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Headlines That Get Response

By: Robert Middleton

Robert Middleton, of Action Plan Marketing in Palo Alto, Calif., has helped hundreds of professional service businesses attract new clients and get paid what they're worth.

His website is a resource for marketing professional services. Visit it at Action Plan Marketing.

I'd like to tell you about a "secret marketing weapon" that you see every day but probably don't use for maximum impact in your business. And that's the headline.

You may have heard that the headline is "the ad for the ad," that it gets the attention of the reader so that they actually read the ad copy. In large advertising tests it has been proven that one headline (but the same body copy) can outpull another headline from 10% to several hundred percent.

So what does this mean to you as a professional service business? Perhaps you don't even advertise. Well, even if you don't, there are many, many place you can use headlines in your marketing to generate much better response.

You can use headlines in letters, on postcards, on flyers, as titles of workshops or seminars, on your web site, in your marketing materials or brochure, in an email message, in an article and in a presentation. And I'm sure there are many more than that.

Let's look at exactly how a headline works and how you can make yours better. We'll use the example of a headline in a letter.

First of all, why a headline on a letter? Because it sure beats, "Dear Sir!" By putting a headline on your letter you communicate exactly what your letter is about and you pull the reader into the body of the the letter's message. But it had better be a good headline.

There are three very basic, but very powerful principles in writing headlines.
  1. It must promise a benefit (either directly or indirectly)
     
  2. It must target the reader of your message
     
  3. It must compel the reader to actually read the copy (this is the trickiest, more later)
Let's look at these one at a time by taking a generic example of a headline and improving it one step at a time. Let's say it's a headline for a "Time Management Seminar."

So the generic headline is just that: "Time Management Seminar."

Not too exciting, don't you agree? It tells what it is, but it doesn't do much else. Not a good headline. So let's add a benefit to that headline.

"Our Time Management Seminar Will Save You Two Hours a Day"

Now that's a lot better. There is a direct promise of a benefit. That gets my attention and interest. Now let's make the message more targeted:

"Consultants: Our Time Management Seminar Will Save You Two Hours a Day"

Even better, don't you agree? What we're doing now is focusing on consultants, not everyone. When you read this headline and you're a consultant, you become much more interested. "That's for me." you think. People love services custom made for them.

Now let's make it even more powerful and lead the reader into the copy:

"How 100 Consultants Saved 2 Hours a Day After Attending Our Time Management Seminar"

Now doesn't that make you want to read the copy below? Look at the huge difference in this headline. Before it was a statement. Now it's a story. "How 100 consultants..." And people love stories.

With a headline like that you set up an imbalance in the reader's mind. You pose a mystery. "How did 100 consultants save 2 hours a day? Mmmmm...." And you are pulled into the copy to find out what they are talking about.

There are several ways to pull people into copy. The "How so and so" method as outlined above is good. So is using the word "these."

"Consultants, Do You Make These 3 Time Management Mistakes?"

Now notice that in this headline I didn't even mention the time management seminar. It's pointed to indirectly. But the headline is so compelling (especially for consultants) that it's hard not read further and find out what it's all about. The deceptively simple word "these" makes you wonder what "these 3 mistakes" are. Another technique is to talk about "X number of ways..."

"Ten Ways Consultants are Saving Time and Making More Money."

You've got to read this because you want to know what those 10 ways are! Newspaper and magazine writers have know these secrets for years. Pick up a copy of Reader's Digest and notice how the headlines pull you into the copy, article after article.

Now it's time for you to go to work. Where in your marketing are you already using headlines? Take a look at them. Do they follow the three rules of effective headlines? If not, work to improve them, one step at a time until you have a headline that makes it virtually impossible for the reader not to dive enthusiastically into your copy.

© Copyright 2000, Robert Middleton

Other Articles by Robert Middleton

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.

 

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