Pick up any marketing textbook and they will tell you that one of the most vital components of advertisements and direct mail is the headline.
Writing powerful headlines that grab your prospects attention and pull is also one of the most challenging tasks we have as marketers. Think about how many ads you see on any given day, from magazines to newspapers to billboards to direct mail materials. How many of them can you recalll?
In an advertising age, increasingly we find ourselves bombarded with a multitude of sales messages, all competing for our attention (and our dollars!). That’s why the headline is so important.
You may have heard of the acronym AIDAO in Advertising Attention, Interest, Desire, Action. Your headline should be the essence of the sales message. It should cut straight through all the noise and gain immediate Attention, Interest and Desire. The rest of your body copy should reiterate the offer and give clear directives as to the response or Action that needs to take place.
Here are some tried and tested rules of writing headlines that will increase the effectiveness of your print advertisements and direct mail.
1. Talk benefits not features. People do not buy features, they buy benefits. Steer away from using technical language or simple descriptions of your product or service. Try to think about what the real human benefit of using your product or service is, how it will increase your customers mental, physical, financial, social, emotional or spiritual status, satisfaction, well-being or security.
Travel Agents do not sell tickets on planes – they sell romantic interludes weekend getaways. Seminar companies do not sell information – they sell success, Career advancement and a better lifestyle. Time planners do not sell diaries – they sell efficiency, better results and reduced stress.
Which of the following basic human drivers does your product or service satisfy? Convenience, better quality of life, beauty, youthfulness, success, security? Does your product or service help save time, save money or make money? Does it help to avoid pain, dissatisfaction, frustration and unpleasantness and promise social status, luxury, peace of mind and real results?
2. Keep your headline to 16 words or less. Any longer and it is hard to process quickly and clearly.
3. Use a simple, easy-to-read font. Decorative fonts might look pretty but they are hard to read. Also, never write your headline all in capitals.
4. Where possible, try to inject news into your advertisement.
5. Use subheadings to strengthen and reiterate your message.
6. Use active phrases – ie. How To, Learn the, Discover the, Try this.
7. Use proven power words – Free, New, Now, Improved, Last chance, At last, Announcing, Finally, Introducing, Simple, Easy, Exclusive, Powerful, Essential, Must, First time and Save
8. Use the first person and refer to your prospect – You, Your business, Yourself etc., wherever possible.
9. Be specific and detailed and wherever possible use exact numbers. This adds credibility and strengthens the claim.
10. Make the headline a question or challenge. Questions gain attention and involve the prospect. Try using Why, Who else, What is, Do you, Did your etc.