Why Should You Focus On Writing Good Headlines?

Jan. 1, 2005
The Mousetrap Series is about helping you sell more mousetraps, no matter what the mousetrap is that you sell. I don't care how good your mousetrap is,

Note: The Mousetrap Series is about helping you sell more mousetraps, no matter what the mousetrap is that you sell. I don't care how good your mousetrap is, few people will buy it if you do not market it well.

The answer to the headline is:

Most People Read Headlines First, So Concentrate On Headlines

Writing headlines is tough. I always sweat through it. But they matter. Five times as many people will read your headline as will read your copy, so the headline is worth 80 percent of the effort.

The headline must grab people. It’s got to speak to them, it must be interesting to them. It shouldn’t be about you. This doesn’t mean that you can’t use your company name in the headline, only that the company name cannot be the headline.

In fact, finding a way to work your company name into a headline can be an effective strategy for helping to build top-of-the-mind awareness. After all, five times as many people will read the headline as the copy.

Headlines don’t have to be short. One of the misperceptions many people seem to hold about headlines is the notion they must be short. Nonsense. Advertising great David Ogilvy considered the following to be the best headline he ever wrote:

At 60 Miles Per Hour

The Loudest Noise

In The New Rolls Royce

Comes From The Electric Clock

It was a long headline. Ogilvy managed to incorporate the company name into the headline. Yet, he also managed to focus on buyer benefits.

Headlines should speak to the buyer. They should focus on something that matters to a buyer tuned into the radio station. If you have news, proclaim it in the headline. People are always interested in new stuff.

Cutesy Headlines. Many people make the mistake of getting too cute in their headlines. They try to arouse curiosity.

AT&T Wireless’ "M-Life" campaign is a good example. Millions were spent on obtuse ads and headlines talking about M-Life. The reaction to obtuse often goes something like this:

"So what? What does that mean to me?"

"Well, the ads didn’t say."

"Yawn. What’s for lunch?"

For goodness sake, don’t bore the prospect!

You should also avoid headlines that are overly gloomy or depressing. Don’t depress the prospect either. Instead, you should imply a quick solution. Your product or service should be simple, easy, and painless.

Classic headline formulas that accomplish this include:

  • "Introducing:" or "Announcing:" or "New:" or "Now:" or "At Last:"
  • "Beginning :" or "On :" "Only ..." or "Reduced By :"

    Another formula that works is to feature a special, such as, "Free Water Heater With a Furnace Purchase."

    Other concepts to think about:

    • Promote an easy payment plan
    • Free offer or information
    • Tell a story in a headline
    • Have a do-it-yourself-type headline that includes: "How To:" or "How Do I:" or "How This:"
    • Answer a questiom or pose a question: "Why:" or "Which:" or "Because:" or "If:"
    • Provide tidbits to help, suggestions: "Advice To:"
    • Use testimonial style, such as, "I Saved:"
    • Peak curiosity with something like, "Can Your Technician Pass This Test:"
    • "Don’t Buy Until:"
    • Address to a person, such as, "For All Property Managers Sick Of:"

    These formulas are simply suggestions to help you create better headlines that will cconvince people to read the rest of your marketing copy. Remember, the message isn’t delivered unless someone reads it.

    In the next issue, we’ll take the next step: How to Get Prospects to Take Action.

    Matt Michel spoke at HVAC Comfortech 2004 on marketing This rant was solely the opinion of Matt Michel, CEO of the Service Roundtable (www.ServiceRoundtable.com), an organization dedicated to helping contractors prosper. Matt is also the publisher of Comanche Marketing, a free marketing e-zine. Subscriptions are available at www.ComancheMarketing.com. You can contact him directly at [email protected]. Or send your comments to Contracting Business at [email protected].