Headlines in ads,
like teaser copy on envelopes and running heads for direct mail letters,
Or, that is what they
are suppose to do - pull a reader in.
Research tells us
that less than 1 of 5 readers (17 / 100) read on from the headline. Which
demonstrates the power of the few words in a headline - in newspapers
and magazines, brochures and other literature - and the World Wide Web.
Here is The Baker's
Dozen Collection of ideas that make headlines for Direct Marketing
advertising work. Based on "live" experiences.
And thoughts from
a handful of pros in the business ... Tom Collins ... Axel Anderson ...
Ted Nicholas ... David Ogilvy ... John Caples.
1. AIM your message
and promise to your "select" primary audience
AIM is an
acronym. A = Aim ... I = Intent ... M = Move.
of targeting. Selecting the right audience for your message. Those key
few who can buy what you sell.
of setting the tone for your message and your offer. Using the right words,
graphics, layout, design to share your story - to demonstrate your benefits.
your targeted audience takes a step, "moves" toward action,
toward you. They do something, they respond.
Your headline must
distinguish between "prime prospects" and "mild prospects".
Many will see your words - only a few are truly "prime". Fewer
yet are ready to take action at this time. Don't be too "loose"
in determining who your prospect is - and write to that specific person.
2. Include your #1
benefit in your headline
Marketing and Sales Promotion are responsible for generating "action".
Your headline is the beginning, the first pass, the first swing, toward
creating that response.
you say is far more important than how you say it in your headline. So,
communicate your strongest benefit. Tell the reader how they will gain
by doing business with you. Sometimes titled WII-FM ... What's
In It For Me.
And do it quickly.
When you get further
into the copy - beginning with the sub-head, you share immediate or obvious
benefits. And also the not so obvious, ultimate, longer-range advantages
of doing business with you. Begin your headline by establishing quickly
the uniqueness of your product or service. Your PoD - Point of
for a need, a want, a desire ... a daydream even
As shared in #2.,
your headline must appeal to the readers interest. The WII-FM factor.
Everyone makes buying
decisions based on need. It might be logical, rational. It could
be emotional, with feeling. Yet, if you cannot show a true need, the buyer
will move on.
Still, we all know
many times a want, a desire - even a daydream - comes before the need
is obvious. One way to move the want or desire to the "need"
level is to enhance what you are offering.
Suggest there is a
way for the reader to fulfill a need they have. And the benefits in doing
so. What they will earn, save, gain, make. Which, for instance, could
be money or time. Or how they will feel or look better. Anything that
appeals to self-interest.
This approach works
for both business and consumer products.
4. Draw your reader
through your headline to your sub-head and first paragraph of copy
This is the so-called
classic Direct Marketing copy "action" path:
- Define the Problem
- Promise the Answer
- Explain the Promise,
- Prove you can do
what you say,
- Ask for Action,
Your headline begins
One way to begin is
with the use of testimonials. Always powerful in marketing - especially
powerful in your headline. Because they are so believable, when you start
with a testimonial, you are saying I do what I say I do. Here is the promise,
here is the proof.
This approach is sometimes
saved for your sub-head.
If you can get your
reader through your head, next your sub-head, you will get them into your
5. When you use a
"question" headline, make certain it has the best possible chance
of giving you ONLY the answer you want to hear.
I like question headlines.
Yet, they are dangerous.
Because they can turn a reader off before they get to your offer, your
message. If any answer other than the "right" answer is possible,
do not use a question headline.
A question in a headline
must also offer a genuine "bite" to your primary reader. And
more, much more, than merely curiosity.
It must be stated
in such a way that the best answer is "Yes, I like what I read -
I will read on. I will respond." Any other answer ... especially
"no", is unacceptable.
6. When you use a
"command" headline, make certain your direction is complete
Any time you are telling,
or "commanding", someone to take action in your favor, you are
opening the door for a negative response.
Still, giving specific
direction ... do this and that will happen to your benefit ... is a good
way to grab and pull a reader into your message.
Avoid headlines that
paint a negative side of the picture.
Here is another place
where testimonials can be effective. Someone telling their story of doing
what you say, and winning.
7. When you use a
"how to ..." headline make certain you complete the thought
with "how" your product solves the reader's problem.
The most effective
headlines give news or appeal to the reader's self-interest. They get
to the point immediately.
