The most important part of your advertisement, direct marketing, poster, email or social media campaign is your headline.
The majority of people read little else. As proof of this, think about how you read. What draws your attention to the stories you read in your preferred newspapers, websites and magazines? I’d bet it’s the headlines.
And, just like the headlines used in news stories, your advertisement’s headline has one goal: to interest people enough to make them read on.
In fact, it’s not an overstatement to say that your campaign might win or flop entirely on your headline.
So how do you write a good one?
Obviously your headline depends on what you are selling. But no matter what your headline is, it should fall into one of these three categories:
- Self interest: The best headlines are those that offer the reader some kind of benefit. They offer your reader something they want – something they can get from you. Here’s an example:
“Your cold sore gone in 5 days with Vutuexin – or your money back”
This headline targets its prospects (people with cold sores) and instantly offers two benefits: to get rid of their cold sore in 5 days (which is what they want) or they get their money back.
Who can argue with that proposition?
This headline uses the problem / solution concept. Which is probably the most successful recipe you can use to create your advertising.
And it gets the brand name in too.
So all-in-all a pretty good headline.
- News: Research shows that people love to get news. Think about how often you seek it out yourself. How often do you read newspapers, news TV channels or news websites?
This is particularly successful in business-to-business advertising. Here’s an example:
“Announcing the new way for you to improve your business’s cash flow – effortlessly”
How many business owners and finance directors would like to improve their cash flow? And do so with very little effort? I suspect quite a few.
Here is a news headline taken from consumer advertising. It’s from a banner advertisement running on the Sky News website at the moment. It’s for Boots No7.
“Now there’s a new serum to reduce the looks of ages for all women”
Like the cold sore one, this is good for other reasons too. It uses the word ‘now’, which conjures up the thought that this is something new. This is then backed up/confirmed by the actual use of the word ‘new’.
It also defines its target market too by clearly pointing out it’s for women. The visual then scrolls to show the different products for their different target age groups.
- Curiosity: This is the most common type of headline used in advertising, although research shows it to be the least successful.
Here’s one I literally just found in my wife’s latest copy of Vogue Magazine:
Do you know what this headline is for? Does it get your attention. Or make you want to read the copy that follows?
To be frank, this headline is meaningless.
But curiosity headlines can work. For instance a headline that stated “What’s wrong with this picture?” successfully sold a course for self- improvement. This headline urges you to read on. It taps into your subconscious because you automatically try to find out just what is wrong with the picture.
Some people think headlines will make sense when used with a relevant and engaging image. And to some degree that’s right; a great image can rescue a poor headline. But not always.
It is always sensible to write the best headline you can. That way your great headline, used with an attention-grabbing photo, has the best chance of being a winner.
And never look for an image and try to write copy that suits it. Always write the copy first, then get an image to dramatically and interestingly make your point
Here is a simple trick to quickly check how good your headline is
Write your headline down on a piece of paper. Then use nothing else other than your logo / branding and position it where you usually would do.
Show your paper to someone who knows nothing about your business / product or service.
Do they understand what you’re are advertising? Do they understand the general benefit? Would they be interested in reading on?
If yes – then find a great photo to illustrate your advertisement and bring it to life. If no, look at re-writing it.
So the next time you’re writing headline copy for an advertisement, direct marketing, poster, email or social media campaign or any other item you want people to read – make sure it falls into one of the above three categories.
And by the way – the meaningless headline I mentioned early was for Porsche cars.