Here's one of my biggest secrets: I write the headline first. It becomes an anchor for my entire message. It sums up what I want to say, holds my own passion, and builds curiosity. I may change my headline later, but I always begin with a working headline to get the steam going.
The following 30 ways to write a headline are worth gold. I spent years researching all the ways you could write a headline, and then created this set of 30 templates. This will make headline writing a snap for you.
You will need at least one main headline on your sales letter or web site. But you'll also need headlines throughout the body of your writing. These subheadlines help convey your message, keep people interested, and continue to build desire.
You'll also find that because there are three kinds of readers— word-for-worders, skimmers, and jumpers—you need subhead-lines to appeal to all of them. So when you look through the following list, feel free to create as many headlines as you can for your product or service. You may need them all.
Headlines will make or break your ads. John Caples said a good headline can pull up to 19 times better results for the same ad. Advertising pioneer James Webb said a top headline can bring in as much as 50 percent more inquiries and sales. Ad genius David
Ogilvy said five times more people will read your headlines than will read your whole ad. "We pick out what we wish to read by headlines," wrote Claude Hopkins, arguably the greatest advertising man in history, in his famous book Scientific Advertising.
Often a headline is all a reader will glance at—and I do mean glance at—before rushing through the rest of the newspaper or on to the next web site. On average, most people will spend only four seconds per page! If your headline does not catch, trip, and stop your audience, you have lost them and you have lost a sale!
Here are 30 surefire ways to create a terrific hypnotic headline or improve an existing one.
1. Lead with these opening words. At Last!
Note the hint of excitement and "news" in the above words. New is hypnotic. Other good opening words include introducing and finally. Legally you can use only the word new if your product has been developed or improved within the past six months. If you have just invented a new device, certainly let the world know.
2. Round up your audience. Plumbers! Housewives!
This type of headline is "calling in" your target audience. If you are selling a book for lawyers, you might open by saying "Attention, lawyers!" With this approach you are certain to get the ear of the exact crowd you want. In hypnosis, getting attention is the first step to the trance state.
3. Promise a benefit.
Free from Backache in 10 Minutes! Buy One Shirt—Get the Second free! Land a Job in 2 Days with New Method!
Benefits are why people buy. Decaffeinated coffee is a feature; Lets you sleep better is a benefit. If people have a back problem, they do not want to buy a pill; they want to buy relief from their pain. Free with relief from their pain. Free from Backache in 10 Minutes, tells them a cure is available. Sell the relief, not the prevention. When you speak about what people get, you capture their attention hypnotically.
4. Make it newsworthy.
Major Breakthrough in Car Safety New Formula Restores Hair Seven "Lost Secrets" Discovered
People devour news. Reveal the newsworthiness of your product or service and you will get attention. A new product is news. An old product with new uses is news. Arm & Hammer baking soda (which also started as a small business) has been around for decades, but the company keeps thinking of new ways for us to use its product—from brushing our teeth to putting it in the fridge to eliminate odors—and that's news. Again, anything new captivates interest, which is the beginning of hypnosis.
5. Offer something free.
Free to Writers!
Free Report Explains Tax Loopholes Free Book on Car Repairs
Your free item has to be appropriate to the audience you are after. It may be free, but if they are not interested in it, they will not write or call you. Also, your free item has to be really free—with no catches or conditions—for you to be legally safe. Any small business can create a free item that is relevant.
6. Ask an intriguing question.
What Are the Seven Secrets to Success?
Do You Make These Mistakes in English?
Which Gas Filter Will Boost Your Car's Performance?
Questions are a powerful way to involve readers. But your question has to be an open-ended one that hints of a benefit. If you ask a question that can be easily answered with a yes or no, you run the risk that your readers will not look beyond the question. But if your question is intriguing, it will pull readers into your copy to learn the answer. This is my favorite method for inducing a trance state.
7. Lead with a testimonial.
"This is the most powerful weapon I've ever seen!" (Clint Eastwood)
"These two books made me the wealthiest man alive'.' (Malcolm Forbes)
"Here's why my race cars beat all others." (Mark Weisser)
There is something about quotation marks that captures people's eyes. If your quote is intriguing (as are these fictional ones), they will force readers to read your copy. (Always use real testimonials from real people and always get their permission first.) Anyone who has ever used your product or service can give you a testimonial. And headlines put in quotes will get more attention—dialogue has life, and that attracts people.
