives. Tell me how you’re different. It might be because you’re mobile first, built for teams of less than 5 people, have real live people answering the phone, whatever. Tell me what your #1 differentiator is.

That headline you’re writing – call it your value prop, unique selling proposition, whatever – is not your startup’s life story. It’s just enough, in a friendly way, in a way through shared language, to tell me you’re not full of crap and you may just have what I want at that moment.

Accomplish that, and they will read on, and that’s the first step to making them a customer or client