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How To Write Headlines That Get Attention
No doubt, the headline is the most important part of any advertisement or sales letter. The reason is very simple. The headline is the first thing your prospect sees when he or she looks at your advertisement.
It's an advertisement for your advertisement.
The only purpose of your headline is to get your prospect to continue reading your ad or sales letter. It must get your reader's attention and it must pull them into your ad.
Your headline must be so irresistible that your reader has to find out more.
It doesn't make a difference how good your product or service is or how good your advertising copy is, if your headline isn't any good, your ad or sales letter won't get read.
Let's take a look at what two legendary copywriters have to say about the importance of good headlines:
"Advice to copywriters: When you are assigned to write an ad, write a lot of headlines first. Spend hours writing headlines -- or days if necessary. If you can come up with a good headline, you are almost sure to have a good ad. But even the greatest writer can't save an ad with a poor headline." --John Caples
"On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. If you haven't done some selling in your headline, you have wasted 80 percent of your money. The wickedest of all sins is to run an advertisement without a headline." -- David Olgilvy
It never ceases to amaze me how many advertisements I see that don't have headlines.
All advertisements should have a headline.
Let's talk about the rules you should follow when writing headlines, the different types of headlines you can use, proven words to use in headlines, and how you can become an expert at writing headlines.
Rules to follow when writing headlines:
1. First and foremost, your headline must appeal to your reader's self interest. Communicate the strongest benefit (or benefits) to your prospect. Everybody's favorite radio station is "WIIFM" -- What's In It For Me? Your headline should answer this important question.
2. Attract the attention of the prospect you'd like to target. If your headline doesn't attract the right people, it has failed. Your headline must reach out to your prospect, grab them by the throat and say, "Hey!!! I'm talking to you!"
3. Your headline must deliver a clear and understandable message. Most people read only the headlines. Because of this, your headline must make a complete statement and compel the prospect to continue reading the body copy.
4. If you have news, such as a new product, be sure to get that news into your headline in a big way.
5. Don't try to be clever or humorous with your headlines. These type of headlines are ineffective and a waste of money.
6. Include the words "quick" and "easy" if it fits what you are communicating.
7. Use specifics in your headlines, not generalities. For example, "Make $5,274 In 30 Days" is a better headline than "Make Money Fast". Specifics are more believable.
8. Always test two headlines against each other to see which one pulls the best.
9. Use upper and lower case letters for your headlines. This is easier to read than all caps. I also like to put quotation marks around my headlines. Studies have shown that quotation marks around headlines increase readership.
10. When it's time for you to write a headline for your ad, write at least 50 headlines. Some direct marketers spend days writing hundreds of headlines in search of the right one. To come up with selling headlines takes more than just a few minutes. You've got to commit yourself to sitting down and writing at least 50 headlines!
Your headline is the key to your entire ad's success. If you don't tell your prospect what's in it for them, you won't get their attention. If you don't get their attention, they won't read your ad. And if they don't read your ad, you've wasted your time and money.
Different types of headlines:
To help you write headlines that get attention, let's take a look at the different types of headlines you can use, how and when you may want to use them, and actual examples of headlines that were successful.
? The News Headline. If your product or service offers something newsworthy, announce it in your headline. Newsworthy is usually the introduction of a new product or the improvement of an existing product.
Here are some words you can use in your News Headline: New, Announcing, Introducing, Finally, Just Released, Now, At Last.
"Now! Own Florida Land This Easy Way... $20.00 Down And $20.00 A Month"
"New Diet Burns Off More Fat Than If You Ran 98 Miles A Week"
"Announcing... The New Edition Of The Encyclopedia That Makes It Fun To Learn Things"
? The Guarantee Headline. Guarantee Headlines state a desirable benefit, and guarantee results or other benefits. If you offer a powerful guarantee, let your prospects know by stating it in the headline.
"Play Guitar In 7 Days Or Money Back"
"Announcing A New Technologically Advanced Golf Ball You Will Never Lose, Never Slice, And Never Miss... 100% Guaranteed"
? The How To Headline. These two words -- "how to", are very powerful words. You can never go wrong using a How To Headline. (Over 7,000 book titles start out with How To.) How To Headlines promise your prospect a source for information, advice, and solutions to their problems. If you ever get stumped for a headline, use the How To Headline -- it works!
"How To Win Friends And Influence People"
"How To Get Your Cooking Bragged About"
"How To Form Your Own Corporation Without A Lawyer For Under $50"
? The Benefit Headline. The key to a winning Benefit Headline is to know your market so well you can offer them a powerful, compelling benefit they can't easily get somewhere else. You must thoroughly research your target market in order to know what benefits are going to motivate them to take action.
"If You Are A Careful Driver You Can Save Money On Car Insurance"
"It Cleans Your Breath While It Cleans Your Teeth"
"Get Rid Of Money Worries For Good"
? The Question Headline. Here again, to use this headline, you must really know your market. You need to know what your prospect is thinking, what their anxieties are, and what they're hoping to accomplish. If you know your target audience this well, then the Question Headline is an effective headline to use. The Question Headline must focus on your prospect's self interest and ask a question they want to know the answer to. The best type of questions to ask are questions that get your prospect involved.
