Writing Winning Headlines – Fundamentals of copywriting Part 3

Reading Time: About 7 minutes

So in our last two sessions we went over the concepts of Understanding the product, and then we talked about how to define your ideal customers.


And now we’re going to begin tying the two together so we can present your product or service to your target audience in a way that means something to them.

Of course the first thing we need to do is get the attention of our ideal clients.

Because if we don’t get their attention then it doesn’t matter how good our offer is, because they’re never going to see it.

And that’s why today we’re going to start at the top of the page, with our “headline”.


Our headline can often make or break our offer, because It sets the tone for the rest of the copy.

The main purpose of our headline is to get the attention of our target audience, and offer them the promise of a better future (either take away their pain, or move them towards pleasure)

It’s the first touch-point from our offer. It gets our target markets attention by calling out and saying “Hey, here’s something of interest to you”.

And once we get peoples attention, then we’re off to a great start.


So if you’re ready to build an attention grabbing headline for your copy… Let’s get started…


How to Write Attention Grabbing Headlines That Pull In Customers


The first thing our headline needs to do is call out to our ideal customers. And it also needs a promise of – minimizing a problem they currently have, and / or showing them a better future.

The thing is, people are busy with their own lives, their own problems, and their own daily thoughts. Nobody wakes up in the morning thinking “Gee, I hope thousands of advertisers try to sell me something today.”

So your potential customers need to quickly see the benefit of interrupting their current thoughts, and allowing your message into their lives.

Our headline needs to stop people in their tracks, and get them to say “hey, this is for me. And it’s something I’m interested in that can benefit me”.


Sometimes so called “power words” can help make our headlines a bit more exciting (Discover… Amazing… All New… Secret…etc.)

But these days, so many people have been slamming the internet with hypey headlines filled with these words, that power words alone will not help you stand out from the crowd. So that’s why we need to take our game to a higher level…


NOTE: In this post I can’t tell you what you should put in your headline. That’s because there’s too many variables that determine which style of headlines are worth testing for any particular promotion. But what I can do is share a couple concepts that can help you write more powerful headlines on your own…


The first, and most important thing we need to remember is…


All copy, including the headline, starts and ends with our target audience.


We always need to think about what’s in it for our market. Because I guarantee you that’s all they’re thinking about when they see your ad.

It may be a cold hard fact, but it’s a fact none the less… In advertising, most people don’t care what you know or what you can do, until they know what it will do for them.

That’s why we started this series of posts with “Understanding the product”, and “Defining your customers.” So we could have our foundation in place for saying something that means something to our audience.


Now, let’s include a few elements to make our headline a bit more powerful…


1 – Whenever possible (and it’s almost always possible) it should have a unique hook.

There are so many headlines out there that all look the same – i.e. Discover the amazing secret of (fill in the blank)… that most people just ignore them along with the rest of the background noise in this world.

When you make your promise different from everybody else’s, or include an interesting hook, it makes you stand out from the crowd. And most people pay more attention to things that stand out.

So what’s unique about your offer that you can use in your headline? (hopefully you gave this some thought in our first session when we talked about “understanding your product”)


2 – Try to make it specific. The more specific, the better.

“Lose weight with our weight-loss program” is not nearly as powerful as…

“Lose 30 pounds in 30 days, guaranteed or your money back”

(NOTE: in this second one we made it specific AND included a proof element in the form of a guarantee, which makes it even more powerful)

So what specific benefit does your product offer that you might be able to tease into your headline?


Want something a little more advanced? Then try this on for size…


Be specific, but be vague

What??? How can we specific and vague at the same time?

Well, we can be specific about the numbers and the result, but be vague about the process.


If we want our headline to have the best chance of producing great results, we want to make it specific enough to look scientific, but vague enough to provoke curiosity.

The purpose of the headline is not necessarily to sell your product all by itself (although it would be great if it did) but mostly, the headline needs to capture our readers attention and pull him into the copy.


Take this example for an easy weight loss program…

“These 37 people lost an average of 17 pounds each… just by walking”


OK, we used specific numbers and that’s great. But now that I know the secret, why would I buy what your selling…?

…I’ll just go walk a mile and save my money.

A better headline would be…

“These 37 people lost an average of 17 pounds each, in just 2 weeks, using this one simple method”


Now we’ve added another specific (the time frame) but even more important, we’ve left the mystery open. And anyone who wants to know what the simple method is, needs to keep reading.