8. Create a "how to" headline.
How to Get Your Kids to Listen
How to Tell When Your Car Needs a Tune-Up
Because people want information, they are easily drawn to "how to" headlines that promise a benefit they are interested in. If you are selling washing machines, you might conjure up the headline, How to Pick the Right Washing Machine for Your Needs. You can add sparkle to virtually any headline by adding the word how. For example, I Cut Hair is a weak headline, but How I Cut Hair is more interesting. The "how to" is like a hypnotic command that brings people into your writing.
9. Quiz your readers.
How Smart Are You? Take This Quiz and See! What Is Your Networking IQ? Are You Qualified for Success?
People love quizzes. Use a question headline and then let the body of your ad be a quiz. For the ad to work, of course, it all has to tie in to what you are selling. The ad about your networking IQ, for example, is selling a book called Power Networking. If you are running a mechanic's shop, you might ask, Is Your Car Healthy? Take This Quiz and See! Your whole attempt is to somehow involve readers with your ad. A quiz is one way to do that. Involvement is how hypnosis begins and deepens.
10. Use the words these and why in your headline. These Boats Never Sink
Why Our Dogs Cost More
Why These Skis Are Called "Perfect"
When you use the words these and why in your headline, you tend to create an attention-grabbing statement that will draw readers into the rest of your ad or sales letter. If you just said, "Our skis are perfect," few would be interested. But when you say, "Why these skis are called perfect," you generate curiosity—one of the most powerful motivators around. Simply add the word why to an existing headline to make it more engaging. Buy Plumbing Supplies Here is boring but Why People Buy Plumbing Supplies Here is interesting.
11. Use I and me headlines.
They Laughed When I Sat Down at the Piano—But When I Started to Play!
I Finally Discovered the Secret to Easy Writing! Everywhere I Stick My Nose I Make Money First-person headlines will work if they generate enough curiosity and hold a benefit. Everyone interested in playing the piano, for example, will be drawn to the first headline (one of the most successful headlines in history). You and yours in a headline do not always work because they signal a selling message and people become defensive. However I and me in a headline can deliver a selling message in a palatable way. Here's a good example: I Wanted to Help People So Here's Why I Opened My Own Insurance Agency! Note: Don't miss the you approach, either. After all, people will go into a hypnotic trance when you address their interests, not yours.
12. Put your product name in your headline.
How Gymco Vitamins Make Runners Lightning Fast The Fiskin Ladder Saved My Husband's Life Thoughtline Helped Me Discover the Secret to Easy Writing
How to Cure Warts is good, but How Vitalism Cures Warts is better. Since not everyone will stop and read your ad, putting your company name in the headline helps deliver some of your message. But do not make your company name the focus of your headline. Instead, write a riveting headline and slip your name into it. This approach plants a hypnotic seed in the mind of the reader.
13. Use the word wanted. Wanted—Nervous People
Wanted—Safe Men for Dangerous Times Wanted—Executives Ready for Sudden Profits
Wanted is a word loaded with curiosity. Lead with it and people are compelled to find out why you want nervous people (maybe for a seminar on overcoming fear) or why you want executives (maybe to offer them your new management program). Be sure to ask for the target audience you want. If you are offering something to attorneys, you might write a headline that begins Wanted—Attorneys. The word wanted is a hypnotic attention-getting word.
14. Use the word breakthrough in your headline. A Breakthrough in Alarm Systems
Doctor Offers Breakthrough Hair Loss Formula Wanted—Attorneys Ready for Breakthrough Success
Breakthrough implies news. It suggests that your product or service beats all other existing systems. A similar impact can be obtained with record breaking or revolutionary.
15. Set your headline in upper and lower case. HEADLINES IN ALL CAPS ARE HARD TO READ Headlines in Upper and Lower Case Are Easy to Read Got it?
If people have to work to read your ad or sales letter or web site, they will awaken from their potential trance and stop reading.
16. Use as many words as you need. It Floats!
How Often Do You Hear Yourself Saying, "No, I haven't read it; I've been meaning to!"
Who Else Wants Beautiful Furniture?
Headlines can be long or short. As long as they get the attention of your appropriate audience, arouse curiosity, and encourage people to read your ad, any length goes. You do not want to waste words, of course. But you do not need to limit yourself, either.
17. Feature your offer. Arrow Shirts at 50% Off Oil Change Special
Join for Six Months—Get Next Six Months Free
You have to be clear about the uniqueness of what you are selling for this to work. What are you offering that is head and shoulders above your competition? Focus on that.
