All your headline needs to do is convince your reader to keep reading. Your headline has one job. It doesn’t need to close sales, or win copywriting awards, it just needs to grab and hold your reader’s attention long enough to keep them reading your media message.
Studies have shown that around 80 percent of people read headlines when they’re looking through print media, but only about 20 percent actually read the ad or article.
Your headline is the only tool you have to get the rest of your copy read, so you’ll need to focus the majority of your copywriting efforts on catching and holding your readers’ attention. The rest of your copy only matters if you can get them to read it.
My wife, Karen, and I attended our 45th Helena High School class reunion this weekend. It was enjoyable affirming old friendships and establishing others that potentially may last a lifetime. I thought it would be fun to explore the most common headline used on the Internet to promote upcoming high school reunions. Here is my unscientific finding:
HS Class of 19xx Reunion—Sign-up Today!
Any headline, regardless of its promotional target — whether business oriented or promoting a special event — needs to motivate the reader to take action, read the complete message, call for more information, purchase a product or service or come to a high school reunion. Given that objective, let’s try a new high school reunion headline:
Family Members Are Tired of Your High School Stories?
Relive Them With Someone Who Actually Cares!
Join Your HS Class of 19xx Reunion
Reconnect, Reminisce, Come to Terms With Aging — Guaranteed!
Headlines shouldn’t be limited to advertising alone — they’re essential elements of sales letters, direct mail cards, websites, newsletters and brochures. Most readers take only a few seconds to decide if they want to spend any time reading what you have to say, in an email, website, sales letter or direct mail postcard. Just like you, your audience is bombarded by information every minute of the day, so if you haven’t convinced them to care in a few seconds or less, they’ve already moved on.
According to a Yale University study, these are the most powerful words in the English language: love, money, health, discovery, proven, save, safety, you, easy, results, new and guaranteed. Do your best to incorporate one, or a combination of these words as part of your headline and ad copy.
Here’s how you can write effective headlines for your business in a few easy steps.
Identify who you are trying to target.
You need a clear understanding of who you’re writing for and what their motivators are before you can attempt to reach them. For example, you might choose to focus on only men, or only women with children under 5 years of age.
Identify what you are trying to communicate.
Once you know who you’re speaking to, clearly define what message you need to express. Be specific, and even write it down in plain language before you start drafting your headlines.
Identify the motivators or “hot buttons” that will elicit an emotional response from your audience.
When you’re writing for sales and marketing, always try to paint a picture for your audience. Carefully select descriptive words it will relate with. For example, phrases like “challenging outdoor experiences” would appeal to physically fit readers but not those who don’t like to exercise.
Choose a type of headline that will work best based on the emotional motivators you have identified.
Direct headlines: Pure Silk Scarves — 40% Off This Weekend Only.
News headlines: Newco Launches the Ultimate Timesaver for New Moms.
Question headlines: Are You Tired of Worrying About Your Children’s Education Fund?
“How to” headlines: How To Find a Job in a Recession.
Command headlines: Stop Wasting Money When You Travel.
“Reasons Why” headlines: 25 Mistakes You Could Be Making at the Grocery Store.
Testimonial headlines: “I Never Thought I’d Get Out of Debt Before I Discovered A1MoneySaver!” — Grace Smith.
Always test and measure the effectiveness of your headlines.
As always, you will need to test and measure the strength of your headlines. Try to test at least two “hot buttons” in different media to determine where your target audience’s reaction is the strongest.
You can leverage off of the information gathered from testing and measuring your powerful offer as well. For example, if the offer geared to safety and security concerns was a roaring success, headlines that tap into those motivators will also be successful.
Finally to my HHS 1973 Classmates, the many who do not live in town, welcome back to Helena; it was good to reconnect.