So that’s just one example of being specific and vague at the same time, which also pulls “curiosity” (another powerful motivator) into our headline.


3 – It should call out your ideal customer.

Simply saying “15% off everything in the store” could be attention getting, because most people are interested in saving money. But if everyone is offering discounts then most people start to pass right by the “me too” headline.

But, if your selling baby clothes (for example) and you say something like “Attention new parents! Save 15% on all baby clothes in the store”. Now you’ve stopped your ideal audience in their tracks, because your speaking directly to them about something they care about.


4 – Include a sense of urgency

This one is not always possible. But if you can include a sense of urgency in your headline it’s another way to add some serious power to your headline. (i.e. “The world’s economy is on the brink of collapse. Protect your money now with our financial security blueprint”)

There’s a sense of urgency built right into that headline – The economy is about to collapse… protect your money now.


If you can’t include a sense of urgency in your headline, then at least make sure you include one somewhere else in your copy.

One note of caution… Trying to invent a sense of urgency often comes across as cheezy and manipulative.

For example: Saying something like “Only 50 copies of this ebook are available, and when they’re gone…they’re gone” sounds like a load of bullshit.

That because everybody and their dog knows that with a digital download you can allow a million copies to be sold, and still never run out.


One of the best ways to introduce an “authentic” sense of urgency is to include a “reason why” it’s limited.

“Reason why” is exactly what it sounds like… It’s a reason why they need to act now. And a “reason why” turns it into genuine scarcity.

A reason why can be something as simple as… “We don’t want this market to become over-saturated or the method will become diluted and less powerful. That’s why we’re limiting this special offer to only 50 downloads before we shut it down for good.”

Sometimes the reason why can even be blunt and self serving… i.e. “I have an insurance bill due at the end of the month. That’s why I’m releasing another 50 copies of my amazingly popular ebook.”

Whichever way you decide to go just remember, introducing a sense of urgency can produce some powerful results in your sales copy. And including a reason why it’s limited, adds authenticity to the scarcity.


5 – Whenever possible (and it’s almost always possible) write a “benefit-first” headline

This is a lesson I learned from Flint Mcglaughlin over at Meclabs (except he calls it a “point-first” headline)
Benefit-first basically means we want to start with the benefit first and put our offer second.


Here’s an example of how this might look…

PRODUCT FIRST WOULD BE… Our all new software can help you manage your business more efficiently

BENEFIT FIRST WOULD BE… Manage your business more efficiently with our all new software


In the first headline the software is first, and the benefit is second.
In the second headline our reader immediately knows what’s in it for them, and then they hear about our product.

Of course you’ll need to test this with your own offer. But this subtle difference has proven to increase response rates for me, more times than not.


So those are just a few of the basic concepts that can help you create a more powerful headline for your offer. You may not be able to use them all in a single headline, but if you can incorporate at least 2 or 3, then you’ll still be miles ahead of most headlines in the world today.


A final note about creating your headlines…

When you start creating your headline, don’t censor yourself. Just start writing down as many good ideas as you can think of.

Some of the best copywriters I know (myself included) will sit down and write 10, 20, 30 headlines or more for a single promotion. Rarely does the first few attempts contain the winner.

The benefit of writing many headlines is multiplied because while only one can be the main headline, the runner ups can often be turned into great sub-heads or bullet points throughout the copy. (we’ll go over subheads and bullet points in the next lesson)

Also, if you have two or three winners, then you’ll be ready for split testing, to see which gives you the best response. (we’ll touch on split testing in a future lesson)



OK, we’re going to wrap-up this short lesson here, so you can get to work on writing your headlines.
In this chapter we talked about the importance of an effective headline, and went over a few key concepts that can help you write more powerful headlines.

And while the headline is all important for drawing your target audience in, it rarely makes the sale on its own. So in our next session we’re going to look at the structure and readability of your copy.

This is important because the way our copy flows can often be a deciding factor in whether or not our audience stays with us until the end.


So go ahead and start writing out some headlines for your offer, and I’ll see you on the next page where we’ll talk about the structure, flow, and readability of your copy.

Until next time,

Here’s to writing more persuasive copy… more often.

All the best,

Posted in Copywriting Fundamentals.

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