Here are 7 rules for creating headlines that sell – or that can at least buy you time so your customer reads your offer.
Rule No. 1: Don’t try to be too clever
Too often the temptation with a headline is to go for clever. You know, some catchy phrase or play on words that may get someone’s attention, yet leave them none the wiser as to what it is you’re selling; and more importantly, what’s in it for them. Remember, you’re competing with millions of other messages bombarding people each day, so use plain English, tell your readers what the benefits are, and don’t try to make them guess what it is you’re selling.
Rule No. 2: Make the offer relevant
Whether you’re trying to make sales on or off-line, when you consider that 90% of readers won’t make it past the headline, the words you choose as an opener are really make or break. This means they need to strike a chord with the reader and be relevant. That’s why stating a benefit to the customer – ‘Cure tinea in just 10 days – guaranteed!’ may seem a little obvious, but if you’ve got tinea, and you’re looking for a miracle cure, you’re probably going to keep reading.
Rule No 3: Start spreading the news
Including news in your headline is an attention-grabber. It may not be a completely new product or service; it may just be an improvement or change for the better. But again, keep it relevant to the reader – think benefits, not features.
Rule No 4: Make it as long as it needs to be
While some studies have shown that longer headlines,10 words or more, work better than short; those same studies have been contradicted by other studies showing that shorter headlines are best. My advice? Use the number of words you need to get the message across, bearing in mind the relevance rule.
Rule No 5: Be crystal clear about what it is you’re selling
This really relates back to Rule No. 1 – don’t try to be too clever. Unless your brand is well known and your logo can do the work for you, try to mention the name of the product, type of service or your company name in the headline. Then people will know what you’re selling, and can decide instantly whether they’re in the market for it.
Rule No 6: Use specific details – make it ‘sticky’
People remember details better than nebulous claims – ‘Cure tinea in 10 days’ is easier to grasp in an instant than a statement like ‘Cures tinea fast’. After all, how fast is fast?
Rule No 7: Test different headlines to see what works best
Getting someone to open an unsolicited email these days is tough. But the great thing is, by utilising this strategy you can test which headlines or subject lines work best. Remember though, the idea is not to trick the customer into opening the email and you must comply with the Australian Spam Act 2003. You want to give them an offer that is relevant, sticky, shows them a benefit, and is credible. Having your product or company name in the subject line also gives them the heads-up on who is contacting them. Do a bit of research though, into tactics on getting past spam-filters. Certain words like ‘free’ or ‘win’ tend to get flagged and sent straight to the junk mail folder.
Rule No 8: Actually, there is no Rule No. 8
I’m just checking to see if you were paying attention. If you’ve made it this far, chances are it’s because this information is relevant to you. Think back to the headline for this article: 7 Rules for Writing Headlines that Sell. Granted it’s not a particularly sexy or clever headline, but if you stopped to read the article, it’s likely that you needed this information. It was relevant to you – you need to sell. It was obviously about writing headlines – very specific. And it told you what you were going to get – 7 Rules, which gave you some idea how long the article might take to read. For ‘1001 tips on writing headlines’ you know you’re going to need to make a cup of tea and put your feet up!