On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar. – David Ogilvy
Ever been frustrated trying to come up with an attention-grabbing headline? Yea, me too.
Maybe you’re an email marketer who’s struggling to get people to open up your emails. Or, maybe you’re a fundraiser sending out quarterly emails asking for money, but no one is clicking to open the email, let alone donate.
The job of a marketer, essentially, is to cultivate attention and trust. That’s it.
Gary Vaynerchuck knows a thing or two about attention
So, how do we create engaging headlines that blow up our open rates and break through the noise?
The Copywriter’s Handbook by Robert Bly is full of helpful hacks and methods that will turn your puny headlines into neck-snapping headturners.
Headlines Are Eighty Cents Out Of Your Dollar
The headline is your first impression: it’s the front page of your website, it’s your smile–it’s what David Ogilvy, the “father of advertising,” meant when he famously said that headlines are “eighty cents out of your dollar.”
If your headline sucks, nothing you write matters; it’s Pareto’s principle applied to marketing.
Making the most of your eighty cents starts with knowing what you want the headline to do.
The Four Horseman Of The Headline Apocalypse
Bad headlines are coming to an end.
Usher in the end by knowing what you want your headline to do.
Headlines can do four different things:
1. Get attention -Pick an important customer benefit and present it in a clear and dramatic fashion i.e. “Free New Report on 67 Emerging Growth Stocks” – Merrill Lynch
2. Select the audience – Target a specific type of person and exclude others. i.e. “We’re Looking for People to Write Children’s Books” – The Institute of Children’s Literature
3. Deliver a complete message -Useful when you want to capture people with short attention spans. i.e. “You Can Make Big Money In Real Estate Right Now” – Century 21
4. Draw the reader into the body copy – Useful when trying to get people to read information-dense material (i.e. life insurance, investments etc.). In order to bring people in, you need to arouse their curiosity. This can be achieved through humor, provocative statements, and mystery. i.e. “What Do Japanese Managers Have That American Managers Sometimes Lack?” – Sales letter mailed American business managers.
Knowing what you want to accomplish and who you are trying to reach will help you come up with better headlines in less time.
The Copywriter’s Handbook Headline Creation Technique
Big ideas come from the unconscious. This is true in art, in science, and in advertising. But your unconscious has to be well informed, or your idea will be irrelevant. Stuff your conscious mind with information, then unhook your rational thought process. – David Ogilvy
The Copywriter’s Handbook suggests creating headlines by asking yourself three questions:
- Who is my customer
- What are the important features of the product?
- Why will the customer want to buy the product? (What product feature is most important to him?)
These questions help you create powerful headlines by helping you understand your customer and the unique selling proposition of your product.
If this technique doesn’t work for you, consider making a list of words related to your product recorded in a swipe file until something comes to mind.
Run Your Headlines Through The 4 U’s Formula
Once you have a headline in mind, run it through the 4 U’s formula to assess its power.
The 4 U’s as told by The CopyWriter’s Handbook:
1.Urgent. – Urgency gives the reader a reason to act now instead of later. You can create a sense of urgency in your headline by incorporating a time element. For instance, “Make $100,000 working from home this year” has a greater sense of urgency than “Make $100,000 working from home.” A sense of urgency can also be created with a time-limited special offer.
2.Unique. – The Powerful headline either says something new, or if it says something the reader has heard before, says it in a new and fresh way. For example, “Why Japanese women have beautiful skin” was the headline in an email promoting a Japanese bath kit. This is different than the typical “Save 10% on Japanese Bath Kits.”
3.Ultra-specific. – Examples: “What never to eat on an airplane,” “Bills it’s okay to pay late,” and “best time to file for a tax refund.”
4.Useful. The strong subject line appeals to the reader’s self-interest by offering a benefit. In the headline, “An Invitation to Ski & Save,” the benefit is saving money.
Does your headline encompass all these things? The Copywriter’s Handbook suggests rating your headline on a scale of 1-4 for each part of the formula and adjusting accordingly.
A Method To The Madness
In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create. – David Ogilvy
Writing, marketing, storytelling etc… the more I learn about them, the more I realize that you need more than just creativity to be effective: you need a process.
Coming up with great ideas and telling stories that spread require both sides of the brain (right and left); creativity needs a filter, or it risks flying off the edges into obscurity.
Creating headlines that grab people by the collar is no different.
The Copywriter’s Handbook gives you a method to the madness of headline creation.
Use the proven hacks and techniques in this book, and I’m confident you’ll expand your reach and claim that eighty cents.
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