If you don’t have a good headline you may as well not worry about the rest of your article, sales letter, ad, or whatever.
You should not try to sell from the headline.
The purpose of a headline is to get the reader to read the next sentence or paragraph. If your headline does not entice a person to investigate and read more, then he or she will never read the rest of your sales letter, ad, article, etc. If you’re selling something and the reader never reads what you’ve written, you will not sell much… they’ll never get to the “buy button”.
You want your headline to get the CORRECT readers to read the next part of what you’ve written. For example, if you’re selling hard to find replacement lawn mower blades but you’ve written a headline that only seems to attract people wanting to grow greener grass, then you’re not going to sell many blades. You may get lucky and sell a few because the two groups are related, but you would sell many more blades if your headline caught the attention of those looking for hard to find replacement lawn mower blades.
Sounds like common sense right? But how many times have you written a headline that marginally addresses the target consumer of your product, service, or article? If you’re like me, the answer is a lot!
You have to speak directly to the person you’re trying to sell, or reach. It’s very tempting when writing headlines to try the “fisherman with a net” approach and write something that may appeal to and attract anyone and everyone. There’s no faster approach to failure. There’s no place for politically correct, washy-washy, limp-wristed headline writing when it comes to successful marketing.
Instead of using a net and just haphazardly and blindly throwing that net out into the water hoping to catch something, you need to be exact. You need the correct type and size of fishing pole, the correct weight of line, proper type of reel, and most important of all, you need to have the best type of lure for the type of fish you’re after. I don’t fish much, but those that do usually have a tackle box full of lures, or flies, etc. Bass fishermen don’t fish for largemouth bass with trout flies, they use bass lures.
It’s very tempting when writing headlines to just throw them together and not give them the proper amount of attention. After all, you’ve written such commanding copy in your sales letter, article, or ad that it could stand on its own, even without a headline. This is your mind playing tricks on you. These are the same kind of tricks that keep you from doing those last few reps in the gym when working out. Or that tells you it’s OK to eat that doughnut or bowl of ice cream because you’ve been working really hard and deserve it. Do you think that those people you see on TV that weigh 800 pounds and can’t get out of bed set out to be that obese? No, the mind can play tricks on you that will lead you, in a zigzagging kind of path, to catastrophic failure. The same thing applies to writing headlines.
The cold hard fact is that if you don’t have a strong headline, targeted at the exact individual you want reading your copy… you will fail. This is a war. Make no mistake about it. You’re fighting for a tiny slice of someone’s attention and that’s all you can ever hope to get. Fail to use every weapon in your arsenal correctly and you will fail.
When Jesus spoke to the woman at the well (John 4:4-42) he didn’t use generalities. Jesus didn’t try to please everyone. He didn’t speak as a politician in Washington does. No, he called it as he saw it. He told her in no uncertain terms what he could do for her and what she had done in her past. He talked directly to this woman in a way that she could understand, and in turn caused many in that town to believe. This is repeated many times in the Bible – Jesus talks to an individual and converts a group. If it’s a good enough tactic for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me and you!
My Headline Writing Tips:
- Don’t try to do it all in one session or sitting.
- Think of several people that fit the target audience and make your writing talk to them INDIVIDUALLY, not as a group. I actually try to think of people I know.
- Target your headlines like the treble hooks on a fishing lure to ONE PERSON.
- Don’t worry about the ones that get away (if your headline is correct, the ones that get away are not the ones you care about anyway)
- Write more headlines than you think is remotely sane! And then pick out the best ones.
- It’s critical to use some type of testing like A/B Split Testing, to determine which headlines are winners.
- Don’t become emotionally attached to certain headlines just because you like them. If they don’t produce results, then they become a casualty of war.
- Focus on the outcome or resulting improvement, not the problem. Remember, Jesus didn’t tell the woman at the well that she was going to burn in Hell for eternity; he said “whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.“
- A positive spin generally works better than a negative spin.
- Did I mention you should test and track so you actually know what is working and what is not?
- Curiosity is good, humor is generally not.
- Be specific: don’t say “New Faster Version“, say “Now 3 Times Faster“.
- The rhythm of the syllables of the words is very important, some have said as important as the words themselves.
- Headlines should be easy to read and understand. People are ultra-busy, you may only get a fraction of a second of their time and your headline has to speak TO THEM in that fraction of a second.
Fred’s Marketing 101 Law:
You will always, and I repeat always, be surprised at what actually works.
Also read my post Exploding Your Copy (and life) From Sissy to SEISMIC.
If you have not already, read my guide: Insider Secrets to Promoting Your Business Online.
Until next time,