Some Pointers on Writing a Headline

March 1, 2009 by  Filed under: Advertising 

Just about any sales message, whether in print or on-line needs a headline-a good one. Let’s face it, the headline of your sales message is responsible for up to 80% of the response from that sales message. Hence, the success or failure of most marketing efforts rests very much on the power of your headline.

Using a print ad as an example, 10-20% of your prospective readers will read your ad. That’s it. So, if you have a so-so headline, you can lose pretty much all the prospective readers of your ad. To capture your prospective reader, you need to grab him/her with a good, punchy headline.

In an earlier article, I wrote on the use of a “how-to” statement as a great way of writing a headline. Here, I will give some general pointers on writing headlines.

As covered earlier and again here, a headline is just so important. Even poorly written ads have been successful because of the overwhelming power of a good headline. Your prospects will decide whether to read your sales message in only two or three seconds. That is all the time they will give you to scan your headline. Really, you and I are no different.

We do not READ a newspaper, we SCAN the headlines – article headlines and ad headlines. We are looking for only for what interests us at the moment we read. 

A headline comprises the first words at the top of a newspaper ad. It is the title of your article, the subject line of your email or letter, or the top of your web page. Some quick pointers:

Make sure that your headline is the first group of words that your reader sees. I’ve seen fancy layouts with the headline buried in the body of an ad. So, subtle and yet so easy to miss. We’re not out to win awards for ad layouts, but to make sales.

Ads that go against this pointer put their logo on the top, where the headline should be. If you just want to get subliminal messages through, without trying to get your reader to go through the body copy, this might work. Otherwise, it’s a complete waste of time.

The headline should pull in the reader with some sort of promise. Once, you get the reader’s attention, the eyes will be pulled down to your logo, as part of your signature. Of the readers who will see your ad, something like 10-20% will have an interest in your message. If you miss out on these readers, you’ve just done your money.

The headline should not only have kind or promise, it should be catchy and noticeable. Some headlines just describe the product that’s advertise and that’s it. Ho-hum. “1 tonne widget”. So, what’s the promise. Mind you if someone is looking for a 1 tonne widget, this could be enough to pull him/her through the body copy.

Now, why not something like “You can save money with our 1 tonne widget”, better yet, “How you can save money with our 1 tonne widget”.

You appeal to the hip pocket nerve and get the reader’s curiosity going. We will not interest all readers, only the 10-20% who may be in the market for a 1 tonne widget. And, since the reader’s curiosity is piqued, he/she will read on.

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