"Do You Make These Mistakes In English?"
"Can You Pass This Money Test?"
? The Reason-Why Headline. With the Reason-Why Headline you give your prospect specific reasons why they should read your ad. Reason-Why Headlines are effective because they contain facts and specific numbers. Reason-Why Headlines don't need to include the words "reason why". You can use "38 ways", "7 steps", "5 secrets", etc.
"38 Fun And Easy Ways To Earn $500.00 Next Weekend"
"7 Steps To Freedom"
"67 Reasons Why It Would Have Paid You To Answer Our Ad A Few Months Ago"
? The Testimonial Headline. The Testimonial Headline is just what it says -- it uses a customer testimonial for a headline. With this headline, you get your customers to sell for you by talking about the benefits they received.
"I Lost My Bulges... And Saved Money Too"
"How I Retired On A Guaranteed Income For Life"
"I Was Tired Of Living On Low Pay -- So I Started Reading The Wall Street Journal -- By A Subscriber"
? The Command Headline. The Command Headline tells your customer what to do. Your command should encourage action by offering your prospect a benefit that will help them. Effective Command Headlines start out with action verbs.
"Stop Dreaming And Start Making Money"
"Throw Your Wax Can In The Trash Can -- The New No-Wax Floor Is Here"
"Order Christmas Cards Now -- Pay After January 20"
There you have it! Several types of headlines you can use for any kind of circumstance or market. Each headline type works well on its own or it can be combined with the other headline types.
Now, let's talk about words you can use in your headlines.
Powerful Headline Words That Are Proven To Work:
* Advice To * Amazing * Announcing * At Last * Bargain * Breakthrough * Discover * Do You * Easy * Facts * Guarantee * Here * How To * Immediate * Life * Magic * Money * New * Now * Powerful * Proven * Quick * Sale * Secrets Of * Success * Surprising
And finally, the three most powerful headline words:
FREE You Your
The words that you use in your headlines are very important. Dan Kennedy has talked about how adding just one letter to a headline (with no other changes to the ad) almost tripled the response of an ad that ran in a magazine.
Let's take a look at the headline Dan talked about. Here's what the headline said before the change:
"Put Music In Your Life"
And here's what it said after the change:
"Puts Music In Your Life"
Adding the "s" to the word "Put" almost tripled the response of the ad! (The first headline implies that you have to do something. The second headline implies that something is done for you.)
This example proves how important it is to spend lots of time writing dozens of headlines and then testing different headlines.
How To Become An Expert At Writing Headlines:
The first thing you can do to become an expert at writing headlines is to start a collection of headlines.
Whenever you see a headline that gets your attention and that compels you to read the ad, write it down on a 3 x 5 index card. Spend time studying these headlines and see if you can improve them.
An easy way to start a collection of effective headlines is to subscribe to the tabloid magazines. The people at National Inquirer, Star, and The Globe know how to write headlines. Because of their irresistible headlines, these magazines sell millions of copies each week! (Off the newsstands on impulse!)
I've got hundreds of index cards with headlines. When it's time for me to write a headline, I use these index cards for ideas.
Here's another trick for writing headlines:
Before you attempt to write a headline or any form of advertising, you should write down all the benefits of your product or service on 3 x 5 index cards. Write a single benefit on each card. When writing the benefits, remember to write them from your prospects point of view. (Also, convert the features of your product into customer benefits.)
Once you've taken the time to write down the benefits, you'll have a stack of cards (maybe hundreds) that you can use for headline ideas. Isolate the most important customer benefit and use it to create your headlines. Sometimes, one of the benefits may turn out to be the actual headline. (Also, use the index cards when writing your ad or sales letter.)
Here's a checklist to use when evaluating your headlines:
1. Does my headline communicate the strongest customer benefit?
Remember, the difference between a good headline and a bad headline is the difference between success and failure in advertising.
Your headline is the deciding factor on whether or not your prospect will read your ad. It is the most important element in advertising. Spend the time that's necessary to write winning headlines, and watch the response to your advertising sky rocket!
James A. Bower is the Co-Founder and President of Bower Income and Profit Systems a company dedicated to enhancing business performance in many areas through tapes books and seminars. His presentations include sales, marketing, telephone skills, motivation, goal setting and achievement, telephone equipment and voice mail design, and business organization for efficiency. He is an internationally recognized instructor and is the recipient of many awards in recognition of his successful efforts in assisting businesses create a more efficient environment resulting in maximum profits. He has had the opportunity to speak for groups as large as 5000 and can get his points across to any size audience.
James has been actively addressing business issues and solving business problems for over 30 years. He is available to make presentations to company staff or for individual consultation.
Contact James at 316-773-1994 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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