Please raise your hand if you have ever been personally victimized by a headline.
By victimized, I mean it’s been waiting sneakily in your line of vision with baited breath, and as you gaze in its direction, BAM! it pops out, all 72pt and bolded, and even though you may only read a random word from its imposing sequence, your moving gaze can’t help but stop.
There’s an urgency within you, a burning desire to carry on reading.
And why is this?
“Saying something of genuine importance and interest to the recipient usually succeeds. You say it with a headline”- Dan Kennedy, The Ultimate Sales Letter.
I’m not talking about the ‘how-tos’ or other generic headlines that don’t do the rest of their piece’s content justice, or in other cases are residing quietly at the bottom of the barrel.
No, I’m talking about headlines that have BODY behind them. Headlines that are so darn powerful, bound in flesh and pumped with blood that they evoke response from their recipients.
I’ll start with LENGTH. Long as opposed to short. At GKIC, we’re a fan of both. Take for instance, this long headline that was used to fill a seminar:
“In Two Breathtakingly Intense Days, I Will Present Breakthrough Income, Wealth, Marketing And Success Strategies And Honest-To-God “Secrets” Exclusively For Professional Speakers Superior To Anything You’ve Ever Seen, Heard Or Even Imagined, With Their Value To You Assured By The Most Daring Guarantee Ever Offered By Any Seminar”
… but even a two-worder ‘Stocks Suck’ reiterates the fact that idea trumps form.
But length doesn’t just apply to number of words. It also alludes to TIME.
What your headline says and how it says it are absolutely critical. You compare it to the door-to-door salesperson wedging a foot in the door, buying just enough time to deliver one or two sentences that will melt resistance, create interest, and elevate his or status from annoying pest to welcome guest; you’ve got just about the same length of time, the same opportunity.
So, once you’ve come up with an idea for your headline (whether it consists of less than five syllables or more words than the Miami Dolphins’ NFL game on Christmas Day 1971 had minutes), you need to make sure your BENEFIT is super-clear… so that when given the time, your headline doesn’t go unread.
Think about dog sleds in Ottawa. Usually they lead with the strongest canine at the front, right? Apply this rule to your next headline; telegraph your BEST BENEFIT, the one that really sells your product/service, the one that is guaranteed to get the best reaction, and whack that in there among all those power words and all that punctuation.
You’re a toothpaste manufacturer. There’s lots of benefits of your new toothpaste that you could list, like plaque-blasting stats and gum health. BUT, what do people generally want? They want white teeth and nice-smelling breath. Insert the whitening stats and you’re onto a winner.
As I read more of Dan’s ‘The Ultimate Sales Letter’, I came across another piece of valuable content: ‘How To Flag A Reader And Let Him Know This Is For You.’
“One of the simplest ways to strengthen a headline is attachment of a Flag. The Flag is brief, as brief as a single word, stuck on the front of the headline, to reach out and grab the attention of certain specific prospects, by telegraphing that the message is specifically for them.”
Here’s some headlines PRE Flag…
- Corns Gone in 5 Days or Money Back
- Guaranteed Weight Loss Up To 15 Pounds First 15 Days- With No Exercise
- 28 Days to Healthier Gums
And what they read like once the Flag has been attached…
- Waiters and Waitresses on Your Feet for Hours: Corns Gone In 5 Days or Money Back
- Disappointed Dieters: Guaranteed Weight Loss Up to 15 Pounds First 15 Days- with No Exercise
- Seniors: 28 Days to Healthier Gums
Or, to improve them even more, you can add a ‘Problem Flag’…
- Foot Pain? Corns Gone in 5 Days or Money Back
- Embarrassing Belly Bulge? Guaranteed Weight Loss Up to 15 Pounds First 15 Days- with No Exercise
- Blood on Your Toothbrush? 28 Days to Healthier Gums
As you can see, there are specific elements to headlines that, when considered and implemented properly, can have a profound effect on THEIR effect. We all know the rule about problems- make sure you identify your prospect’s problem, agitate it until they’re almost begging for relief, and then offer them the solution.
John Carlton reiterates my point in the 7th Step of his Simple Writing System:
And cue his famous one-legged golfer headline:
Want to slash strokes from your game almost overnight?
Amazing Secret Discovered By One-Legged Golfer Adds 50 Yards To Your Drives, Eliminates Hooks and Slices… And Can Slash Up To 10 Strokes From Your Game Almost Overnight!
John’s steps to getting that all-important hook (which, when placed in your headline, makes your sales copy so much more successful) include gossip, opinions, rumours, common wisdom, myths, legends and competition. All of these are relatable between YOU and your prospect.
If you’ve Flagged your headline, you could add in a few impressive statistics that are relative to those prospects. It all depends on who you’re targeting and how much research you’re willing to put in.
People generally will try and NOT read your headline if they can help it.
Make sure they CAN’T help it!