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5 Secrets to Writing Winning Headlines

You’ve just written killer sales copy you know is going to blow away the competition and get readers to ‘click now.’  Good for you! But unless you get someone to read it, you’re dead in the water. Statistics prove that 80% of your readers don’t bother going past your headline. It has to be just as killer, or better than, your copy.

Below are five sure-bet ways to get your headlines read and improve your call to action, make more conversions, and win more business.

First, let’s summarize what good persuasive copy does for you. Consider it a refresher, you should already know how to write this before thinking about creating headlines that work.

  • Makes you feel special and unique, part of an exclusive group

  • Tears at your guts, makes you emotional in more than one way

  • Gives you something of value for your time or taking action

  • Is time sensitive-act now before they’re all gone

Persuasive copy doesn’t rely on fear as in days long gone. That may still work for certain demographics, or for some products, but use it sparingly. People today respond much more to positive spin than doom and gloom. They all want to know what’s in it for them.

Like your copy, your headline needs to incorporate some or all of the above-you need to get attention within 8 seconds, or forget it-you’ve already lost them.

Now, let’s dig into getting those headlines read every time.

1)     Hit Them Where It Hurts.

You have to make your prospect feel something immediately upon reading your headline. Something that speaks to them directly. If you’ve set up your copy to speak to a defined, targeted audience, pulling a headline that does the same is pretty easy.

Use emotions you’ve identified your prospect will respond to. If you’re selling a financial subscription, it’s all about how much money they can make-say so. If you’re selling ball bearings business to business, tell how your product save the buyer time or money and makes him look good to his boss. Some examples:

a.     “Don’t Bleed More Money-Use These Secrets Now”

b.     “Did you earn 300% More Last Year?”

c.     “XYZ Drive Shafts Last 30% Longer, Saves Money”

2)     Solve a problem.

No one cares about ‘you’ the writer. Everyone cares about ‘me’ the reader. Use a headline to solve a problem for the reader. Another way you have to target your defined market for best results.

Your prospect might not recognize they have a problem. Help them see they do. Your headline has to hit them in the gut immediately. Make them realize you’re talking directly to them.

Say you’re selling a service for virtual assistants (VA), the folks who do all those menial tasks you don’t want to. And your target is busy writers. All of that time spent doing non-writing tasks adds no value to the writer’s life, and all of us prefer to spend our time writing-it’s what we get paid for.

If they have no idea a VA exists, use a headline to educate on expected benefits. You need to get attention immediately and show how your product can solve a problem. Some examples:

a.     “Make Money Writing, We’ll Do the Rest”

b.     “Let Us Do the Dirty Work. You, Write”

c.      “Hate Paperwork? We’ll Do It For You”

Headlines don’t have to be short, either. If you’re sending e-mail, adhere to the 50 character rule for subject lines. For print, use what you need. David Ogilvy frequently used nine to ten word headlines that got great results.

3)     Ask a question.

Using who, what, when, where, why or how as a lead is a sure fire way to make the prospect think immediately about the answer. Questions demand answers, use them to pull the reader into copy to find them. Think about the following questions, all related to a weight loss product:

a.     “Who Will You Look Like Two Months From Now?

b.     “What Will You Do With Clothes Too Big to Wear?

c.      “How Will You Look at Your Next Class Reunion?

You get the idea. Avoid asking questions that have a yes or no answer. They’re too easy to dismiss as gimmicky, or worse, you might get a ‘yes’ when you want a ‘no’. Ask thought provoking questions with answers related to solving a problem they have now.

4)     Use Action Words.

Buy, look, save, earn, give, leave. There are millions of words that move. Use them to move your prospect to take action. If you’re trying to sell a new piece of gym equipment that’s not well known, make a comparison. For example, “Better than Thigh-Master at Reducing Bulge”.

A headline with action words makes the prospect feel movement. That will move them into the copy you want them to read, to get them to a ‘yes’ at the end. Some other examples of action words related to travel services:

a.       “Limited Time Offer-See the World Now for Less”

b.       ”Leave the Details to Us, Relax and Release Stress Today”

c.      “Paradise Just Outside Your Door-We Make it Easy”

5)     Use the product name and primary benefit.

If your product saves money, say how much in dollars or percent over a competitor. If your product saves time, tell them how much they can save in hours or greater efficiency. If you’re service leaves more time or gains more money, say so.

If you’re selling a luxury air charter service, you’ve got a very small target market and you have to make it count. Think about who that market is, what will hit them in the gut.

These are busy, wealthy people, time is extremely valuable. Hiring a charter has many benefits, but they may not have thought about it before. For example, it saves time. No lines, literal pick up at departure, drop off at destination. No hassles dealing with screaming children. Ability to work while on board on company specific projects, and hold meetings without interruption. Your headline has to state a benefit that gets attention.

What you’re selling costs thousands of dollars an hour. You need to make sure the reader ‘gets it’ immediately, and digs into the rest of your copy.  Some possibilities:

a.      “Fly Time to Buy Time-Air Charter Gets You There”

b.     “Meet Before the Meeting With Air Charter”

c.      “Door to Door, You Own the Air With Air Charter”

Spend most of your time crafting the best possible headline, using one or more of these strategies and you’re sure to win more business. If you have time to test multiple headlines, do it. You’ll gain insight to continuously improve your responses. Try writing dozens of headlines on the fly and you’re sure to find some nuggets that will eventually work themselves into killer headlines.

Have you changed the way you write your headlines?  If so, have you noticed any differences with your results?


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