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Headline Power:
How to write headlines that grab more sales!

By: Mary Sweeny

Mary Sweeny is a marketing writer and consultant who believes in studying her clients' businesses to maximize the power of the message. Mary owned a service business (employing 27 people) for ten years. Since selling the business in 1993, she's been writing advertising copy for, and consulting with, clients across the country. Her copy and strategies have brought sales increases of as much as 276 per cent for her clients. To learn more, visit her Web site at

When I refer to headlines, this includes the opening line of your e-mail messages, the headline on the front of your brochures, and the headlines on your web pages, sales letters, and ads.

The headline is the label on the package. It tells the reader if your message is worth reading.

If you don't stop your reader with your headline, giving them a reason to read on, they'll move on to the next ad, web site("click!") or e-mail ("delete!").

Obviously, if they don't read your message, you can't sell them. A winning headline can be the difference between breaking-even, and breaking records.

This will attract your HOTTEST PROSPECTS -- those people with a need, want, or interest in the benefits of your product. And these are the people you care about.

Q: If you're selling lawnmowers, do you care if apartment dwellers read your ad?

A: No!

Trying to be all things to all people only dilutes your message, rendering it ineffective. Speak to your hottest prospects -- with your most powerful benefit!

Here's a note of caution:

Often, an unrelated, "gimmicky" headline or visual can make readers feel disappointed, even cheated. They opened the brochure, or started reading your ad expecting information on a subject of interest to them and found, perhaps, a subject matter that doesn't apply to them at all. So my advice is, don't go there!
TEST - even headlines you think are sure winners-until you find your proven winner. Never assume you know what your prospects will respond to. Doing so has made differences in response rates as large as 300% -- and more!

Here are a few winning headlines you may recognize:
"How to win friends and influence people."
(Dale Carnegie's book.)

"When doctors "feel rotten" this is what they do."
(Alka Seltzer.)

"Always a bridesmaid, never a bride."
(Charm school.)
Winning headlines have some things in common. More often than not, the word You or Your appears. They use simple language, and they don't use clever word plays.

Cleverness makes the writer feel good-but rarely does anything for results. In fact, plays on words usually confuse the reader, making it unclear what you're selling.
An ad with the headline "How to Repair Cars-quickly, easily, right" was successful in getting orders.

Then the word Repair was changed to Fix. Orders increased 18 percent!

The point? Examine every word of your headline. Have you used clear, simple language? Have you left out a word that could express the key benefit better? Or one that would add to the believability of your headline? A single word can be worth a lot of money.

Try this. Before you run your next ad, or send your next sales letter, work on the headline.

Whether you're paying someone to write it-or writing it yourself. Scrutinize it. Make sure it offers at least one meaningful benefit. Make sure it uses simple, clear language.

Invest the extra hour or two in developing the best headline you possibly can-just this once. Then place that ad, or send that letter, and watch what happens. I'll bet you never take headlines for granted again.

© Copyright 2000, Mary Sweeny

Other Articles by Mary Sweeny

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