If you have "news",
get it into the headline.
Key words for news
type headlines include . . .
- AT LAST
If you have a self-help
message, get it into the headline.
Some key words for
self-interest headlines are . . .
- HOW TO
Yes, headlines are
the "tease". Their purpose is to get the readers attention.
And then pull them into the story, the message. When they are "how
to..." you must complete the thought. Quickly. If not, the reader
will move on.
Use "key words"
in your headline. And complete your thought with your sub-head and first
8. You may change
your headline when you change your medium
When you move from
a cooking magazine to the home buyer pages of a newspaper, you may need
to change your words.
When you go from a
general weekly business news publication to a highly selected target audience
newsletter, you may need to change your words.
Even thou your product
/ service is the same, how you reach your audience may be different.
Why? Because your
reader is in a "different" mood when they receive your message.
In one case it is highly focused, directional, specific, concentrated,
with a thinking, rational mind. In the other it is loose, easy, relaxed,
emotional, with touch and feeling.
we use in business - "Business" products we use at home - cross
these lines. An example is E-mail.
What you say is more
important than how you say it. - Still, what you say WHERE is even more
9. Graphics should
make your copy more readable, more understandable. Period!
In response marketing,
Direct Marketing, a picture is NOT worth a 1000 words. Ever!
The purpose of graphics
is to first gain attention. Then provide visual reinforcement. To support
the copy. To make it more readable, more understandable.
Black/White vs. 2-Color
vs. 4-Color will always be debatable. We do live in a color world. No
doubt about that. I have a pair of granddaughters who do not know black
& white ever existed. So, color is almost always better - to get attention.
The issue becomes whether or not it is cost effective. Which is another
the art of your marketing message is there to support the copy. Which
includes making the headline more powerful, more responsive.
10. Headlines can
be as long as 17 words
Long copy sells more
than short copy.
And the idea is a
"sale". Maybe not a mail-order sale ... it could be a lead or
traffic for a store, restaurant, trade show. "Action" is what
you are looking for. And long sells more than short.
Some say a short -
up to 5 words - headline, followed by a long ... up to a 17 word descriptive
sub-head ... is better. Fine. Test and learn what works best for you.
Do not get hung up
with short or long. That is NOT the issue. The issue IS simply "interesting"
to your reader, or not. Long headlines that say something are more effective
than short headlines that say nothing.
11. Headlines need
to stand alone ...not be broken by illustrations
specifically and computers generally have made it easy to screw-up a good
Because they allow
mixing and matching unreadable and sans-serif typefaces, laying copy on
top of pictures, using light or faded text, reverse type ... all for visual
A headline in a Direct
Response ad must stand alone. A graphic may be to the right (since most
languages read left to right, you want to read the copy first), or underneath
Specifics are more
believable than generalities. Copy provides the specifics. Illustrations,
the graphics, the art, support the copy, support message specifics.
12. The key to success
lies in testing
Write a lot of headlines
and then select the best one.
Avoid clever headlines.
Yes, sometimes "funny" does get attention. Yet, what makes one
smile or laugh puts a frown on another.
headlines. Double meaning or "cute" rarely works. Yes, it gets
attention - and then nothing!
headlines. Headlines that lead nowhere. Although the message begins with
the opening words, for you to be successful the reader must dig into the
body copy. At least somewhat.
Testing is a way to
constantly improve. My theory is "If it ain't broke, fix it."
Not being negative - being real. For if it ain't broke today, it soon
And, there are no
Failures...only Lessons! No matter what happens, you will learn something.
13. "The wickedest
of all sins is to run an advertisement without a headline." David
The headline is the
most important element in direct response advertisements. A headline gets
attention - it acts as a marque. It begins your message. If it doesn't
work, your full ad will not work.
In summary, this is
what a good Direct Marketing headline offers; * The writing is
simple - using the KISS theory ... Keep It Simple,
- Illustrations showing
the product in use or reward for use, are best to support the simple
- Copy is still "King"
- Graphics support text
- Including testimonials
- A straightforward
message outpulls "cute"
- Avoid humor. You
can entertain a million and not sell one of them!
- Telling your reader
exactly what you want them to do, what, when, where and how to do it,
and the benefits for action now will give you the highest opportunity
for maximum success.
ideas to make your Direct Marketing headlines work better. Try 'em.