Who Else Wants to Write a Book?
Who Else Used to Say Singing Was Hard?
Who Else Wants a Fail-Safe Burglar Alarm?
Who else is an involving set of hypnotic words. It suggests that someone else got what you are offering and that it is possible for the reader to achieve or have it, too.
19. Use a guarantee. Guaranteed No-Stains-Ever Rug!
Guaranteed to Go through Ice, Mud, or Snow—or We Pay the Tow!
We live in the age of skepticism. Your offer should always run with a guarantee. But if you can say in the headline your offer is guaranteed, it will help to convince readers to look at your entire ad.
We're Number Two. We Try Harder. This Chef Makes Everything Except Salads! You will gain credibility if you confess you are not perfect. Too many ads and letters claim to be the magic bullet to all your ills. That is not believable. If you say you are almost a magic bullet, people will tend to believe the rest of your claims. In order to put people into a hypnotic trance, they must trust you.
21. Focus on positive end results.
Whiter Teeth in 10 Days 35 Pounds Slimmer in 30 Days
Do not paint a negative picture thinking you will make a sale. People buy hopes and dreams. Do not sell "fat loss," instead sell "Almost Perfect Health!" Do not try to scare people into buying toothpaste by yelling, Yellow Teeth Are Ugly!, but instead sell the end result people want: Whiter Teeth! Again, people buy cures. But be believable. If your headline sounds like a stretch, people will not trust you. 35 Pounds Slimmer in 30 Days is believable; 35 Pounds Slimmer Overnight is not.
22. Warn your audience. WARNING to Doctors!
Warning: Do Your Kids Play This Stereo? Small Business Owners Be Warned!
You can grab your target audience with a warning to them. A warning promises information and invokes curiosity, both powerful hypnotic inducers.
Not everyone has a sense of humor, not everyone agrees on what is funny, and few people buy because of a joke. A slogan in advertising is "People don't buy from clowns." Small businesses that attempt to sell people with their humor usually flop. Why? You are not selling humor, you are selling your product or service. Do you want people to laugh or buy? If you insist on trying humor, try to make the punch line the same as your sales message. Here is an example: Used Car Prices So Low It Hertz.
24. Make it easy.
Plumbing Problems Cured Easily Easy Way to Stop Roof Leaks
People want results fast and easy. If you or your product can make their lives easier, say so.
You can use reverse type (white letters on a black background) for your headline but do not use reverse type for the rest of your ad or web site or sales letter. Too much reverse type is far too difficult for people to read. Using it in a headline, however, can increase the number of people who will see the ad.
26. Dramatize the benefit.
Stop Sleeping like a Sardine! Now Sleep like a King! "Sound Pillow" Lets You Sleep with Neil Diamond!
People want action. They crave it. Show the excitement your product or service can give by dramatizing the benefits. A headline for large beds that reads King Size Beds Are Roomy is boring, but Stop Sleeping like a Sardine! Now Sleep like a King! is almost impossible to avoid. Drama is hypnotic.
27. Use proven clichés.
JUST ARRIVED—New Accounting Method!
ADVICE to Homeowners!
THE TRUTH ABOUT Shoe Repair
David Ogilvy, in Confessions of an Advertising Man, lists the following as proven headline clichés:
The Truth about
Ogilvy also says you can strengthen a headline by adding emotional words, such as, Darling, Love, Fear, Proud, Friend, and Baby.
28. Reveal a hidden benefit.
How to Get Enthusiastic Applause—Even a Standing Ovation—Every Time You Speak
This headline by Ted Nicholas sold a publication for speakers. One of the hidden or side benefits of reading the publication is learning how to get a standing ovation— something every speaker wants. Try to reveal the hidden benefit in your small business. Ask yourself: "What will people get as a result of using my product or service?"
29. Give reasons.
Three Reasons Why You Should Write a Book Seven Reasons to Call This Doctor Today Nine Reasons to Use This Maid Service
Reasons involve readers with your ad. To learn more, they have to read the rest of your copy. The trick to making this work is in targeting your prospects. If you are an accountant, give reasons that tie in to your service. If you are a baker, give reasons why your food is better.
30. Use a before-and-after-statement.
The Wrong Way and the Right Way to Buy a Used Car
This is a common way to show how your business can make a difference. If you own a gardening service, you might use a headline that suggests you transform gardens from jungles to parks. What you are doing here is comparing what people have (their problems) with what you can give them (the solution).
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