Creating a Power-Packed Headline

Every part of your sales message is important. Your opening is crucial. Your presentation of product benefits … of proof and credibility elements … of the offer and premiums … of your guarantee … and of your closing “ask-for-the-sale” copy are all critical.

But of all the things you do to produce a sale, nothing equals your headline when it comes to pushing response through the roof. In my 33 years in this business, I’ve seen great new headlines produce 25%, 35%, even 45% lifts in response and ROI.

Why are heads so important? Two reasons:

First, your headline is the demurely raised eyebrow … the whisper in the ear … the tap on the shoulder … or the shrieking air raid horn (remember those?) that makes it impossible for your prospect to look at anyone but you. (More precisely, at anyone’s ad but yours.)

Second, your headline is the gateway to your sales copy. It is what persuades your prospect to read your sales message.

When you study the most effective headlines ever written, you can’t help but notice that they accomplish these twin tasks by offering the reader a BRIBE – a strong benefit in exchange for reading the sales message.

Whether explicit or implicit, shouted or whispered, the best heads you’ll ever read – or write – will be a proposed transaction: “Read this … and this very specific, very wonderful thing will happen for you.”

Allow me to show you three of the most powerful headline techniques ever – approaches that have produced huge winners for the big shots (and, yes, for me too).

1. Pure benefit headlines present only the primary practical benefit offered by the product.

“Who else wants a whiter wash
– with no hard work?”

Once upon a time, pure benefit headlines were all the rage. And they worked. But today’s prospects are being offered identical benefits by dozens, scores, or hundreds of competing advertisers.

Unless the benefit you’re offering is truly unique – or presented in a very unique and intriguing way – you’ll need to do more than just present or imply a benefit.

Here’s how John Carlton turned a benefit head into something absolutely unique, and made his ad a must-read:

“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”

2. Pure emotion heads directly address the emotional need, frustration, or fear that the product’s primary benefit addresses – only hinting at the practical benefit.

Tell The ‘Health Police’ To Take A Flying Leap

Pure emotion heads have worked very well for me. But ONLY when they are followed immediately with a strong presentation of the benefits that are being promised.
3. Combined benefit/emotion heads present the product’s chief benefit and either imply or state the emotional payoff for the reader.

Laugh All The Way To The Gas Pump!
How rising gas prices can make you up to 307% richer in 2006″

Regardless of whether your headline is pure benefit, pure emotion, or a combination of the two, there are dozens of ways to give it greater selling power.
Here are a few …

Present a proposition: Great propositions make a statement that the reader already believes and tantalize him with the implications of that statement.

 “For every illness, there is a country
where it simply doesn’t exist …”

Propose a transaction: Transaction heads add credibility to your promised benefit by disclosing that you’re asking something from the reader in return.

 “Read This Now …
Or Kiss Your Money GOODBYE!”

Use specificity to create credibility: Include specific facts or connect your headline to a current news event.

“1,384 ‘ENRONS’ Are Now
Racing Toward BANKRUPTCY”

Get the prospect’s natural curiosity working for you: Intrigue and curiosity heads tease the benefit or begin the conversation by telling a fascinating story.

 “How I Made a Fortune With a Fool Idea”

Try this. Sit down with a headline you’re working on now and ask yourself these six questions:

1. Does your headline offer the reader a reward for reading your sales copy?

2. What specifics could you add to make your headline more intriguing and believable?

3. Does your headline trigger a strong, actionable emotion the reader already has about the subject at hand?

4. Does your headline present a proposition that will instantly get your prospect nodding his or her head?

5. Could your headline benefit from the inclusion of a proposed transaction?

6. Could you add an element of intrigue to drive the prospect into your opening copy?

Spend 15 minutes on it … and I’ll bet you come up with something great!

“The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”

– David Ogilvy

[Ed. Note: Clayton Makepeace offers help in reaping maximum profits through the Internet, direct mail, and print advertising every week in his e-zine The Total Package. Learn 177 of his surprising secrets that have doubled his clients’ profits in a year and quadrupled them in 36 months in his newly published e-book “Double Your Profits in 12 Months or Less!”